Members who verbally attack in meetings

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Members who verbally attack in meetings

Postby upbeat01 » Sun Jun 14, 2015 11:34 am

I have been attending meetings for 3 1/2 years. The experience has been excellent. However over the past year I have been witness to attacking behavior in some meetings.

One woman called a group conscience about the issue of another woman who attends with contagious diseases such as colds and bronchitis. The meeting room is about 10 feet by 20 feet. The group conscience ended that day with no decision. Offending member who had a virus and a friend at subsequent meeting attacked and followed the woman to her car yelling and threatening . This type of behavior caused 4 members to find other groups.

At another meeting, one man told the lead "F*ck you!" Same man told a member yesterday "Shut the f*ck, you old hag!"

Never witnessed this type of behavior or foul language during the first year of meetings at the local Step Club.

Personally, I left the first group.

Any thoughts on attacking behavior in meetings? Is lead responsible for ceasing bad behavior?
Last edited by upbeat01 on Sun Jun 14, 2015 3:12 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Members who verbally attack in meetings

Postby PaigeB » Sun Jun 14, 2015 12:09 pm

I was the target of one gal, but I never gave in. I may be old, but my mind does not seem to know that. Had she invited me outside I would have met her at the door.

The Group had to protect the newcomers from both of us & anyone who took sides other than sponsor advice. It was decided to have a Group Inventory and see just how we were acting and how we could better help the newcomer. It was all set to go when the other gal left the group. The next business meeting was set to call an ad hoc committee, but instead we went through an inventory right there. One 45 minute business meeting secured more monthly rotating service work which included a pair at the door shaking hands with each person entering.

And more. But a group inventory might be a factor in helping clean up ruckus and the kitchen. :wink:
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Re: Members who verbally attack in meetings

Postby upbeat01 » Sun Jun 14, 2015 12:38 pm

Thanks. Member who was verbally attacked is going to call for a group conscience at next meeting. Patience is a must but behavior from those who constently disrupt meetings has to be dealt with. Seems groups with a strong board do much better.
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Re: Members who verbally attack in meetings

Postby ezdzit247 » Sun Jun 14, 2015 2:07 pm

Hi upbeat01 and welcome.

Congratulations on 3 1/2 years of sobriety!

Great topic.

upbeat01 wrote: Any thoughts on attacking behavior in meetings?


Unfortunately, I have also been a witness to these kinds of verbal attacks by AA members on other AA members in meetings and I don't like it. I think this type of behavior is totally inappropriate in any AA meeting, but some of us are sicker than others, so I accept that it happens and it's probably going to continue to happen from time to time. When a newcomer acts out stinking thinking and behaves badly in a meeting, my knee-jerk reaction is more sympathetic than when someone with several years of sobriety does the same. In either case, it's a cry for help. The good news is I have never witnessed this type of behavior coming from old timers in AA meetings. If you're looking for meetings with less drama and more recovery, find out where the oldtimers are hanging out in your area.... :wink:

upbeat01 wrote: Is lead responsible for ceasing bad behavior?


The meeting's secretary or chairperson is responsible for reading the protocols adopted by the group, like no cross-talk, no commenting on another member's share, time limits, outside issues, etc, at the beginning of the meeting, but that person is not responsible for "ceasing bad behavior". It's certainly appropriate for the secretary or chair or any other member to interrupt someone engaged in a rant, etc, and reiterate the meeting protocols as a friendly reminder, but no AA member has the authority to make another member cease bad behavior. If the bad behavior is really disruptive, escalates or involves threats of violence, that's a police matter and they have the authority to deal with that kind of behavior.

Keep coming back....
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Re: Members who verbally attack in meetings

Postby upbeat01 » Sun Jun 14, 2015 2:23 pm

Thanks everyone for the great responses and the kind congratulations!

The referenced attacking man is relatively new. He got into a verbal attack with a struggling man over responsibility over coffee making.The man was found dead the following week. I did attend one step club and they took no nonsense. They shut it people down when members tried to make on the fly changes, stopped harangues and lengthy rambling shares etc. Made it a safe place to attend meetings and allowed most all to share. Unfortunately it had to move and has not reopened.

Hanging where the old timers are is excellent advice!
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Re: Members who verbally attack in meetings

Postby avaneesh912 » Sun Jun 14, 2015 2:53 pm

At another meeting, one man told the lead "F*ck you!" Same man told a member yesterday "Shut the f*ck, you old hag!"

