From the Bleating Deacon’s Corner: My Ideal Group

A.A. Grapevine, November 1962, Vol. 19 No. 6

ONE of the fine old groups in my area is having a discussion meeting at which the subject is “My Idea of the Ideal AA Group.” This is a group which I am seldom able to attend, but this challenging subject has moved me to a lot of reflection. Since I cannot go to the particular meeting I am going to record my random thoughts on paper, at least for my own benefit.

Here are my notions about the ideal AA Group:

  1. It should have lots of George. You know George. He is the fellow we “Let do it.” He just sort of moves in quietly and does things without being asked. Who wants to come early each week to get the chairs and other things arranged, frog up a pot of coffee for the ones who may want a spot before the meeting, and do a score of other little chores? Who wants to hang around each week to mop up, turn out the lights and lock the door? George does it. He is cheerful, eager and friendly. Probably he is the only one who has spoken to each and every one in the room before the meeting breaks up. And is he appreciated? When we talk in high sounding phrases about developing a fine sense of giving without hope of reward, why not save our breath and just point our index finger at George? You know something? He’s the happiest guy around.
  2. There should be a liberal sprinkling of dedicated old-timers–the finest symbols we have of what we like to call “good solid AA.” They are the living proof to us all that this thing really works. Their mere presence inspires us all. They need our help too, let’s not forget. They know better than do we, that this ailment of ours is chronic and incurable. That’s why they are with us. Are we properly grateful to them?
  3. There should be a sprinkling of dedicated high quality Twelfth Step workers, for to them we owe the constant trickle of newcomers. Why do they do so much sponsoring? Just because they are at all times ready, willing and able? No! It’s because they have learned that we are helped through helping others, in direct proportion to the quality and effectiveness of the help we give. And so, when people begin to think of “Who would be a good man in this situation,” it’s one of these.
  4. There should be a steady trickle in that precious stream of newcomers. What could we possibly do without them? Where would we be without the Twelfth Step? In them we see the slow but certain miracle take place all over again under our very eyes. As we watch and help them grow, we literally start at the bottom of the ladder and each time we take those steps again our footing is a little surer, our understanding a little deeper and our surrender a little more complete. Only in this way do we make any progress at all.
  5. There should be a plentiful supply of excellent leads by people of varying periods of sobriety, diverse drinking experiences, high and low and medium bottom drunks and other distinctive characteristics–our leads, with the frank testimony of our members, represent the crux of our success.
  6. There should be a liberal sprinkling of serious minded, deep thinkers about our program. They make the comments that represent the frosting on our excellent cake. They induce us all to think and meditate and try to broaden our understanding. That is a must if we would make progress. Continuous striving for truth and understanding does not lead to all the answers but it does mean progress toward two other attainable goals. One is a knowledge of our true selves and hence some degree of humility. The other is that when we reach a maximum in understanding we know how very much we shall never understand. From there our faith and surrender can really take over. But we need these thoughtful people as a reminder, to keep us thinking.
  7. There should be a group atmosphere which approaches perfection in tolerance, kindliness and understanding. The kind of atmosphere in which the sober alcoholic feels completely happy and at home. The kind of atmosphere in which each one keeps saying over and over to himself, subconsciously perhaps, “Here I belong.”

These are only a few of the attributes that I think of for the ideal group. And it occurs to me that I wouldn’t fit at all. All these people would be further along than I am on the high road to sobriety. I might begin to think that I was as good as they were. I couldn’t afford that. Who would I help? How could I stay sober without helping others?

Then too, on leads, I have found that I am helped by the lead that’s off the beam. And what about the trouble makers? Could there be an AA group without one now and then? Would an AA group seem homelike if there wasn’t an occasional brush fire to put out? I don’t know. I’m confused.

C. R.
Ashland, Ohio

2 thoughts on “From the Bleating Deacon’s Corner: My Ideal Group

  1. Now, I’m certainly not the grand Big Book puba or AA authority. To qualify here, I’ve been able to speak at big and small Big Book Step meetings , conventions, conferences and of course one on one in some new guy’s driveway as I drop him off…I’ve been at it half my life almost exactly…Sometimes I’m on it Spiritually and things are revealed that have enormous depth and weight and I feel I’m chosen to understand these specifics in order to serve the man who suffers, other times I’m lost in my own mind.

    Tonight I’m heading to Providence Rhode Island to speak on Steps 8 and 9 Big Book style…Personally I don’t really see what good my experience does in comparison to the actual text but that’s just the meeting format so I go with it…There may be the 12 Steps in an afternoon types there and those who’s sponsor said to wait at least a year before you write. There may be those who can read and apply the teachings of the 12 and 12 Step book and also others with a variety of treatment center Step experience…How about the man who can’t imagine making amends for his past and those who can’t yet even be reminded of who they are or have been, still teetering on God concepts..I’m sure the guy still worshiping people will want to jockey for position with me making clear the distinction between his experience and mine also. And what bout the emotionally damaged folks who aren’t alcoholic but come to the open meeting seeking relief from their many bedevilments…So, I guess what I’m getting at is we’re generally a crowd that would not mix.

    I’m going to probably hit my knees on the men’s room floor before I speak and pray for direction to not do or say anything that would be harmful to anyone, pray for willingness to be honest with myself and carry the message of AA recovery as it was shown to me. I’ll share briefly what it was like before my 8th Step willingness and focus on what I did to make my list of willingness..I’ll tell a story or two of how I have been free of my selfishness as I have set many a record straight enjoying the fruits of honesty that never seemed to apply to me before the work…

    I’ll have a good cup of the nectar of the Gods AA coffee and I personally like to continually learn how to give so I’ll bring sandwiches…Most of all I’ll pray for understanding in hopes that I don’t show up as all things to all people or the entertainment at the Gregg’s Anonymous meeting. I’ll pray to be a power of example rather than an example of power..

    See you there my friend. We will hopefully enjoy an adult dose of AA recovery.

  2. Hey – when you find that group, let me know. I will send everyone that is not meeting my expectations in my group to that meeting. Progress not perfection – it applies to the group too. I laughed when I read all that stuff about the ideal group. sorry. I had no choice.

    especially, "There should be this and there should be that," I started cracking up. No one group has all that. That’s why I mix up my meetings.

    The, "There should be a liberal sprinkling of serious minded, deep thinkers about our program," comment killed me. Isn’t everyone a deep thinker in the rooms? that’s the trouble. Too many deep thinkers and not enough action-takers to set the example by.

    I missed the chapter in the big book called, "Into Thinking." could you point it out to me? LOL

    Just laugh at this and don’t take it personal. I’m not poking fun at anyone. We are all in this thing together and if we can’t laugh at ourselves once in a while about what our ideals are… well… we just need to implement Rule 62.


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