Safety in the Meeting Rooms

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Safety in the Meeting Rooms

Postby Whadahay » Mon Aug 27, 2012 6:26 pm

Our Delegate reported that "Safety in the Meeting Rooms" was a major topic of discussion ... and our Groups will be asked to be aware of ways we can keep our meeting rooms safe for the Newcomers. I have seen way too many hook-ups that end so horribly for both people. I've been involved in general service for over 5 years so I have gotten to know a lot of people by attending all of the meetings in my District.

My topic here is 13 Stepping. I wrote this article for our upcoming District newsletter. Feedback will be accepted with an open mind. Thank you ...


Uhm … there are only 12 Steps … NOT 13, right?!


“I met him at this big Friday night AA meeting in Town which is pretty much like a bar without alcohol,” she said.

He had 13 years and I had like about 1 month. I ignored my Sponsor’s suggestion to avoid him and went out on a couple of dates with him. When I would tell him I was going to a meeting, he would tell me that I didn’t need to do that – that I should go with him instead. ‘Two people make a meeting!’ he said.”

There is a slang term for this: 13th Stepping. It’s not an official part of the AA program but rather a term used for when someone with more than a year of sober time hits on a person with less than a year of sober time.

It can be perilous. This is an example of someone gaining power over another who is weaker and it can very possibly endanger both their sobriety. Also, this is not a gender thing - Both genders can be found as “predators.”

There are differing opinions regarding dating in your first year of sobriety. Some say that you end up putting more focus on your relationship than you do on building a foundation of sobriety. Some say that it’s ok to “date,” because it is an opportunity to learn how to be honest with the opposite sex – have fun – but you don’t need to be in a “relationship.” Ultimately, the main focus needs to be on your AA Program and growing personally and spiritually in your sobriety.


How responsible are we, as a Member of our Home Group, to make sure that our meetings are a SAFE HOME for the Newcomer? Do we have a plan of action when we see 13th Stepping activities going on right under our noses? Have we had a Group Conscience on this subject? What do we do?

The reason that I felt the need to write this article was because when I was 5 months sober - and without a Sponsor yet - I jumped at the chance to become “Better Acquainted” with a really cute guy that I met at a big book study meeting. He had over 3 years sobriety!

Of course, since this was AA, I thought this would be different than meeting someone in a bar situation. Right?? I thought he wanted a boyfriend/ girlfriend relationship like I did – since we already had sex a few times. Boy, was I ever ashamed and deeply embarrassed when I finally realized that he did NOT want the boyfriend/girlfriend thing and that our “relationship” was supposed to be a big, bad nasty SECRET!

I still continued to go to that big book meeting, but was barely present as I didn’t hear or share anything because of how uncomfortable I was with him in the same room. Anyway, he eventually dropped out of AA and is back to his drinking ways – God help him. However, I quickly found a sponsor and am very grateful that I persevered with my meetings. I had very clear and new knowledge that I nearly sacrificed my sobriety because of those activities that I wasn’t prepared for emotionally.

A good question to ponder before getting into a relationship with the opposite sex at a meeting: Are we BOTH emotionally sober enough to be in a “relationship?”

A solution to this very topic is mentioned in our 12x12, pg 119:

“The prospective partners need to be solid A.A.’s and long enough acquainted to know that their compatibility at spiritual, mental, and emotional levels is a FACT and not wishful thinking.”

Thank you for letting me share
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Re: Safety in the Meeting Rooms

Postby Tommy-S » Mon Aug 27, 2012 7:24 pm

Hi Whatahay.

As you stated, this issue goes both ways. I have seen ‘pretty young things’ who thought the shortcut to feeling better was ‘a man’, walking through the hearts of the new guys as she upgraded. I have also known one who sold it on the streets before, and continued to do so afterwards.

(But 13th Step is a far cry from predation.)

I came to AA for Sobriety, not celibacy. They told me to 1: Be honest (a rather novel concept in the beginning), & 2: Don’t drink no matter what.

