When is it okay to make an exception?

If you are familiar with AA one of the things you may have noticed is that we don’t have hard fast rules, we have suggestions, tons of suggestions. Working the steps is not a rule, not a must, it is a suggestion. Some people say that it is a suggestion in the same way that it is suggested that you pull the parachute cord when you jump out of an airplane. That’s one of my favorite aa jokes. Another popular suggestion is to refrain from sexual relationships until you have a year sobriety and today’s topic is the suggested 6 months of continuous sobriety before you secretary a meeting.

As I’ve covered before every fellowship has its own personality. One of the characteristics of our fellowship is that although we have it written that we suggest 6 months of continuous sobriety to secretary a meeting we will often waive that and allow somebody to take a meeting if they have less than 6 months. since it’s not a hardfast rule we use our own discretion but as people tend to do many make up their criteria for when it is okay to “waive time”

Some say if you are working the steps and have a sponsor it is okay, others say if nobody with 6 months wants it then it is okay and the reasons go on and on, Whenever somebody with less than 6 months is elected the secretary of a meeting we say we are making an exception. But are we?

This is one of those subjects that is a bit of a sore spot for me. There have been several times when I have been at a meeting and the group has taken a vote as to whether we should elect somebody to secretary with less than 6 months time. It’s always an open vote so everybody can see if you are raising your hand for a yes note or a no vote. perhaps, that should be re-visited. Anyhow, I always vote no because I am opposed to this waiving of time idea. And always the other 10-15 people in the room always vote yes and I am outvoted 14-1 or 9-1 and I am in the awkward situation that this person now knows I voted against him. Would the results be different if the votes were secretive? I can’t say and my gut feeling is that I would be on the losing end but I also feel like there may be a few other votes in the No direction because people might be uncomfortable voting against a person. I can honestly say that we have never voted no as a group on a person who wanted to be a secretary because they had less than 6 months sobriety. Not when I have been present. It seems to me that our group does not know what the word exception means. If you always do something then it is not an exception, it is the rule. I would be be willing to make an exception if it were in fact an exception. If we voted to uphold the 6 months requirement several times in a row I would be open to a “yes” vote I would be open to an exception but now I always vote against it on the principle that we should adhere to the suggestion. It’s kind of like this. We’re all taught to be honest people. Don’t tell lies. At some point in life you learn the benefit of telling a lie. If you tell a lie everything single time it benefits you to do so then you have a lying problem and you’re a dishonest person. If make it a rule to tell the truth and do so almost all of the time and find the occasional reason to lie and yet are willing to often the tell the truth when it is inconvenient you are still an honest person and your lying is the exception. This is what is going on in our fellowship. As far as I have seen we are never willing to enforce the suggested 6 months sobriety time when it is inconvenient when it means taking a stand, when it means having to go through that discomfort of telling somebody “I’m sorry No.” Whenever I have voted No against a person I make it a point to talk to the person face to face afterwards and explain to them how it’s not personal and I am adamant about the 6 months requirement and I always vote no in favor of following the suggestion. I absolutely hate doing this. It is humbling on so many levels. To always get outvoted,to always have to make amends with the person,to look like the bad guy to feel like nobody gets you but I do it because of the principle.

I believe that people feel like they are doing a favor to a person by giving them a meeting. Like, hey, this is our gift to you. We are giving you a meeting. Have you ever heard somebody that “We gave this guy a meeting” or “They gave me a meeting,” I hear it all the time, This is where I think we are wrong, the meeting is not meant to be a gift to the secretary. The secretary is meant to be a gift to the meeting. when a person has minimal sobriety time I can not trust based on my experience that the person will adequately serve the group. I have seen on many an occasion a secretary “go out” weeks later sometimes days later and have to give up the meeting because they are no longer sober. I have seen people just stop showing up for their meeting. More times than not the person whom the exception was made for does not pan out. Yes, we were nice to the alcoholic we gave them a shot but what about the group? What about our leaders are but trusted servants? The secretary is there to serve the group not the other way around. We deserve a reliable secretary. All of the alcoholics in need should be given a secretary who is reliable. Who will show up every week, and on time and open the doors and stay for the entire meeting.

Anyhow I think that’s enough out of me. And I feel good about this because I can honestly say that I wrote this without bitterness. Despite the fact that it brings up some sore spots my spirits were good and I was able to look at things in a calm way and present my point with acceptance and serenity.


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