My journey to the Pacific Region Alcoholics Anonymous Service Assembly (PRAASA) commenced with irritation and foul language under my breath as the rental car dealership explained their inventory did not include the vehicle I had reserved. With misgiving, I accepted their offer to give me a free upgrade to a four wheel drive luxury vehicle, deciding I may as well make the best of what I perceived to be a bad situation.
I was on the Interstate shortly thereafter, bound for Reno, Nevada. West of Wendover, at the base of Pequop Pass, I encountered what I had been warned about prior to my departure: the worst snowstorm of the season. I planted the wheels of my rental car squarely into the treads formed by the semi in front of me and found myself traversing the terrain with relative ease, comparable to the two wheel drive vehicles sliding all over the road. It was at that moment I realized my higher power–once again–knows what is best for me better than I do. Had the rental car company produced the vehicle I had reserved, I would not be safely–albeit slowly–travelling in a four wheel drive. All I could do was smile to myself.
Upon arriving at the Casino in which PRAASA was held, I proceeded to the registration desk where I was greeted by the pleasant faces of the many friends I’ve made in general service. I immediately felt right at …home. As a relatively young man in Alcoholics Anonymous, I was delighted to see a respectable amount of other young people invested in the service structure of our fellowship because it gives me hope for the future. That evening, I attended the first of two round table discussions on both cooperation with the professional community and young people in AA where I gleaned new suggestions on how to better carry the message to our professionals and youth. Debate and disagreement are the essence of round table discussions so that competing and converging ideas yield the best pathway forward, which is ultimately in God’s hands. Once the business of AA had wrapped up, with Rule 62 foremost in my thoughts, it was time to hit the blackjack table before retiring for the evening. Reno or bust, indeed.
Saturday’s panel discussions and open mic time slots were the highlight of my first PRAASA experience because the general service structure of Alcoholics Anonymous does not evade controversy or new perspectives, but instead directly confronts them. For instance, I was until this point unaware of a growing number of alcoholics who have lobbied for a pamphlet aimed at our atheist and agnostic members so as to ensure they are not dissuaded on the program based on its frequent use of the word “God”. Perhaps the most emotionally fulfilling moment of open mic time was when a young Navajo woman tearfully expressed her joy and appreciation for the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous being played to all of us in her native tongue. I was hard-pressed to find a dry eye throughout the assembly hall.
Now, a word on the contentious issue with which I was faced. To my dismay, but not to my surprise considering the geographic area in which our region is located, I discovered a serious effort to offer “alternative versions” of the first 164 pages of our basic text because–according to some–it is not progressive or forward-thinking in its content. The argument was that if a young newcomer picked up a Big Book, he or she might take offense if said person is a woman, homosexual, employer, or any other number of minority groups. After listening to what I determined were nonsensical arguments, I felt inspired to approach the microphone so that I might share my own experience and thoughts on the subject. Unfortunately, our time was cut directly after the person next in line from me concluded her thoughts. So, I will share with you–the local reader–what I intended to say at PRAASA because my feelings have not changed in the slightest.
I don’t believe in tribalism. In other words, I don’t believe in separating us into different “types” of alcoholics. We are not straight alcoholics, gay alcoholics, white alcoholics, black alcoholics, male alcoholics, or female alcoholics; We are all alcoholics. We have suffered the same affliction, and we seek the exact same solution. As a so-called young person in AA, I can tell you with conviction the information contained in the first 164 pages of our book got me sober, as it has done for millions of others. So, I have no desire to change the Big Book or offer alternate versions because the Big Book changed me. I left PRAASA with a burning passion to carry the message of our program, as it currently stands, to as many alcoholics who are ready to listen.
Yours in Service, Shilo P,GSR of the South Enders Group