And when those guys fall because they got tangled up in matters they were ill equipped to handle (like being Honest, not because of Sex), we don’t feed them excuses that it was ‘because of her’. They drank. Period.

I belong to strong groups, and those groups constantly put out “Get a Sponsor” & “Men with men, women with women”. The AA ladies I know will chase these new guy back, and we old dudes will turn the gals around.

As you stated, you didn’t have a sponsor. I would assume it had been suggested to you before. Having a Sponsor may have helped you avoid the problem.

Talk as much as we want, we can not ‘force’ others to 'get a Sponsor' & stick with the ‘guys with guys, gals with gals’.

I AM a participant in group conscience discussions like this... Providing we include dealing with disruptive alkies, con men, and those who otherwise take advantage of others... without adding a ‘victim’ status who those who simply would not or did not listen.

I'm glad you didn’t drink over it, and hope your sharing of the incident will help others to realize ‘why’ we continue to say, “Get a Sponsor”

A Sponsor has always my 'first line of defense' when it comes to others in the rooms (they are not well or they wouldn't be there to begin with), whether the relationship/interaction has been romantic, personal, or for/in employment.

Thanks... Tommy
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Re: Safety in the Meeting Rooms

Postby ann2 » Mon Aug 27, 2012 11:23 pm

Thanks, interesting discussion. My home group when I got sober had two guys who took on the service of scaring away anybody approaching ME (a 26 year old newbie). I felt their eyes on me but they never said more than two words to me. They just watched and I got left alone (I don't know what conversations took place out of my hearing).

I might mention that one of these guys was a biker and the other was a vietnam vet. So, nobody to fool with.

I'm not sure if there was any Group Conscience regarding this -- it might have been just common sense, or God-consciousness, on the part of the men who took on this service. At any rate I know I owe my sobriety to EVERYONE in the group, sponsor and Tommy and Kenny and Dave and everyone.

Sometimes groups don't need to even talk about the necessary work. A look here, a nod there, a re-grouping -- this is why face-to-face groups are so important.

Online it happens as well, although I must admit I have a hard time understanding how newcomers can feel threatened or pressured when they can just walk away from the computer. This tells me that a lot of the problem comes from the expectations and fantasies of the newbie. Which isn't really anything we can have control over.

Nevertheless, I have heard of action taken when there's perceived 13th stepping going on in chat or a mailing list here at e-AA. In these cases the group intervention needs to be more overt -- spoken or rather texted. We're willing to do that, being the busybodies we are in general :-)

Just general awareness and reaching out to the newcomer, and good sponsorship -- these are the matters that need to be stressed in today's AA group.

Ann
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Re: Safety in the Meeting Rooms

Postby Whadahay » Wed Sep 05, 2012 12:31 am

I guess what I am trying to ask is how can our Groups be more alert to, or our members more aware of what, 13-stepping is and why it should be considered dangerous to the Newcomer who are at these meetings for help in their recovery and need to learn how to focus on their recovery. Especially since their emotional sobriety is still too very fragile to be approached by those that are basically taking advantage of their vulnerability. If there was a more hypersensitive awareness of 13-stepping and more talk that it isn't accepted in our meeting rooms, I think it would help somewhat anyway. I have just been noticing that this subject has been treated as the elephant in the room and nobody ever says anything about it.

When I first came into the rooms of AA, women just did not welcome me, only the men did. I wasn't even encouraged to get a sponsor for a few months even - and I went to a LOT of meetings! There are also a lot of meetings I attended where the majority of the members were men and quite frequently I was the only woman.

I don't believe the purpose of the meeting rooms are for hooking up.

