‘How Being an AA Secretary Changed My Sobriety’

Even when I was more than two years sober I’d still go to my small home group AA meeting, held upstairs at a famous metal bar. I’d either do a three-minute stand-up set or just emotionally spew, usually a dramatic, entertaining combination of the two. If my sponsee wasn’t there (unlike me she has a real 9-to-5 job), I wasn’t that concerned with “sharing solution” or recovery. I’d usually cry or rage about men and money, or how I was still in sober living two-and-a half years later, or still on my 4th step a year after starting it.

But then, not too long ago, something odd happened: I was elected secretary of my meeting. I was flattered and decided to accept the six-month stint.

How Being an AA Secretary Changed My SobrietyI took my secretaryship very seriously, trying to book the most inspiring and funny speakers months in advance, like I was the manager of some top rock club. I’d poach great speakers from other meetings. I took suggestions from meeting members for speakers they’d heard elsewhere that had knocked their socks off. I dug into my phone and on Facebook, dredging up people I’d known in my previous sobrieties. Once the speakers were booked, I’d remind them several days before of the time and location of the meeting, then followed up to thank them afterward. I was on it.

It paid off. To my delight, my Thursday 12 noon meeting was always packed and my irreverent, brutally honest demeanor set the tone for what I like to think was a fun and heartfelt meeting. There was no more rolling in at the last minute and sulking in the corner; I got there early, made sure everything was good to go and stayed late to double-check that chairs, meeting format, chips and books were all put away.

Not only was I in charge of the meeting and booking speakers, I was soon handling the money for this meeting. I had the responsibility of collecting and paying the rent, depositing any extra cash into the bank next door and sending the deposit slips to the treasurers. These commitments brought out the very sense of accountability that I had always shucked. I was trusted. I was depended upon. I began to think that maybe I wasn’t as much of a screw-up as I’d always thought. “Come to the Thursday meeting; I’m secretary,” I’d boast with childlike pride. As secretary, I also chose not to share at my meeting most weeks; as an ex-performer and recovering exhibitionist that was definitely an exercise in contrary action.

Like many alcoholics, I abhor commitment. I want to be able to do what I want, when I want. I had been nominated for secretary before and had turned it down. But when I got nominated twice in a row I decided I should step up and prove to the group — and, moreover, myself — that I was reliable. There was no more looking to others for the answers. I had to make decisions. I had to police the meeting. Once, when a disagreement broke out, I said in jest, “Everybody quiet! I’m the queen!” It worked. I’m nothing if not intimidating, especially if I seem a bit crazy.

My advice is that if you find yourself nominated and elected secretary at your own home group meeting, take it. You just might surprise everybody — including yourself.

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