"TONIGHT the subject is frequency of meeting attendance. 'How often do I have to go to meetings,' is the question sometimes asked. A better way to put it is 'How often should I want to go,'" said the leader of the closed meeting.
"This basic question is a difficult or perhaps impossible one to answer. It is asked particularly by new members and by older members who do not seem to 'get' the program.
"The answer might be easier if everyone understood that the meeting is the key to sobriety. In most cases, people who go to meetings regularly get sober and stay sober. Why, we don't exactly know, but experience tells us that it is a fact. A little observation around any group will point up this truth.
"Now if the meetings get us sober and keep us sober their importance can hardly be overestimated, but how many of them are needed? Louie, you go to a lot of meetings, will you start it off?"
"In answer to the question of 'how many meetings' I like to answer with another question, 'How safe do you want to be?'
"I go to six meetings a week. I go because I like to go and because I don't have much else to do. I don't think I have to go to six to stay sober, but I would not like to think about less than two or three. Someone else might find that one is enough."
"I think you have put your finger on it, Louie. For some members one meeting a week is enough. Others need two, four, five, six. It is a personal thing. Yes, Jane."
"It seems to me that a person must go to enough meetings to stay sober! And since he does not know exactly how many that is, he has to allow for a margin of error and be generous in his computation. As Louie indicated, if you want to be real safe, go to a lot more than you think may be necessary. It's better to 'err' on the side of too many, rather than too few, in this matter."
"Thanks, Jane. In reply to questions as to whether one meeting a week is enough, I have heard it asked, 'Well, how often did you drink? Once a week?' Fred?"
"A fellow who was stumbling around for a few years in AA, with practically no protracted sobriety and very irregular meeting attendance, asked me, 'Do you think that I can get this program on two meetings a week?'
"You see, all he had experienced thus far was failure. Yet he was trying to buy success cheaply. He wanted a bargain. I told him I did not know whether he could get the program on two or on five nights a week, but that his attitude struck me as all wrong. You get about what you pay for, and you get success out of AA in about the same ratio as your contribution--not in dollars but in time, effort and sincerity."
"Very good, Fred. It should be pretty obvious that people who are having a lot of trouble and who go to only one or two meetings a week need to increase the medicinal dosage. They should try four meetings a week or five. Maybe they need that many to get sober. Tommy, you've had your hand up for a long time, I believe."
"In my opinion, sobriety is not the only objective of this program. At least not after a member has been in for a while. I look to AA for general personality control and development, for emotional stability, and for strength to cope with the challenging problems of daily life. I get all that from these meetings. I think one meeting a week might keep me sober but it is not enough to supply all those other things.
"If I am skimpy on my meeting attendance, I don't feel like I am going to take a drink, but I sure do begin to feel inadequate in those other departments. My patience gets short and my tongue gels sharp. I have to attend lots of meetings to keep my life in order and to keep me under control."
"Excellent, Tommy. An important point often overlooked. These meetings are not just for sobriety. They offer much more and that is why many non-alcoholics--wives, husbands and friends--say they get so much out of the meetings. For the same reason, our principles and program are applicable to problems other than alcoholism.
"I believe most of us agree, so far, that meetings are important; that they are the key to sobriety; that frequency of attendance is a personal matter, with some members needing more meetings than others; and that sobriety is not the only objective of the meetings. I suspect that we would all agree, too, that lots of meetings are particularly important for the beginner and during the first year. But what about the member who has been dry five or ten years? What should his schedule be? Eddie?"
"The ten-year man is just like anyone else. I'll agree that he probably does not have to go to meetings five times a week. But he ain't cured!
"For him as for us, it is entirely a personal matter.
"We all know some ten-year men who still go to meetings regularly. We know some who do not. We also know some who got drunk. That proved they were not cured. It also convinces me that meetings are still necessary after ten years. Maybe not so many, but that again is a personal matter. Some ten-year men need more than other ten-year men."
"Nicely done, Eddie. In this business of getting back to normal we must keep in mind that we will never be 100 percent normal--we will always be alcoholic and for most of us that means we will continue to need AA.
"These are all the points we shall have time for tonight. For the new person let me suggest that you not worry about going to meetings five years from now. Try to stay on the twenty-four-hour plan. Arrange your meetings for this week, perhaps, but let next year take care of itself!
"For old and new members alike, let us look upon meetings not as an obligation and a chore, but as something we want, like and enjoy; something we would like to see continue even if our alcoholic problem should somehow mysteriously disappear.
"Shall we close the meeting in the usual way?"