With respect to the comment about not coming to the meetings to be "celibate," that just doesn't sound right to me. I don't know why that comment was made. I just think newcomers should be left alone and not bugged to be in a "romantic" friendship at AA meetings - when their sobriety is so fragile and vulnerable.
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Re: Safety in the Meeting Rooms

Postby Tommy-S » Wed Sep 05, 2012 12:51 pm

That comment meant simply that I came to AA for sobriety, not to have someone 'control' my life, sexual or otherwise. And it's not making light of 13th Stepping. The Fourth Step states "We do not want to be arbiters of anyone's sex conduct." ( BB, pg 69) There's Only one requirement for AA Membership, and that is a desire to stop drinking.

If you believe the problem is as serious as you say in your area, then by all means, get together with your Group Conscience & figure out how best to handle it as it IS disruptive at times. Talk to your District & Area about workshops on "Disruptive AA Behavior" and how best to handle it (including the con men, panhandlers, and belligerent wet drunks as we do in this area)

But, adding a 'victim' status to it?

In my experience, both were willing (& told not to)... It's after it turns out bad for one or the another it becomes a 'taken advantage of'. Some of them new boys & girls just won't listen... And those who don't listen, will feel.

Like Ann stated, we look out for our 'little sisters' in my group(s). I wish all would do so, so we could get rid of the Soap Opera, "The Young & Foolish".

Take those girls under your wing, and encourage the old timers to do the same. Get with your District & Area on the Workshop. And keep talking about it at meetings.

Thanks
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Re: Safety in the Meeting Rooms

Postby Blue Moon » Thu Sep 06, 2012 3:44 pm

Whadahay wrote:
When I first came into the rooms of AA, women just did not welcome me, only the men did.


You just nailed the real problem. If those women had all taken their 12th-Step responsibility seriously, there'd be no opportunity to be "13th Stepped".

However, it is also very true that many newcomers tend to "chase" sobriety via a relationship. We put down the bottle, and a relationship is the next "easy fix" for how we feel. I guess it's understandable if that's the way a woman got everything else in life, but you cannot hope to combat the perceived problem without also passing a message to every newcomer who walks in: "You, and nobody else, are responsible for the actions you take".

Bottom line: quit holding men responsible for the actions of women.
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Re: Safety in the Meeting Rooms

Postby Lali » Sat Sep 08, 2012 4:46 pm

The "unwritten rule" here is no one should date without a year's sobriety. Thank God that I recognized that I wasn't ready even at 2 years. I am posting this to warn newcomers that just because you have 1 year does not mean you are ready. It's an individual thing.
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Re: Safety in the Meeting Rooms

Postby Tommy-S » Sun Sep 09, 2012 5:47 pm

Thanks, Lali.

As you said, it's different depending on where you are. The only 'suggestion' I was offered, and what I offer my sponsees to this day is "get through at least the 1st Nine Steps, so you'll have something to offer. You'll know 'what NOT to do" kind of philosophy.

And along the lines of what Ian posted, Sponsorship is my 1st line of defense in the rooms of AA as Not everyone there is well, whether they are getting romantic, or looking to hustle money, or sometimes, just spouting stuff they claim is AA.

Having someone to 'double-check' with kept me out of a bunch of issues in early sobriety, and still pays off today. :)
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Re: Safety in the Meeting Rooms

Postby Tommy-S » Mon Sep 10, 2012 9:21 pm

Hi Whatahay...

Is this what you are referring to? (off http://www.AA.org)


2012 GENERAL SERVICE CONFERENCE WORKSHOP
Safety in A.A.: Our Common Welfare
Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Participants are invited to share on the workshop topic selected by the 2011 Conference, “Safety in A.A.: Our Common Welfare.” The questions listed below are intended to facilitate a full and fruitful sharing session.

“Each member of Alcoholics Anonymous is but a small part of a greater whole. A.A. must continue to live or most of us will surely die. Hence our common welfare comes first. But individual welfare follows close afterward.” – Tradition One (Long Form)

1.How can we make our Home Group a welcoming and accessible place?

2. How can sponsorship aid in keeping our A.A. meetings safe?

3.In keeping with Traditions, how would/does my group address matters that may arise, such as:

- Conduct that disrupts the meeting

- Illegal activity

- Inappropriate behavior towards vulnerable new members (e.g. “13 Stepping”)

- Emergencies (injury/accident/fire/etc.)


