It is quite easy for us of a 12 Step fellowship to get caught up in grand plans and designs. Before long, we start forming committees and subcommittees, boards and councils, when we get caught up in this sort of fantastical thinking. These require us to meet and plan and discuss. Should we find ourselves caught in this trap, we must remind ourselves: our Primary Purpose is simple and does not require any elaborate constructs and events. It is simple. Someone who has recovered from sex addiction by a spiritual awakening resulting from working the 12 Steps, sits down with someone who desperately wants to recover from sex addiction and shows him/her how. All the time we spend planning and deliberating over our elaborate bureaucracy could be better spent carrying the message to the still suffering sex addict. We could easily get lost in all our deliberations and lose track of the entire reason we came together in the first place. The question we must ask ourselves, whenever we plan, design and scheme, “Is this additional work we’re doing really necessary in carrying the message?”, “Are we over-complicating what is meant to be a simple program?” The 12 Step program is simple. Chances are we are not doing the 12 Step program if what we’re doing is complicated.
We rotate leadership for several reasons. Some of our jobs within the fellowship – secretary, treasurer, GSO, etc. – often require some large chunks of time. While we should be willing to take our turn in these necessary jobs, the job much more necessary to our sobriety is carrying the message. Relying too heavily on one member to do the service work is just as dangerous to the group as it is to the individual. The individual may not be doing the work necessary to his/her sobriety (Step 12) because of the time distractions that come with these jobs. The group is in danger for the same reason which made our 7th Tradition necessary. A healthy group will have roughly equal contributions of service from all its members. The group becomes dependent on the few if they do otherwise. The whole group fails when those few fail. It is a house of cards that could easily come tumbling down. The structure of the group should be equally balanced on many pillars of service. When one fails, there are still many to support it.
Another danger is a sense of entitlement that develops in those doing the majority of service. As with money, the over-worked begin to think their opinion counts for more at our business meetings; they start to see themselves as entitled. We start speaking as authoritarians. In other words, we start to play God. Bill Wilson, when speaking of this Tradition and the subject of authority said this:
Many people wonder how A.A. can function under a seeming anarchy. Other societies have to have law and force and sanction and punishment, administered by authorized people. Happily for us, we found that we need no human authority whatever. We have two authorities which are far more effective. One is benign, the other malign. There is God, our Father, who very simply says, “I am waiting for you to do my will.” The other authority is named John Barleycorn [our addiction], and he says, “You had better do God’s will or I will kill you.” A.A. Comes of Age, pg 105
Hindsight often makes it clear when we are not pursuing God’s will. From an outside perspective we can easily see when our steering committee members are off track. This is another reason we elect new ones. The incoming officers have fresh direction based on the mistakes of their predecessors. And let’s not limit ourselves to the perspective of our steering committee. This axiom holds true for other entities withing the service structure of any 12 Step fellowship.
This leads to the issues that arise from the egos of our respective elected servants. We have seen time and again, when one of us holds a position of service for too long, we have a tendency to see ourselves as leaders rather than servants. We start thinking we own the job and then start thinking the group belongs to us. Regular rotation of service positions helps us keep our egos in check.
Whatever the position, we must know in our hearts that we serve the group conscience. Any 12 Step fellowship is an upside-down organization. The individual groups are in charge of the overall fellowship. They, of course through their group conscience, are seeking the will of God. In essence that puts God in charge of the overall fellowship. When we step up into the hierarchy of the organization, we are actually stepping down into a position of service. We serve the group conscience of the group that elected us to the position, each tier of service along the way.
The service structure of A.A. follows from top to bottom as follows: the individual groups, the local intergroups, the area committee, the regional committee, the General Service Conference (which serves as the group conscience for the entire fellowship), the Board of Trustees, and finally the director of fellowship services. In S.A.A. we have yet to develop such an elaborate service structure. We do not have area committees. Most of our regions are not yet organized. There are many groups that do not belong to an intergroup. Many of the groups send representation to the International Service Conference (this serves as S.A.A.’s group conscience). The International Service Organization is our corporate entity. It is comprised of the group delegates, the office staff, the Board of Trustees and the Literature Committee (LitCom) which operates separately from the Board. They conduct business out of our office in Houston TX. The delegates convene annually at a conference usually held over Memorial Day weekend. The Board and LitCom usually meet quarterly, mostly by teleconference but sometimes in person. Members of the Board and LitCom are each elected by a region. Both can have a set number of “at large” members that are elected by the Conference of Delegates.
Whatever the service entity within our fellowship structure, we must all remember that our main job is to further facilitate the carrying of our common message by the groups. The groups themselves are the core of the fellowship. And at the core of each group should be our common solution: a spiritual awakening that results from doing the work of the Twelve Steps. This should be the focus of each member group and the focus of the S.A.A. fellowship should be to support the groups in this work. There is no other reason for a service entity within our fellowship to exist.