By Dan R (Vancouver Intergoup Rep.)
I had the pleasure of attending the 2015 SAA Convention in beautiful Washington, DC. The Conference, as always, SAA Convention 2015 was extremely inspiring and spiritually rich. There were many familiar faces from previous year’s Conferences, as well as a large group of first-time delegates. One hundred and twenty delegates attended this year’s business Conference. All of them were American except me and another Canadian from Regina. However, at the actual Convention I met other 5 Canadians from Montreal and Vancouver.
At the Conference things went efficiently and smoothly because they have spent years tweaking their system. All motions have to be submitted 2 months in advance to be considered at the Conference. We used the Delphi System to prioritize the motions into priority of importance. There is a parliamentarian on hand who settles disputes about the procedure and implementation of Robert’s Rules. Finally, there are many dedicated people who are working hard and coming up with great ideas, resources and motions.
At the Conference the first motion we dealt with and passed was to postpone aligning the Member Groups to the newly formed Areas for one year. The new schedule is:
- 2016-The Conference Steering Committee will propose the structure of the alignment
- 2017-The Conference will approve that process of alignment
- 2015-2019-The newly formed Areas will hold inaugural Area Assembly meetings to elect delegates
- 2019-The conference will approve the composition of the new Areas
- 2020-The first Conference made up of Area delegates will be convened
At this point, SAA groups can start proposing Areas that they wish to have and sending them into the Conference Steering Committee. Groups can also start elected Group Service Representatives to ISO (GSR’s) and register them with the ISO. The ISO would appreciate feedback on what members groups’ proposals for Areas are (the Vancouver area Intergroup would make a natural area, and may or may not include other Canadian cities like Kelowna and Regina). The biggest question is whether Intergroups can function as Areas or if area should be separate entities from Intergroups because they have distinct functions. ISO seems to think Areas will be totally distinct from Intergroups. In fact, not all groups have reps on Intergroup, and so Intergroup isn’t totally representative. However it remains to be seen whether groups will take the initiative to register GSR’s, hold a meeting, and form the ‘Area Assembly.’ If that doesn’t happen then the Area Assembly could be a function of Intergroup by default.
We also passed a motion to rescind conference approval of “Getting Started in SAA” because it contains a lot of passages from AA literature without authorization or reference. For example the “How it Works” section is taken right from AA. Luckily the Literature Committee picked up on that and have already re-written the pamphlets with more “SAA friendly” language and are ready to change the next set of pamphlets. New ordered pamphlets will contain the new language. However, being autonomous, groups can still use the old pamphlets if they like.
Next we approved a motion to establish guidelines for the new ISO Areas that we are forming. The guideline suggests Areas consist of 30 or more meetings which share geography, language etc. Those Areas should strive to be self-supporting, consider issues affecting SAA as a whole and elect a delegate to the conference. There was some controversy on this because minority groups and voices may not get heard. Most people understood, though, that these are only guidelines to help us begin to work on Areas. The vote passed 105/21.
We had a good discussion and approved the new process for nominating and electing members of the ISO Board of Trustees, Literature Committee and Conference Steering Committee. Until now, those members have been elected from the 6 SAA Regions. That ensures diversity, but may not produce the best and committed candidates. The new system is that there will be a Nomination Committee comprised of one person from each of the 3 Committees who recommends candidates from any source in the fellowship. They strive for qualified people and to maintain some diversity. Then, at the Conference, members will elect the nominees to their positions. There was some controversy about this motion because the geographic diversity may be lessened, but it passed 97/28.
Also related, a motion was passed as to how the Conference Steering Committee (CSC) will be populated during this transitional time. Six delegates and six alternates will be elected to the CSC for 3 year terms and 3 at-large members will be nominated by the current CSC and serve one-year terms.
Finally, a motion was brought forward (2nd year in a row) to approve the Telemeeting Intergroup as an Area (instead of being lumped in with a U.S. Region). There are 100 Telemeetings and 63 of them have Intergroup reps registered. It was inspiring to see the Telemeeting group ready to have their Area approved and pioneer that for the fellowship. However, there were concerns about it happening this fast. The procedures for forming Areas are still being worked out. Furthermore, the Telemeeting Intergroup only represents 63 out of 100 telephone meetings and we can’t be sure other Telemeetings aren’t being unduly excluded. The motion was voted down 62/57.
I attended a workshop called, ‘Help, my meeting isn’t sober,’ which was an informative way of looking at how sober meetings are. According to the presenters, meetings can either be in the outer, middle or inner circle depending on the type of meeting and how people share. Outer circle meetings focus on the solution: the steps, carrying the message etc. and are often of the step group or book study variety. Meetings that are not sober are more likely to be topical and check in meetings, where people may share off-topic. What has worked for them is to stop the meetings if they are off-topic and get the meetings back on track. While it did seem extreme, other areas, like Portland, are enjoying high levels of sobriety, sponsorship and commitment in the program.
I also attended another workshop which analyzed the 3 circles in detail. The presenter showed how the middle circle could be broken down in to 2 parts. The inner middle circle is where behaviors (like cruising) inevitably lead into the inner circle. It’s important for the addict to know what those behaviors are. We should also have well-prepared escape plans if we get to that point (like phoning someone) to stay out of the inner circle. The other part of the middle circle is behaviors that don’t push us towards the inner circle and may even move us away from the inner circle. The presenter got us to work on our circles and encouraged us to put some feelings in our middle and outer circles. I put feelings like joy and gratitude in my outer circle and anger and obsession in my middle circle.
There was an Intergroup Communications meeting that I attended. I went there to get ideas about what other Intergroups are successfully doing. At that meeting, attended by about 30 people, the Intergroup Communications Subcommittee was re-formed with a mandate to improve communications between Intergroups and share information. Some things that other Intergroups are doings are: a giving thanks fundraising potluck, having Intergroup be a lifeline partner (monthly donations to ISO), having a share-day with workshops, a 12-step retreat, getting a Google voice phone which rings on 5 separate phones, using texting to contact addicts, going to Gay Pride, having a QR code that takes you to the website, having a business card with a meetings listed but not saying ‘addict’ or ‘SAA’ anywhere.
I talked to Ken J. from Seattle about prison outreach and its growth in our Vancouver SAA. He said that it’s true that ISO wants to coordinate contact with prisoners and can provide a package of literature for them. Jay coordinates prisoners who want to work the 12 steps with the few volunteers they have. However, ISO does not have people for writing letters to prisoners. He suggested that it’s fine for Vancouver SAA to contact prisoners directly and help them, but it’s great to take advantage of ISO’s offer of literature to them. I also discovered there is no simple document for starting a prison meeting. Basically, you could just give them a meeting format sheet and a green book.
Attending the SAA conference and convention was a great experience and boost to my recovery. I realized that there are many things I personally and also the groups can do improve long term recovery and sobriety. I feel very grateful to SAA members to make this trip possible for me. Next year the conference is in Chicago and it’s in Orlando is 2017.