At each daily meeting, HIW offers “twenty-four hour chips” to newcomers. The group also offers 30, 60, and 90 day chips in recognition of those initial periods of continuous sobriety. This is a common practice among A.A. groups. The HIW group, however, designates a separate night, usually the last Friday or Saturday of the month, to give special recognition to those achieving extended periods of sobriety. By holding a separate “Cake Night” each month, special attention can be directed at the “sobriety celebrants” without detracting from the regular meeting and its focus upon the topic of the daily reading. As part of the announcements at each meeting, individuals with upcoming birthdays are encouraged to place their name in the birthday box.
One of our members explains her experience in this regard. “Early in my sobriety, I was attending a group where A.A. birthdays were celebrated during regular meeting times. On the occasion of their birthday, some people received a lot of attention, including praise, gifts, and cakes. I noticed that other people, also reaching important A.A. thresholds of sobriety, received little or no attention. Who was “favored” and who was not appeared to be strictly the result of choosing a particular sponsor or being a “popular” member of the group. It was distracting, particularly to a newcomer like me who wanted to avoid calling attention to myself. I like the fact that the How It Works group has decided to have a separate birthday night set aside. That way, it has become a time to celebrate “sobriety” within the group rather than putting the emphasis on individual personalities.”
One of the HIW committee members is the cake night representative. The cake night rep is allotted group funds to purchase sobriety chips, 1-year medallions, and the six-month cupcakes and yearly cakes. The reason for using group funds to purchase the chips, medallions, and cakes is (1) to allow each member of the group to feel that they are a part of the member’s sobriety and (2) to avoid having personalities and competition among members become involved in selecting bigger, better, different cakes based on artificial criteria.
On Cake Night, a member of the group with more than a year of sobriety is asked to “take” a speaker meeting. The speaker talks for about thirty minutes on his or her experience, strength, and hope in A.A. The context for the talk is what it was like, what happened and what it is like now. Those with 6-months, 1 year, or multiple years are presented with cakes on behalf of the group. Of particular note is the presentation of a “1-year medallion” inscribed with “HIW” and the individual’s sobriety date. The recipients choose whom they would like to present their cake. That person says a few words of congratulation upon presentation of the recipient who, in turn, shares a few, brief words, usually thanking specific individuals for special support or help and expressing gratitude for the solution found in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. The meeting closes with the Cake Night Song, I Wanna Fly. The entire group, accompanied by an audio rendition over the loudspeaker, sings this song while joined in a circle. The words to the song are reprinted in the Appendix section on the Cake Night Format.