Etiquette of the Old School – Republished from NA Today June 2010

I was sitting in my Home Group just before the meeting started the other night quietly observing the passing parade. I was reminiscing over what it was like when I first came to NA all those years ago. It was a big meeting this particular night with over eighty members in attendance.

Throughout the meeting there was amazing pearls of recovery wisdom shared, many a warm cascade of laughter – all of which was lightly spiced with plenty of distractions. Depending on where I‘m at, at the time, depends on how I react to these distractions or whether indeed I am the cause of them!

As I was pondering, the booming voice of my first sponsor burst into my conscience (as it often does!). You see he was probably the most profound teacher I’ve ever had the privilege of being taught by. I was as ready as the dying are to learn what I needed to stay clean and I believe that he did a splendid job! He was from the Old School and that‘s why I chose him. He was as steady as a rock and would often
share about the message handed down to him from his sponsor, who at the time was twenty years clean. They both in turn talked about my sponsor‘s sponsor with an almost reverent tone and regularly referred to the grandfather of all their sponsors who had departed many years ago – clean!

My memory was recalling his tales of meeting etiquette. These are things which I try my best to stick by today as did back then, although today I do it because I want to and know it works, in the beginning mainly because I was terrified of getting in trouble! The truth is that I would break at least one of them nearly every meeting – there is always something to work on in recovery!

  • Always with a focus on the newcomer, and in line with unity and respect for our common welfare,
    this is what they said:
  • Always be seated in the meeting with your coffee before the meeting starts
  • Don‘t leave the meeting until the end unless you really have too – and if you do, never get up while
    someone is sharing (especially a newcomer as they may personalise it!). Always wait until they have finished – nothing is that important!
  • When coming back into a meeting or if you arrive late (naughty!), always stand at the back until the speaker has finished and then take your seat
  • Always share if you get asked – even if you feel like you‘re gonna die and can only say a sentence – doing that gives others freaking out the courage to do it too! Imagine everyone said “No I‘ll just ID thanks”
  • If you really feel the need to talk to your neighbour during the meeting then whisper really quiet
    (remember how you felt when you were new and people were whispering? Did you ever think it was about you!?) They would say “Save it until the second half of the meeting!”
  • The newest one, texting and playing games on the mobile – not the most respectful thing to do while someone is sharing…

And then there was the old “If you’re in the Chair” spiel which went:

  • Always get a strong, positive speaker to open the sharing part of the meeting,
  • ask if there is anyone there for their first NA meeting and whether they‘d like to say their first name (most people at their first meeting don‘t know what it means to “ID”),
  • ask if there are any visitors from out of town and ask them to share during the course of the meeting – visitors generally have something new to offer an NA community and being away from home it helps them connect,
  • where possible always alternate between male and female,
  • always ask someone you don‘t know if they‘d like to share,
  • always ask the person you have the biggest resentment with to share – builds character!
  • Remember principals before personalities – don‘t ask only your friends to share,

and the big one –

  • always get the cleanest member in the room to close the meeting – this is how we keep them coming back!

Sounds pretty full on hey! This is their (and now my) experience with caring and sharing the NA way and it works. They were always clear that these are suggestions – take them or leave them. They would always remind me however that when jumping out of a plane, it is suggested that you pull the parachute chord – suggestions are usually on the money!

I now have sponsees that sponsor members who sponsor still others. We know it as the Sponsorship Chain and often refer to the members in that chain with family names such as ‘my grand-sponsor’ (my sponsors sponsor) or my ‘recovery brother’ meaning we both have the same sponsor and so on.

This is an incredible resource – nearly all recovery challenges have been met with this gang – there is nothing together that we can‘t get through clean. We are still passing on the suggestions that were given to us and just for today, we are staying clean and living productive lives within our fellowship and within our society. Awesome Stuff!!

Nathanael M – Gold Coast

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