These and name calling are signs of spiritually sick people. What can you do? If it gets very abusive, you can always have them evicted. One of the new members got verbally abusive and would not stop and he was evicted from a meeting and was under restraining order. All this happened without my knowledge and I called him once. And I was recipient of most vulgar onslaught ever in my life and later the line went dead. I left it there.
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Re: Members who verbally attack in meetings

Postby upbeat01 » Sun Jun 14, 2015 3:08 pm

avaneesh912 wrote:At another meeting, one man told the lead "F*ck you!" Same man told a member yesterday "Shut the f*ck, you old hag!"

These and name calling are signs of spiritually sick people. What can you do? If it gets very abusive, you can always have them evicted. One of the new members got verbally abusive and would not stop and he was evicted from a meeting and was under restraining order. All this happened without my knowledge and I called him once. And I was recipient of most vulgar onslaught ever in my life and later the line went dead. I left it there.
Woo! My good friend, who has been attending meetings in that group for 25 years and was the recipient of the verbal attack yesterday was extremely hurt by it. She has never had that happen before in her life. She called me to talk. Because he has become a fixture at the meetings, she will stay until a group inventory is completed and then shs is moving to a nearby group. A great old timer stated once "AAs vote with their feet!".
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Re: Members who verbally attack in meetings

Postby ezdzit247 » Sun Jun 14, 2015 7:46 pm

upbeat01 wrote:Thanks everyone for the great responses and the kind congratulations!

The referenced attacking man is relatively new. He got into a verbal attack with a struggling man over responsibility over coffee making.The man was found dead the following week....


Please clarify who was found dead. Was it the verbally abuse man or the man who was the victim of the abuse?

upbeat01 wrote: Woo! My good friend, who has been attending meetings in that group for 25 years and was the recipient of the verbal attack yesterday was extremely hurt by it. She has never had that happen before in her life. She called me to talk. Because he has become a fixture at the meetings, she will stay until a group inventory is completed and then shs is moving to a nearby group. A great old timer stated once "AAs vote with their feet!".


I sincerely hope involving all the members in doing a group inventory helps to get this meeting back on track with AA's primary purpose. I also hope that your friend heals quickly from the hurt triggered by the verbal attack. If this man is able to take responsibility for his behavior and she receives his apology, that would be even better.

Thanks for sharing on this topic. You've given me a lot of good food for thought about another "fixture" in my own meeting groups who's prone to making tacky, sexist, racist or otherwise inappropriate remarks that have been hurtful to other members. I've generally ignored him but I'm rethinking that strategy now.

Keep coming back....
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Re: Members who verbally attack in meetings

Postby upbeat01 » Sun Jun 14, 2015 8:16 pm

Thank you! Oh...to clarify, it was the man who was the victim of the abuse that was found dead.

Talked to my friend this evening to check if she is ok and she is. She is turning her Saturday meeting over to someoone else.
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Re: Members who verbally attack in meetings

Postby Layne » Sun Jun 14, 2015 9:03 pm

I don't believe in voting with my feet. For years I ran from the real world using the bottle as my feet. In sobriety I am learning the hard lesson that I would rather stay put and vote with my voice. I find serenity by facing unpleasant tasks head on, staying away from finger pointing, and strictly sticking to my ESH. If I vote with my feet, the only thing that changes is my location.
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Re: Members who verbally attack in meetings

Postby Niagara » Mon Jun 15, 2015 10:58 am

upbeat01 wrote:Thank you! Oh...to clarify, it was the man who was the victim of the abuse that was found dead.


I hope he wasn't pushed over the edge by the attack. Lord knows my skin was paper thin and I was very on the edge when I first came in. A reminder that our words are either fruit, or poison.
I've taken some beatings in my time, but the words hurt the worst.

This kind of thing is common in my area, sadly, and it's permitted for the most part. I know we all react differently, some of us are quiet, others are angry and until we get going with the program these things remain (and even return to bite us in the backside from time to time) Despite the readings at the beginning saying about avoiding language or behaviour that may frighten, offend or upset others, it still happens and unless it looks like it's going to get physical, people just look right uncomfortable and it continues.

I wish I knew what the answer is. There are meetings I avoid because of this. It's intimidating. A group that I do big book study with (my sponsors sponsee group) - we have recently set up a meeting that I am currently chairing. The idea is to keep the meeting on point, and create an environment that's pleasant to be in. Not always easy when someone is intent on creating havoc, and there are so few meetings here now that there is a lot of crossover...it's bound to happen at some point.

