When I joined SLAA in October 1994, there was no SA in Ireland. In February 1995, an SA member who was a friend of one of our members, came over from the USA and attended our SLAA meeting. I had not heard of SA yet. He told us about sponsoring, working the Steps, phone calls, check-ins, and fellowship after the meetings.
SA started in Ireland in early 1996 with very few members. I attended my first SA meeting in September 1996. At the time, when we attended SLAA conventions and were accused of poaching their members. One or two of the senior members were angry, saying we were splitting their fellowship. When I told one of them I was leaving for SA, he said the SA’s were the “Presbyterians” of the “S” Fellowships.
In my home group, we had two to three members starting off. It took three years before a member stayed and got sober. For years, newcomers would come in and leave and come back and leave again. Very few members stayed. It was very frustrating and disheartening at times. Our numbers were so low that if a member was away it might not be possible to have a meeting.
In Ireland we had an SA Convention in Spring and in Autumn. We also attended SA Conventions in the UK. In 1997 in Dublin, there was only one meeting with two or three members. We sought sponsors in the UK and in the USA and the fellowship grew slowly.
Here are some of the things I learned over the last 25 years:
- Number one is staying sober at all costs.
- Working with, and learning to take direction from my sponsor and sponsoring members. To have newcomers get a temporary sponsor as soon as they arrive. If newcomers wish to change sponsors they are free to do so.
- Prayer and meditation. Higher Power in groups.
- Working the Steps and Traditions.
- It’s very important to keep the doors open for meetings. The worst scenario is for members to turn up and no one is there.
- To have monthly Group Conscience meetings.
- Meetings starting and finishing on time. Sharing in meetings is timed.
- If members have problems, take them up in Group Conscience meetings. One lesson I learned is that when problems crop up in the group to use the twelve Traditions to deal with them.
- Don’t debate the principles. Members who do not agree with the Sobriety Definition are told there are other “S” Fellowships.
- Encouraging newcomers to do service.
- Another lesson I learned is not to lecture members or tell them what to do. I did this with a member who became angry and left the fellowship. Our program is meant to be suggestive only.
To conclude, I am learning the importance of a personal relationship with my Higher Power who keeps me sober. My sponsor is not always available nor can he be. Neither can members be always there but my Higher Power is always there with me and for me. The Big Book tells me I will never get sober if I put reliance on people before reliance on God: “Job or no job—wife or no wife—we simply do not stop drinking so long as we place dependence upon other people ahead of dependence on God.” (AA 98)
Humility is the main key to sobriety. I can’t get sober or stay sober on my own. I need to ask God for help. I need to ask members for help. I need to help others and work with them and give up my time which is really God’s time.