The common welfare

Doing service in the fellowship can sometimes be rewarding. Sometimes it can suck. This week it has been a bit of both. Last night I attended the gay sex addicts meeting where I have been putting the literature out for the past couple of months. I only took the literature commitment on because I needed a solid reason to keep going there – that’s what service commitments are for – and it was a very small meeting needing all the support it could get. I don’t mind doing the literature, it is probably the easiest of all the commitments – with no sexual sobriety to speak of I don’t feel that I would be in a fit place to take on any other commitments in that fellowship. Unfortunately it turns out that one of the two other members doing service at the meeting, Frank, wants me to do more. He is not happy about having been responsible for most of the meeting’s service positions for the past few years, and wants to give some of them up. It’s been brought up in group consciences before but it has never really been resolved because, although there are more regular attendees now than there were a few months ago, I still don’t think there are enough members with sufficient sobriety to take things like finances and intergroup representation on. Frank doesn’t agree. Yet another group conscience was called last night, which I wasn’t looking forward to because I knew there would be disagreement, but even I couldn’t predict how heated it would become. Basically Frank had an awful lot of resentment to get off his chest, setting himself up as the only person who really cares about keeping the meeting going, the one who does all the hard work with no support. Without any provocation he began shouting at us, and it was obvious that the things he was saying were not entirely for us. It was an unpleasant situation and the other member of the meeting, Jules, had to ask Frank to calm down a couple of times, only to be shouted down and reduced to tears.

Eventually Frank told us that he was handing all his commitments in and never planned to come to the meeting again. It was a dramatic and highly unnecessary thing to do, but in my heart it might have been the best thing, if we get to have a meeting free of shouting and unpleasantness in future. I feel bad for Frank – for months he was essentially running the meeting on his own and I know he needs it as much as I do. But when it comes to service you cannot emotionally blackmail people into doing it: it has to be everyone’s individual decision. If there were more people going to the meeting it would be easier, but Frank doesn’t seem to understand this.

I think, given the circumstances, both Jules and I handled ourselves very well last night. Obviously I felt attacked and I naturally wanted to go into victim mode, to shout back at Frank and give him what for, but I didn’t. I know all about step 4 and justified anger, and I know when to pick my fights. This was not a time to be getting into a fight with Frank. I simply responded to the points that I could pick out of his jumbled and emotional argument, maintaining my dignity, and for that I am grateful. I don’t know how many people would be able to bite their tongue when there are just two others in the room and one is accusing them of being unsupportive and cruel. Thank God there were no newcomers at the meeting last night.

Without Frank the meeting may not survive. I know he was paying most of the room rent out of his own pocket. I doubt that Jules and I alone will be able to keep it going. Maybe more people will start showing up and sticking around, maybe they won’t. If it doesn’t last it will be a shame. I have grown to like going there on Friday nights, sharing about deeply personal stuff that I would never be able to share about in an AA meeting. If this meeting doesn’t last there is another gay SAA meeting on Tuesdays which I’ve heard many mixed things about. Perhaps I ought to give it a go.

On Thursday I took on the secretary commitment at the gay AA meeting in Hinde Street that I have gone to a lot this year. Part of me was probably missing being the centre of attention in gay AA meetings; part of me knew that no one else would do it. I had hoped that someone else would want to share the commitment with me – gay AA in London isn’t exactly short of members with long term sobriety – but in the end I was the only person to show any remote interest. For a while I felt resentful and anxious, imagining how difficult it would be to find someone to do a chair every single week for the next twelve months, but then I remembered that God doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle, and I thought back to the other meeting where I finished being secretary in July, how well I managed that commitment. I didn’t do it on my own, but to begin with I never would have thought myself capable of doing it for a whole year, even with somebody sharing the responsibility with me. Knowing that I’ve done it before is encouraging and I look forward to the next year of doing it again.

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One thought on “The common welfare

  1. You do a good job of describing a very common problem. At times we get so gung-ho over service that we allow ourselves to become overloaded and then end up with a resentment. Of course, the overload is our own problem. Nobody forces us to take on too many commitments; even if the group will not have anyone doing that job, it is not necessarily our responsibility to rescue the group or fix it for them. The right way to get out of commitments, if we have over-extended is simply to announce that “as of (a date), I will no longer be doing X.” No shouting, cajoling, etc is required. Simply “I won’t be doing it.” If someone steps up, that is great, if nobody does then that job wont get done. Letting service become a locus for resentment is an incredible perversion of the program.

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