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On the importance of service in recovery

B.C./Yukon Alcholics Anonymous delegate shares during the recent Smithers AA Roundup

Over the August Long weekend there was a convention in town, but the bars and liquor stores didn’t make any money out of it.

From Aug. 2 – 4 Bulkley Valley Alcoholics Anonymous (BVAA) hosted its annual Smithers Roundup attracting members from all over Area 79 (B.C. and Yukon).

If you didn’t hear about it, that is by design. In keeping with Tradition 11 of Alcoholics Anonymous, which reads “Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films,” the event was not advertised.

The program for the weekend included a workshop on AA sponsorship, an ice cream social Friday evening, a dessert auction and banquet Saturday and breakfast Sunday morning.

And, of course, there were lots of hour-long AA meetings in which members get up, introduce themselves (first names only) and tell the stories of how their lives were negatively impacted by their addiction.

The attendees were also treated to a report by the Area 79 delegate to the 69th Annual General Service Conference held in April in New York City.

The conference is the means by which local groups, regional intergroups and the larger areas are able to contribute to matters of importance to AA as a whole. As one example, on the agenda for 2019 was whether a fifth edition of the famous text Alcoholics Anonymous (more commonly referred to simply as “The Big Book”) by AA founder Bill W. should be published.

At the heart of the conference are the three pillars of AA, service, recovery and unity.

While in Smithers, the Area 79 delegate, Gail P. from Victoria, sat down with The Interior News and talked about the importance of service in the framework of AA and to her own recovery.

“I came into AA when I was 38,” she said. “I was done. I had run out of options for getting my life on track. I knew that AA worked and I’d avoided doing anything about it for a long time, but finally, one day, it was just time.”

She has been sober now 34 years, but it wasn’t always good sobriety.

Like many recovering alcoholics after awhile she drifted away from her group and going to meetings, eventually stopping altogether and ending up in a state many alcoholics refer to as being “dry drunk.”

“For two-and-a-half years I was out there, not drunk, but not recovered,” she explained. “It was just a horrible place to be.

“One day I realized that I may not be drinking, but all the “-isms” were there, I was angry and selfish and self-centred and, quite frankly, more scared than I’d ever been drinking and I thought, my God, what’s happened to me?”

Going back was a revelation.

“It was exactly the same as when I first joined,” she said. “I was desperate for the program of recovery.”

This time she threw herself into service.

“I knew that one of the keys was to stay involved, I could not keep this thing unless I gave it away, unless I made every effort to be part of the solution,” she explained. “So, I started throwing up my hand and being willing to do whatever was needed to be done and the next thing I knew I became a GSR (general service representative) and then a DCM (district committee member) and I started attending quarterlies and assemblies at the area level.”

That led to getting elected Area 79 treasurer followed by a stint as alternate chair, then chair, then alternate delegate and finally the delegate for the latest conference.

“It’s been just the greatest journey and I’m just so grateful I made that decision to get back into the middle of the herd.”

Gail acknowledged there are challenges to treading the fine line between the attraction over promotion tradition and Tradition 5, which states: “Each group has but one primary purpose—to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.”

But, she said, the Bulkley Valley Group does a great job of making sure AA literature is available all around the area in police stations, community centres, doctor’s offices and other places where people who think they might have a problem with alcohol can find it and find their way to a local meeting.

Gail concluded with a message for people who want to stop drinking.

“AA works; it is a solution,” she said. “I can’t imagine a life without drinking without Alcoholics Anonymous. It’s given me a life I could never have imagined.”

Bulkley Valley AA has meetings at 7 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays at the Evangelical Free Church in Smithers; noon on Mondays and Thursdays at the court house in Smithers; 7 p.m. Saturdays at the Bulkley Valley District Hospital; and 7 p.m. Mondays at the Telkwa Christian Reformed Church.

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