I'm reminded of the chapter 'A vision for you' in the big book

Still you may say: "But I will not have the benefit of contact with you who write this book." We cannot be sure. God will determine that, so you must remember that your real reliance is always upon Him. He will show you how to create the fellowship you crave.

Perhaps this is the best we can do.
If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn't sit for a month -
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Re: Members who verbally attack in meetings

Postby upbeat01 » Mon Jun 15, 2015 12:13 pm

Thank you. Yes....an outright verbal attack stuns. We don't know for sure if the man died as a result of the verbal attack.

When I belonged to an AA club it hosted about 4 meetings a day. I lead a Friday Big Book Study at noon. After the Preamble, "How It Works" etc. I asked the group to limit comments to the reading but if necessary shares about problems. Worked like a charm. I only once during those 9 months had a problem but that was from one person who was notorious for going from one meeting to another starting trouble. I think the fact that there was always someone in the office answering phones and looking out at meetings helped.

I picked and chose which meetings I attended based on the spirit in the meetings. Very little, if any chaos. I developed a daily meeting regimen. Unfortunately the club closed after 20 years due to new building owner.
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Re: Members who verbally attack in meetings

Postby ezdzit247 » Tue Jun 16, 2015 2:08 pm

Layne wrote:I don't believe in voting with my feet. For years I ran from the real world using the bottle as my feet. In sobriety I am learning the hard lesson that I would rather stay put and vote with my voice. I find serenity by facing unpleasant tasks head on, staying away from finger pointing, and strictly sticking to my ESH. If I vote with my feet, the only thing that changes is my location.


Thanks. Your post made some good points and has given me more good food for thought. As I posted earlier, I've generally ignored the "fixture" in my own meeting groups as well as his inappropriate remarks and behavior but I'm seriously rethinking that strategy after reading other posters' shares. I'm now looking at my own responses to his remarks and behavior, i.e. ignoring him, as another form of running away from trouble and opting for "peace at any price". I'm also coming to terms with the fact that it's the newcomers who have been paying the price for this kind of "peace", not me. About 22 newcomers have come through the doors of our meeting groups over the last year; not one of them has stayed. It's a small town and when I see these missing newcomers at the grocery store, etc, I always get greeted with big smiles and hugs but they've made it clear they're not interested in coming back to our local AA meetings. Neither are any of the local native American AA members, all of whom have 5 to 25 years of sobriety. They attend their own alcohol recovery meetings on the reservation and the local open NA meeting here in town, but they will not attend our local AA meeting groups. They, like the newcomers, have voted with their feet. We have a problem here in my local meeting groups and I don't know what the solution is but I know there is a solution. I'm going to do more prayer and meditation on this and meet with my spiritual advisor on Thursday for some more insights.

Thanks to everyone who has shared their ESH on this topic.
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Re: Members who verbally attack in meetings

Postby upbeat01 » Tue Jun 16, 2015 7:03 pm

Thanks very much for your ESH! It has helped my friend and me.

I find it such a shame that newcomers are faced with certain types and then never come back. I was very lucky when I tried AA again 3 years ago after a bad experience with it 20 years earlier. I guess it was right place and right time. In my case, the Step Club that I went to when I first started had strong old timers who lead meetings and addressed bad behavior and also an enclosed office where workers answered the phones and kept an eye on meetings. Board members were there regularly.

My friend told me tonight that her meetings will be between her and the sofa for a while. When she comes back it will be to a very large meeting at a site about a mile from the meeting where she got attacked. She has about 25 years sobriety and does have a large network of people to call. We are lucky here to have a lot of places that hold meetings, but the downside is that many only have 2 or 3 meetings a week.
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Re: Members who verbally attack in meetings

Postby Brock » Wed Jun 17, 2015 8:21 am

upbeat01 wrote: I was very lucky when I tried AA again 3 years ago after a bad experience with it 20 years earlier.

Pretty much the same thing happened to me, but I realize in retrospect that the bad experience was probably not that bad after all; I was looking for an excuse. A big American, (I live in the West Indies), would say stuff to me like “you don’t have a clue about AA,” but then I am a pretty vocal fellow and before even doing the steps I was chairing meetings, this was wrong and he was right, I probably hadn’t suffered enough yet and let him put me off, all he was doing was trying some tough love.

We are lucky here to have a lot of places that hold meetings, but the downside is that many only have 2 or 3 meetings a week.


Thanks for saying this, in smaller towns or as in my case smaller countries, we don’t vote that much with our feet, for the exact reason you mentioned.
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