“Do established meetings placing the common welfare of the group first have problems or conflicts? Sure. But at such healthy meetings, problems become opportunities to further one's recovery. The groups' members have learned to trust one another and to disagree without being disagreeable. The group members trust the collective decision-making process known as a group conscience.
ACA meetings include business sessions that typically precede or follow a regular ACA meeting. At the typical ACA business meeting, reports are given on group finances and the general operations of the group.
An ACA business meeting also addresses a group's problems and solutions. These discussions typically are called a group conscience. At a group conscience, each group member is allowed to share his or her point of view on the issue at hand. Each member is equal and has an opportunity to share his or her thoughts and solutions. The group conscience is similar to a healthy family seeking a resolution everyone is content with, or at least which everyone can take ownership in.
How about what some members would consider an unhealthy ACA meeting? First of all, a meeting is not unhealthy just because one or two people say so. Unhealthy ACA meetings typically don't survive, but those that struggle usually share some common traits. Problems at unhealthy or struggling meetings tend to fall into three categories: interpersonal squabbling between ACA members; suspicion about the handling of group donations; and older members gripping the group with self-righteous control. There are other scenarios that can give a group the label of being unhealthy or "sick," but these seem to dominate.
Listening to members complain about the meeting or group, one gets the sense of the meeting being dominated by a small group of individuals. Occasionally, one individual can appear to dominate a group. When this happens, group unity and the sense that all group members are equal suffers. The group's future and its ability to attract new members to sustain itself can hang in the balance. If it can be clearly determined that the group is controlled by a few members, the remaining members of the group must summon the courage to speak up. However, no one should be a single spokesperson. Those believing the group is not adhering to ACA principles must talk about their thoughts with one another and with a sponsor or friend. There should also be prayer and thoughtfulness about what should be done. Decisions about what to do should be measured by the principles of unity and the most loving path to take. There should be no harsh talk. There should be no gossip that could be followed by an ambush at a business meeting.
Without thoughtful action, some of these ACA groups can die. The group withers because group members cannot apply the principles of the Twelve Steps or Twelve Traditions in their lives long enough to place the group first.
In other cases, the group changes direction and finds new strength. Group members call a business meeting to discuss unity in addition to the problem at hand. If the members are humble and value their ACA group, a Higher Power will enter the discussion and show the path for cooperation and group survival. We have seen this happen many times in the history of ACA groups seeking unity over personal gain. Group members who once believed they could not tolerate one another discover their differences are not that important when the survival of the group is on the line. They realize the group suffers when ACA members fail to cooperate with a common purpose. When the group suffers, so does the individual who cannot recover alone.
ACA members not getting along or failing to place ACA first can trigger relapse for some ACA members. Resentments fester, and members in the conflict are tempted to pick up the destructive tools of manipulation, gossip, and dishonesty. ACA members can fight dirty when they believe they are threatened, whether the potential for harm is real or not. We learned how to fight by stealth or with verbal assaults from the best - our family.
Many ACA members have learned to form opinions, and to argue constructively in an ACA group business meeting, perhaps for the first time in their lives. We may have been told to stay quiet or were scolded as children for talking. In ACA, however, we are asked to speak up and express our views. We are encouraged to find our true voice and identity. We are asked to add our views and our voice to ACA unity.”
These questions were formulated to facilitate discussion of the meeting boundaries of a specific open co-ed meeting that usually has 10-20 adult children in attendance. Below it is referred to as "our open meeting." I hope that it is also helpful for other meetings.
- Reading through Tradition One, how does it compare to your experience with the business meeting after our open meeting?
- How does it compare to the description of a healthy meeting?
- How does it compare to the description of an unhealthy meeting?
- How could it become more healthy?