Each day someone, preferably a newcomer, is invited to “take the meeting.” This temporary chairperson hands out the designated readings to others who will participate in the meeting formalities. The chairperson begins the meeting by calling the group to order with a moment of silence and initiating the Third Step prayer. The HIW Preamble and a selection from Alcoholics Anonymous, Chapter 5, How It Works is read by the members who were selected prior to the start of the meeting. The day’s leader then reads the group announcements. It is suggested that the leader makes no side comments and adds nothing more to the announcements other than what is on the format sheet. More specifically, the chairperson does not put a spotlight on people who may be returning from a relapse nor are such people expected to identify themselves beyond picking up a 24-hour sobriety chip if they choose to do so. The only exceptions to the “add nothing to the written format” suggestion are reminding the members of special holiday or candlelight meetings or similar schedule changes and acknowledging individual completions of Fifth Steps or A.A. six-month and yearly birthdays. At regular meetings, the leader then reads the excerpt from the HIW Daily Reading Book appropriate for the date and time of the meeting. The excerpt is then re-read a second time. At weekly traditions meetings (held once a week on Thursday evening), members read along as an audio rendition of a traditions chapter from the Twelve and Twelve is played. At both the regular and traditions meetings, the person “taking the meeting” begins the sharing portion of the meeting by introducing himself (e.g., “I’m John; I’m an Alcoholic) and commences his sharing.
The meeting leader then “passes” to another person. The sharing then continues to move in an orderly direction from person to person around the room. Each member introduces himself and then is free to “share” or to “pass” as their turn arrives. This means that every member has a reasonably equal opportunity to share. By moving around the room in an orderly fashion, the process prevents any one individual from sharing more than once. The ability of any one individual to dominate the meeting is substantially reduced. The tendency of some members to want to react to or comment upon the sharing of others is also minimized.
Experience has shown that most members are respectful of each other’s time. Even though there are no explicit restrictions on the maximum allotted time for individual sharing, most members are careful not monopolize the period of sharing.
When individual members of the HIW group share, it is important for other members to listen to the message. Emphasis should be upon the message and the experience, strength, and hope being delivered, not upon the person bearing the message. For this reason, and in light of Tradition Twelve’s reminder to place “principles before personalities,” we do not clap or applaud after each speaker shares. This keeps one member from getting more applause than another member, thereby avoiding the impression that any one member or what they say is any more important than another. Moreover, clapping takes time away from the meeting and restricts the ability of every member to share. It is, however, commonplace at the beginning of the meeting for members of the group to join in clapping and applause to acknowledge the completion of an individual’s Fifth Step, a member’s A.A. 6-month or yearly “birthday,” and the picking up of chips in recognition of 24-hours, 30-, 60-, or 90-days of continuous sobriety. Clapping is also heard at Cake Night.
The regular twice-daily meetings start promptly at the designated time and the regular meetings end in precisely one hour. Occasionally the allotted time for sharing elapses before everyone has had a chance to speak. In that instance, the leader announces that time has expired and invites all those who have not had a chance to share to “identify” themselves. This keeps members from imposing on other member’s time by talking beyond the allotted hour. Sometimes everyone has had an opportunity to share in his or her turn before a full hour has elapsed. Even if the allotted hour has not expired, the regular meeting is ended. The fact that time remains does not get turned into an opportunity for second-dipping and/or cross-talking, clarification, or amending earlier remarks. The fact that the regular meetings are closed at the end of the hour or after each person has had the opportunity to share is another example of the Twelfth Tradition of placing “principles before personalities.” An exception to meeting duration applies to Big Book Study Meetings. Because the time required to read along with the audio rendition of each chapter varies considerably, the Big Book Study Meeting ends when all have had a chance to share. Thus, unlike regular meetings, the Big Book Study Meetings may last longer than one hour.
At the end of the meeting the leader passes the contribution basket in accordance with A.A.’s Seventh Tradition. The meeting is officially closed when the leader invites the members to join him or her in the Seventh Step prayer.