It dawned on me that perhaps if I share what I did to help with the sadness I felt dealing with apostates, heretics, new agers and plain old weirdos I met in AA (after all - the name of the program is not Well Balanced People Anonymous) it might get the discussion going in a direction that will help rather than what is beginning to be a “my program is better than your program’ and 'I know more about AA and its history than you do” thread.
When I was about 8 years sober I went to a meeting during the height of the priest abuse scandal. As I have stated in previous threads, I live in an area of California that is really full of people who are anti-Catholic and I had been continuously sober for enough time to know that whenever someone said something like “I never learned about forgiveness in the Catholic Church” that they were still learning about their life and would probably change that opinion given good guidance, tough sponsorship and an occasional kick in the pants at group level (verbally, of course!).
But this particular day a man with 9 years of sobriety sat down next to me and in a loud and angry voice said to me, “How in the H**L can you belong to a Church with all those PEDOPHILES in it!”.
I have been given a good mind by my Creator and occasionally it works at a quick speed. I said in reply, “Because Truth does not depend upon the state of grace its ministers are in - Truth is Truth, no matter what”.
I sat through the meeting but it was so hard. I felt so violated and attacked. I decided that I didn’t want to be in THAT meeting any more but I knew that the principles of the steps and traditions of AA were what had begun my journey home and I did not want to lose that either - what was I to do?
I went to my pastor and said, 'We have a lot of rooms here in the Hall…could I have one to start an AA meeting in?". I set up a format, bought some Big Books, registered the meeting with Intergroup and New York and then put my name (not my whole name, in order to respect the traditions of anonymity (spelling? I am a lousy speller for a sober person)) in the bulletin with my telephone number.
We now have a core group of 10 people who have been meeting there every Wednesday night for 7 years. We have, in that group, Catholics, Buddists, Agnostics, Protestants and a practicing Jew. We have watched 6 people come into that group and get sober…four are still sober and come about every two weeks to that meeting when they are in town.
One of the original members, when he started coming to the meeting, had 9 years sobriety and HATED Christians in general and Catholics in particular. Today he is practically an apologist for the Church.
I firmly believe the group is successful because we demand that the Traditions be adhered to as closely as possible and that anyone - ANYONE - who comes into that room who is an alcoholic is welcome.
Because my name is in the Church Bulletin every week (along with having the meeting listed in the AA meeting schedule for the whole area) we get a lot of people who are so scared about getting sober but find comfort in knowing that this meeting is right next to where they go to Mass, do Eucharistic Adoration and meet for the Divine Mercy Chaplet. We may be the only meeting they go to but they are sober and they are learning about AA and how it is not affiliated with any sect, denomination or the Holy Mother Church. More importantly they are learning how to relate themselves to their Higher Power as a Catholic should and in a way that will help them stay sober, one day at a time.
Matt Talbot, my personal choice for our future patron saint, did not simply ‘decide’ to get sober. He worked closely with his pastor (kind of like having a sponsor), intensely with other drunks (kind of like being in service) and did the Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola (kind of like the 12 steps).
If our goal is to help people to get and stay sober, let’s look honestly at what has been the most successful way to do that in the past 100 years. It may mean putting aside our own painful experiences and trying to figure out what kind of meeting format would be most attractive to the suffering alcoholic.
My hope is that, along with the (now) TWO meetings a week at our Parish Hall of AA that someone from Al-Anon will step up to the plate and start a meeting for those who love and suffer with us.
BTW - that Catholic Bigot who attacked me at group level? Two years later he came to the meeting, on purpose, and made a public apology to me at group level. He told us that he was doing it at group level because he had attacked me at group level. He further stated that he had made the same announcement at the fellowship where the attack had happened and that the AA(s) there had told him it was HIS responsibility to find me and make proper amends. His amends to me was to be in service to that group for 2 years as our GSR. He is still our GSR and he is now a practicing Catholic. He came home to Rome because of the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous and the Grace of a Loving God.