If so, this is wherein lies our difference, as it encompasses more than 'just' 13th Stepping?

Tommy
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Re: Safety in the Meeting Rooms

Postby Blue Moon » Tue Sep 11, 2012 6:17 pm

Tommy_S wrote:As you said, it's different depending on where you are. The only 'suggestion' I was offered, and what I offer my sponsees to this day is "get through at least the 1st Nine Steps, so you'll have something to offer. You'll know 'what NOT to do" kind of philosophy.


I'd say the first 7... there are some who will never be able to "complete" Step 9.
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Re: Safety in the Meeting Rooms

Postby Tommy-S » Thu Sep 13, 2012 12:00 pm

Good Point!

Thanks
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Re: Safety in the Meeting Rooms

Postby char » Fri Sep 14, 2012 2:10 pm

Interesting. I stopped going 2 meetings because i found that after the meeting the women would get together in there groups and being shy, relitively new no one would talk 2 me.So i just left right away.I felt out of place.However a gentleman of 2 years sober talked 2 me? Why not the women? It's bad enough going to AA when ur suffering and feeling lost as it is.This man did not make any moves.Just 1 alcholic trying to help another.I have been to different AA meetings and i find the same.I went back to AA to try again and was the same.Men,women we are or? all trying to help each other get over our same diease.Just curious as to why women won't help another women out? I am a normal female just looking 4 help.
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Re: Safety in the Meeting Rooms

Postby avaneesh912 » Fri Sep 14, 2012 2:34 pm

Just curious as to why women won't help another women out? I am a normal female just looking 4 help.


Its just not women. In modern AA, its all about going to bunch of AA meetings. Around where I live, most of the meetings are open discussion meetings very few literature based meetings. The art of working with the newcomer has not been effectively passed on to newer generation. Sad but true. You will see people just regurgitating what his/her sponsor/counselor says. While we have such power message in the book, nobody wants to talk about it anymore.
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Re: Safety in the Meeting Rooms

Postby ann2 » Sat Sep 15, 2012 12:47 am

Dear Char, don't stop going to meetings -- don't give up on the women who may not have anything to give away just yet. Keep trying new meetings but also keep going to one meeting and try to go weekly. I've found in all my moves that it takes about 6 months to feel "at home" in a new meeting.

No one is perfect, we're all trying our best but we haven't all made it to the point of reaching others' ideals. Hang in there hon and listen for the message of recovery that can be shared in meetings of all types. Share your own, I think you have a lot to give -- just knowing what you are looking for is important!

When I lived in Finland I was so desperate for fellowship. I came online and felt lonely because of everyone talking about their face-to-face meetings. But eventually that loneliness was answered -- someone in my (swedish-speaking) f2f shared a grapevine with me and I realized there was a Meeting in Print -- and then someone online shared about Loners International Meeting and I realized there was a meeting of people in my situation.

Sometimes the journey is more important than the destination -- what you experience will turn into something another alcoholic needs to hear. You are one of us! and we love you,

Ann
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Re: Safety in the Meeting Rooms

Postby Blue Moon » Sat Sep 15, 2012 10:56 am

char wrote:Interesting. I stopped going 2 meetings because i found that after the meeting the women would get together in there groups and being shy, relitively new no one would talk 2 me.So i just left right away.I felt out of place.However a gentleman of 2 years sober talked 2 me? Why not the women? It's bad enough going to AA when ur suffering and feeling lost as it is.This man did not make any moves.Just 1 alcholic trying to help another.I have been to different AA meetings and i find the same.I went back to AA to try again and was the same.Men,women we are or? all trying to help each other get over our same diease.Just curious as to why women won't help another women out? I am a normal female just looking 4 help.


Have you tried a women-only meeting?

Or maybe try a Big-Book Study group. Those tend to be more focused on the recovery actions than many of the "anything goes" open-discussion meetings.
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