Open “Disgusting” Meetings

On page 86 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous it says, But we must be careful not to drift into worry, remorse or morbid reflection, for that would diminish our usefulness to others.

Why is it that we have so many “open discussion meetings” (OD) that permit “free-for-alls” where anyone can talk about any subject they wish to “spout-off” about. Subject matter can range from “pissing and moaning” about their day, to sharing feelings about unhappy relationships or complaining about a lousy job, telling tedious war-stories, making jokes, to sharing just plain nonsense.

“Inheritors of the Big Book sponsorship tradition find themselves a minority perspective within the rapidly growing recovery culture. Generally, Big Book sponsors are unhappy with the prevailing presentation of the Twelve Steps. Some see the recovery culture as: proliferating victim groups, a sort of endless Oprah Winfrey show that claims the A.A. Twelve Step method as its inspiration, but in which the real meaning of the Twelfth Step is lost amid an incessant whine about the injured self.”

Quoted in “A.A. at the Crossroads,” by Andrew Delbanco and Thomas Delbanco.
The New Yorker, March 20, 1995, p. 51.

Do these type of meetings serve any purpose? Are they being helpful to addicts or do they just illustrate how sick these rooms can get? What has been your experience? Is anyone benefiting from these types of meetings?

9 thoughts on “Open “Disgusting” Meetings

  1. As a rule, I don’t practice the slogan, "Don’t drink (use) and go to meetings". I have found this approach, as a strategy for staying sober, ineffective. My experience has shown that meeting makers don’t usually make it if they are of the hopeless variety – i.e. chronic relapsers.

    I avoid "Speaker Meetings". I find most speakers spend too much time talking about "what it was like" and very little, if at all, about "what happened" and most importantly, "what it is like now". I also avoid "Open Discussion Meetings" unless I am "fishing" for a newcomer who wants a real solution – a way out. I like to keep my eye out for the fellow who picks up a desire chip. I can usually find a newcomer who is desperate for a solution to his predictament, and therefore, hungry for someone who has had the same difficulty, who is armed with the facts about them self and who has found a way out.

    I often attend a meeting, usually twice a week, in CA that I think is a healthy and strong group. It’s a Big Book Discussion meeting. (I think any meeting that studies the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous is helpful.) Many in this group practice Big Book sponsorship and often bring their prospects with them. I go to this meeting to "recharge my spirit". It’s the fellowship I crave. Recovered men and women who are actively working with others, carrying the message of experience, strength and hope to the addict who still suffers.

  2. Yes, I think an OD meeting can be a benefit to the fellowships of AA, NA, or CA, but it should be made clear to a newcomer that may be suffering, who is more concerned with the solution than talking about his crap (i.e war story), that there are other types meetings that talk directly about the big book and the 12 steps. That way the newcomer is not confused to thinking that he is in a therapy session. I am one who believes this is a life or death illness…

  3. I don’t go to meetings to moan what a bad day I have had like some… I go to bear witness to the still suffering alcoholic in the rooms…. PERIOD….

  4. I am a student of the Big Book which is the "the basic text of our society." As noted in the Big Book itself, The itself, "To show other alcoholics precisely how we have recoved is the main purpose of this book." The twelve Steps are THE prgram of recovery of Alcoholics Anonymous. I choose to stay in the solution, which is recovery, not dwell in the problem.

  5. If open discussion meetings had never started, I feel that AA might be a fraction of it’s current size today. We are top-heavy with buck-an-hour rap session seekers who haven’t got much in common with me and alcoholics like me. It’s a damned shame.


    Danny S

  6. Persons feel if every word in the Big Book is not read to the new-comer then it is not a complete message. History archives shows in Absolute fact that new-comers were brought through the steps in a matter of hours. There is always time to go back and do touch up work. I have read the step guide on this site and have found that the 4th step guide-lines is Absolutely on point to what the founders intended for!!! Plus the Big Book states that God has supplied us with some darn good Practitioners of various kinds, i.e. therapists. They can do the touch up work… The awful obsession need be arrested. Going to meetings and studying the book or talking about the latest accumulation of problems is not the program, "working all twelve steps in some hours is & was… Bill W said that is the only purpose of a group/meeting… To teach and practice/work the twelve steps!!!

  7. I’ve been active since 81 and I have seen OD meetings that would make any newcomer run like a house on fire. War stories and junior therapists will always be around. It is the job of recovered alcoholics or addicts to risk being "loved to death" to speak up for the recovery that is found in our Basic Text. I try to attend literature based meetings only and bring the message that was originally brought by our founders. I do not worship the BB but to the God of my understanding that the Book points to.

  8. All the meetings are important or we would not have them! My experience has been I need one type at certain times and another at other times. Recovery is about being apart of the recovery community. Some time spent, with GOD, with skin on him. This recovery thing is about love, many levels from many sources. In stead of the glass being half empty or half full…….how about it is just a glass with some water in it?? How about the words of the father "I Am" or in my words "it just is" "Acceptance the solution to all our problems!!!"

  9. OD meetings, that I have visited, are simply watered down AA meetings that resemble Group Therapy sessions I had attended in psych wards.

    However, not being able to accept this level of abuse of my fellow Newcomer addicts, I started other meetings based on the phrase "… Courage to change the things I can…".

    In the Beginners meetings I started, based on a book by Wally P., we simply teach and practice the twelve steps from the Big Book as taught by the Pioneers, and we are feeling some of that electricity we read about in A Vision For You.

    I accept that watered down OD meetings are going to be around for some time, so I try to find the courage to start non-watered down meetings… to give Newcomers a better chance at recovery.

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