At a gathering of our cohort last night, I found myself irritated by a particular meeting-goer. This was not the first time I have noticed him. 

Last night, he was generally rude and incoherent, and on prior occasions, he has been notably odorous. How do we deal with such members? Shall we cast them out? 

Let us look to the long form of our third tradition for a guiding principle: 

Our membership ought to include all who suffer from alcoholism. Hence we may refuse none who wish to recover.” So the only requirement is a desire to stop drinking? Well, any bum can claim to have such a desire! So this means any and everyone, from a neo-nazi to your neighbor’s niece, is welcome at an AA meeting. 

Since, in this life of AA, we are meant to deal with “life on life’s terms,” it follows that  we might view these uncomfortable situations as opportunities to grow; and indeed we should. However, there is a higher necessity to which we are obliged; and that necessity is to our own sobriety. 

If you feel uncomfortable at a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, it is your responsibility (to yourself) to remove yourself from that situation immediately. For the first tradition states that though “our common welfare comes first… [our] individual welfare follows close afterward.”

Allow nothing to come between yourself and your own program. While we might hope a meeting’s secretary and/or a GSR (General Service Representative) might attempt to counsel a troublesome meeting-goer, we must “accept the things we cannot control.” And this is certainly one of them.

But in that spirit: we need also “the courage to change the things we can.” And we can keep our own shares succinct; we can remain silent while others are sharing (and keep our phones similarly muted); we can be sure we are bathed and awake and, in every possible way, unoffending. 

So in the end, I say: yes, “stick with the winners.” But never count out the losers. Because, truly, “the only constant is change.”

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