August 2, 2006
Delegates representing Alcoholics Anonymous the world over will gather for the Fellowship’s 19th World Service Meeting (W.S.M.) at the Grand Hotel in Malahide, Ireland, from Oct. 15-19, 2006. The event will be hosted by the General Service Board of Ireland.
Since its beginnings in 1969 the W.S.M. has served as a forum for the sharing of experience and ideas on ways to carry the A.A. message of recovery from alcoholism. The event alternates biennially between New York City and other locations around the globe. At one W.S.M., in 2002, Irish delegate Paul McC. said that “Ireland has a border dividing North from South. We have two governments, two legal systems, two healthcare systems . . . my hometown of Belfast even has borders dividing people of different religions and politics. But something [that unites us] in all of Ireland is one single A.A. and a message without borders that straddles both North and South.”
Now vibrant at 60, A.A. in Ireland began in 1946 with Conor F., who had emigrated to America years before from County Roscommon. When he was three-years sober, Conor returned home for a visit and set out to carry the A.A. message to other alcoholics. After several discouraging fits and starts, he connected with Richard P., who became the first A.A. member in Ireland (“I was glad to find there was at least one alcoholic in Ireland,” Conor later quipped). *
Today A.A. may be found across Ireland—in nearly 800 groups, with close to 13,000 members ranging from teenagers to nonegenarians. Just in the last five years there has been a sharp increase in the numbers of women and young people joining A.A. However, “there is a lot of work left to do, owing to the vast increase in alcohol abuse in the last few years.” said Séan MacD., Irish delegate to the 2004 W.S.M. “Reports from the Health Research Boards indicate that alcohol is the most commonly abused substance in Ireland.” **
Much discussion at the 2006 W.S.M. will center on the theme “Anonymous, but Not Invisible,” underscoring the spirit of A.A. Traditions suggesting that members speak as A.A. members, but only if their names or faces are not revealed at the public level. In essence, they are guided by Tradition Twelve: “Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.” Other topics under discussion will include literature distribution, communication, and service structures; there also will be workshops on how to carry the A.A. message into developing countries where alcoholism is rampant. The main sessions will be conducted in English, with simultaneous translations in Spanish. Attendance is limited to elected delegates from the participating countries.
A.A., as spelled out in its Preamble, “is a Fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help other alcoholics to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for A.A. membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. . . .”
Today A.A. has a presence in more than 180 countries, with an estimated total of 106,227 groups and more than 2 million members worldwide. Said A.A. cofounder Bill W. in 1960, nine years before he initiated the first W.S.M.: “From the beginning, communication in A.A. has been no ordinary transmission of helpful ideas and attitudes. Because of our kinship in suffering, and because our common means of deliverance are effective for ourselves only when constantly carried to others, our channels of contact have always been charged with the language of the heart.” ***
*A.A. Everywhere, Anywhere: A San Diego Family Album (1995); pp. 43-44; 2004 World Service Meeting Report, p. 35
** 2004 W.S.M. Report
*** The Language of the Heart, p. 243
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