What constitutes a good AA meeting? Please do not ask me for a list of questions which might draw more varied responses than this. Suffice it to say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So in attempt to pare the possibilities, let’s consider the beholder. As the author I would like to point out my near-lifelong willingness to share/write about things I claim to have experienced myself. So, for our purposes here and in adherence to the prescribed article parameters, our beholder (AA meeting attendee) is a straight male in recovery from alcoholism. With this knowledge we are now able to respectfully eliminate responses from gay men and the fairer sex.
Certainly any AA meeting should contain/emit some structure. A timely opening of the meeting as published is a good way to start. Perhaps a reading of the AA Preamble and rules of participation for the individual meeting could follow. How It Works and the Twelve Traditions are great informative readings describing what we’re all about and should succeed the aforementioned. At this juncture we have a great start for what is involved in a good AA meeting. This being the “boilerplate” as it was.
However, the aforementioned has only set up an opportunity for our male in recovery from alcoholism to receive what he may require for a sober day. More succinctly what might our man require out of a meeting to qualify it as helpful? A collected and widely viewed thought is that a man should be able to view the room’s male attendees and feel “a part of.” An “ironclad” way of insuring this is to become involved in some type of service for that group.
We believe it is nearly critical for a man to feel “a part of” a group of men in recovery. Childhood issues of the individual male experience may stay with a fellow for his lifetime. On display at any men’s AA gathering are prime examples of men dealing with past male abuse issues; distrust, fear and in general a misunderstanding all together of male-machismo. Additionally on display is the resulting behaviors of men with differing, shall we say, more fortunate male experiences of; guidance, comradery, masculine friendship/bonding and trust. The mixture of these varied experiences is a wonder as men give freely of what they have and others are welcome to consider, absorb and or take what they are lacking or are attracted to. A men’s AA meeting is a great place for a man to determine that he is perhaps not so different from his male alcoholic colleagues.
If a man peruses the attendees of a men’s AA meeting he may be inclined to lose focus through various fellows, looks, demeanor or apparent state of emotion. Generally speaking, he can and will regain his focus momentarily. When a man peruses those in attendance of a coed AA meeting he will absolutely lose his focus at one time or another with virtually little or no chance of recovering it prior to the closing. I make this last statement in jest and sincere truth alike. Certainly a man can be a positive contributor/receptor of a coed AA meeting but for many men, the fewer distractions the better chance for focus. Along this line is the likelihood that the female presence can and will give different motivations to some men’s thought processes and subsequent sharing. Perhaps proving to be dissuasion from an honest share from the heart?
As with any AA meeting there are positive and negative examples of humanity in recovery or perhaps new verse more experienced is a more appropriate way to put it? For what it is worth to the eye of our beholder; if it looks like a man, talks like a man, dresses like a man, drinks like an alcoholic man, this man should be most willing to subject himself to the world of male recovery a minimum of once per week. Any AA should always pursue improvement as in enhancement to their recovery as well as the giving away of what one has so freely been given. It is beneficial for our man to learn to trust, include, serve, work with and realize the commonalities which we all share.
In closing I should like to say that the first two years of my sobriety were in men’s groups exclusively. It was not designed that way. It was simply that when women attended they rarely came back. When I began to participate in coed meetings my eyes were opened to the female side of alcoholism. I was amazed at the many commonalities, the differences and also the varied feelings regarding a female perspective of the Big Book and Its 1930’s-esqe writing. My early male dominated influence set me on a solid path albeit a double-standard and sexist one. I learned this through coed AA. I maintain that a well-informed male in AA needs both coed and men’s meetings. However, there is no substitution for that one hour per week. Thank you.