I started a chapter of MA because I wanted my recovery to involve people who were addicted to the same substance as me. I chose to follow a 12-Step program because quitting marijuana left a spiritual void in my life. Since the closest MA chapter was in New York City, some three hours away, it was necessary to start a chapter within a reasonable distance of where I lived. (Even an addict doesn't want to drive into New York City during Friday night rush hour!)
Finding a place to hold the meeting was easy to do. A couple of my old smoking buddies belonged to a church where AA meetings were already being held. The church elders approved the use of a room for MA meetings. We have a wonderful room and can come and go using our own key to the church.
The New York City group suggested that we get a telephone number with voice mail. The thinking was that the phone number could be independent of any particular person. When I first called the 800 number for MA World Services, I was impressed with all of the information that was recorded on the line. We currently have the directions to the church and the time of our meeting in our message.
After I got the starter kit from the World Services office, we were ready to announce the first meeting. We sent announcements to all newspapers and cable tv stations in the surrounding areas. We contacted colleges and sent them flyers. Recovery Times was the first publication to run our announcement.
After several months, the Philadelphia Inquirer started listing our MA group in its Sunday suburban edition. Nicotine Anonymous groups let us put flyers on their literature tables. We have not yet contacted the probation departments in the various court systems, nor have we tried getting public service announcements on radio or television.
Although our first few meetings were on Tuesday nights, we eventually changed to Friday night. I remember looking forward to getting high on Friday nights after working all week. Our group felt that anyone trying to stop smoking pot would be severely tested on Friday nights. Now, instead of getting high, they could come to a meeting.
Growth has been slow. Many meetings are with just two people. We now have a core group of three to four people. Our meeting format is divided into three parts: the first part consists of reading from MA's Life With Hope; the second part consists of sharing; the third part is devoted to discussion—cross talk is encouraged! This three-part format has been very successful. All of us are new to the Twelve Steps, so the reading is important. During the sharing, no cross talk occurs. The discussion part allows us to answer questions from newcomers and to interact as a group. We try to follow the Fifth Tradition, carrying the message—not the mess.
We have found that most members of the group have stopped smoking prior to attending their first meeting. They use what they learn at the meeting to get through the next week. At my last meeting, there were five people in attendance—a record!
I'm sure that that the future will bring some changes to our meeting, such as a move to a more centralized location. For now, though, all who come to our meeting are happy for what we have—each other, our recovery, and an MA meeting to attend each week.
-- Lee R.