What would Bill W and Dr Bob have made of AA today? Our membership has grown into the millions, we have meetings in the far corners of the world and the Big Book has been translated into dozens of different languages. Modern technology has also changed the way we carry the AA message. People now have “smart phones” in their pockets and we can find meetings online, download literature and find out what is going on in AA locally, nationally and around the world.
Despite the undoubted benefits, sometimes I can’t help but think we might have lost something along the way. Was AA better in the old days?
I often look back fondly as I recall some of the characters that I’ve known over the years and reflect on the sense of community that we once had. In many ways it was a simpler time.
We always liked to make people feel welcome at the Armidale Thursday evening suppertime meeting. Arriving at the meeting, newcomers would be greeted by Big Col on the door, handed a piping hot cheese-and-Devon jaffle and invited into a room so smoky it was difficult to see more than a few feet in front of you. This had the dual advantage of masking the smell of Pig Farmer Ken and obscuring Bowlo Bill’s ugly mug. Sometimes, out of the smoke haze you could catch a glimpse of Ken’s dog Billy (a shameless leg humper) pacing around the meeting eating unguarded jaffles. Members were happy to give up a jaffle if it meant not having to put up with Billy’s unwanted amorous advances.
It was in many ways a happy fog that I hoped would never lift, but as they say all things must pass. In the case of the supper meeting, it happened one evening that the room became especially thick with smoke and the noxious smell of burning cheese. It was then that Taxi Bob noticed the flames coming from the kitchen. By that stage the building was well alight and although there were a few moments of predictable chaos, we all got out OK.
By the time the local firies managed to put out the flames the Armadale Scout Hall was all but burned to ashes.
We’ve always had our challenges, but sober alcoholics are an adaptive and innovative lot. This is as true today as it has ever been. Was AA better in the old days? I believe that if our founders were here to see it they would be very proud of the fellowship they helped to create. As Serenity Jim used to say: “Today is a gift. That’s why they call it the present.” He also used to say, “if you see a dog eying your leg longingly, it’s a good idea to have a jaffle handy. “