I was an active member of AA for many years. I actually had a crack problem but I got clean first in AA and then later branched out to CA and NA and for my first 5 years as a member I went to 5 or 6 meetings a week. I’ve been clean and sober since 1990.
But I’m usually not a big talker in groups but in certain meetings I felt comfortable enough to share when someone called on me or when I got a sponsor he told me never turn down a chance to speak. In my neck of the woods, after the speaker talks it was common for many, many meetings to use the phrase, “Does anyone have a burning desire to talk”. I don’t know if this is just a California thing but this what we say. So I heard that a lot and did what my sponsor told me and regularly got up to talk in front of 10, 20, or 25 people and shared my experience, strength and hope.
This was twenty years ago but believe it or not I said way stupider things than I say here, lol. And the funny part is that my audience were ex-drunks, many who had been in jail or prison or homeless or ran the streets or hookers or self admitted ex-crack whores, or veterans of psyche wards, or other nefarious people who did crazy things in their addiction and ran amuck without regarding who they hurt or no respect for the law or anybody else. And this was who I told my crack stories too. Obviously, I’m not a hardcore type of person, I’ve never been to prison, I was never homeless, certainly not violent. I hobnobbed with people who had those experiences, and I did my share of crack and coke but I was kind of a straight edge user of drugs who often got asked if I was a cop by people I partied with. It actually used to bug me. But I had experiences to share in meetings, my drug stories overlapped with the guys who had been in institutions, we had some common bonds.
And all these people got together in these sometimes tiny rooms of AA, CA, or NA and got along amazingly well. But these are the people I sat shoulder to shoulder with for over a thousand meetings. The basic tenet of the AA program is “principles before personalities”. Which means at meetings leave your ego at the door. Our common purpose is to support each other and share how you got clean and what works for you to stay clean. No one wants a guru in meetings, we don’t need someone to play god, or feed their ego at the expense of everyone else. Sure there could be cliques and semi-popular people but no one was out for trouble. We all had the common purpose to get clean and stay clean and so out of the types of people I listed you would find the nicest, funniest, warmest, honestly helpful people you would ever want to meet.
In their alcoholism they may have gone down to South America and hooked up with major drug dealers with guns and heroin in the forest and done god-knows what but they would greet me in meetings and leave me alone. They may have been formerly violent men or women who fought at the drop of a hat in their addiction if someone looked at them one second too long but in meetings they would stand up and make a whole group laugh and they were often very likable people.
I’m sorry if I digressed but my point is that AA people are very tolerant. I’ll say it again, I don’t like groups but they made me feel so welcome that I actually enjoyed getting up to talk. I’m a paranoid schizophrenic but I had stuff to say that could help other people. I’ll admit, certain meetings I rarely talked in.
Some groups could be dysfunctional and unhealthy for various reasons. But the solution was simple and obvious; I stopped going. I happened to live in a large city with many meetings to choose from. So I handpicked my meetings to attend and as a side note, I made some friends and in most meetings the regulars knew my face and I talked a little to some. You don’t need to embellish anything. As @everhopeful said, “The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.” I sat through some meetings and didn’t talk for a year. That was my choice and it was OK. Alcoholics and addicts are screwed up people in their disease so when they get in the rooms and understand the basic principles of AA and what it’s all about they know they are lucky to be there and are grateful to be in those rooms despite their eff’ed up past. And this makes them tolerant people who are not going to judge other people.
Incidentally, I was chosen to be the main speaker at a large CA group of more than a hundred people. So I got up in front of a hundred addicts and talked for 15 minutes. People came up after the meeting and told me I did a good job. ME, lol.