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January 1988

Literature Leads the Way

AA in Brazil was founded in 1947--twelve years after Dr. Bob's last drink. However, it took more than twenty-three years to have our literature translated into Portuguese, the national language. As a consequence, many of the old-timers, with the exception of a few who were able to read English, never read a word of AA literature, not even the Twelve Steps.

Even after the first translations of AA material became available in Portuguese, only a few were interested. "You don't need that," many would say. "Look at me! I have been sober for the last twenty years. Keep coming as I did, and don't drink for the next twenty-four hours."

Nevertheless, when I joined AA in 1979 I went to the literature, even though opportunities to discuss and clarify it were basically nonexistent--there were no Step meetings or Traditions meetings, at least that I knew about. So I decided to start talking about the Steps and Traditions in my testimonies. Very frequently, though, one of the old-timers, talking after me, would make opposite recommendations.

Early in 1983 I heard about a special meeting for newcomers and thought it might be an ideal place to introduce new members to AA literature. In the same year, while visiting New York, I had the opportunity to visit the General Service Office, where I bought the pamphlet, in English, "Guide for Leading Beginners Meetings." Returning to the group, along with some others, I proposed that we start such a beginners meeting as was described in the pamphlet. But the group conscience was against the innovation if it would mean converting one of the regular meetings into a newcomers meeting. The group already had three meetings a day, seven days a week. Before long, however, the group felt the need to expand the permanent office space it rented to accommodate additional meetings, such as an English-speaking meeting, a women's meeting, and a gay meeting (the last two of which never got off the ground). So when space became available on the same floor, the group administrative committee (steering committee) recommended that we take it, and that we start a beginners meeting.

Presently, after almost three years, we are maintaining three beginners meetings a week and the reactions have been enthusiastic.

By group conscience definition, beginners are considered as such up to six months of continuous sobriety. It is suggested that they attend both beginners and regular meetings. Old-timers are invited to the meetings, but are asked not to speak. The space that we have can accommodate up to twenty people, and this number is normally filled by newcomers.

The meeting itself has a duration of two hours. The first half hour is dedicated to the explanation of a relevant AA topic or some aspect of the program: AA structure, AA literature, sponsorship, the meaning of anonymity, the Third Tradition, etc. Then the leader of the meeting asks each newcomer how his or her last twenty-four hours were. Not much is said about the more remote past. Half an hour before the end of the meeting, the leader gives general information such as local AA events, the financial situation of the group, and new literature that is available. The collection is taken, and the total of the collection is announced then and there to the group.

One of the by-products of this beginners meeting is the participation of these newcomers in the regular meetings, giving testimonies adorned with references to the Steps and Traditions so fluently that many old-timers have started thinking about reading the books. Curiosity about the "Twelve and Twelve" has prompted the group to adopt two meetings a week devoted to AA literature, including the Twelve Concepts for World Service, to replace two of the "old style'' regular meetings.

Old-timers who were always claiming the group was breaking Traditions when we first started the beginners meetings now demand that two weekly meetings of open discussion be held {it must be said that we lovingly consider these meetings to be beginners meetings for old-timers).

Other groups in different parts of the country have become very much interested in our beginners meetings, and we have been asked to help implement similar meetings. The pamphlet "Guide for Leading Beginners Meetings" has been translated into Portuguese and has been distributed to all groups through our local AA magazine.

In August of 1987, AA in Brazil will be celebrating its 40th anniversary. For sure I will be crying and thanking God for having allowed me not to be drunk and alone, but surrounded by a chorale of 15,000 voices singing the Serenity Prayer.

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