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The Chairperson: Qualifications, Responsibilities, and Attitudes.


1. Is sober, has done the steps as laid out in the Big Book, and can demonstrate that by their own words and example.

2. Is willing to conduct the meeting according to the format. Is the "point man" of the BBSS group; is obligated to uphold the group conscience from the chair; and is willing to explain the group's function and goals to newcomers and visitors before, during, and after the meeting. Must be willing to interrupt an individual who is off the step and remind them of the purpose of the meeting, or may have to "quiz" them on various parts of the steps to see if they have, in fact, done the work as described in the text. Keeps the time, and lets people know when their time is up. The most important-as well as difficult-trusted servant position in the group. The chairman leads for a month or a full cycle at a time, and chooses the speaker for each meeting/step.

3. Believes that "God's will" is for drunks to get help through the 12 steps as laid out in the BB. Has a greater desire to tell the "Truth" than to be popular within the AA community at large. Believes he or she is an employee/agent of God.



The Format.


1. Chairperson's Instructions.

As the basic format for the group meeting, the instructions consist of several parts: the AA preamble, the Group preamble, and the Step Rotation.

2. Group Preamble / Group Conscience Statement.

This is what makes a BBSS meeting what it is. It defines our group conscience, our mission, and the way we carry our message to the alcoholic who still suffers. It lays out the ground rules of the meeting. It makes clear that sharing at a BBSS meeting depends upon whether a person has direct experience with the 12 steps as they are laid out in the basic text.


3. The Readings for the 12 Steps in the Big Book.

Also known as the cycle, or step rotation, this is a 15-week rotation of readings. The chairperson announces the step, and pages in the Big Book that will be used as a topic for the meeting that night. The chairperson starts the reading by asking people to read, a paragraph at a time, going around the tables or the room. (The readers do not identify themselves at this point in the meeting.) Or the chairperson may choose to have the speaker read as he or she sees fit entering comments and experience as they go along.


4. The Speaker.


A meeting speaker is also a person who is qualified to share by having experienced the 12 steps as they are laid out in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous with the help of another person who has done it this way. They have done the 3rd step with their sponsor, or another person. They have done the 4th step exactly as the Big Book lays it out, are easily able to describe all three parts, and are willing to read examples from their own inventory. They have done steps 6 and 7 approximately an hour after they finished their 5th step. They have made some significant 9th step amends, and are practicing steps 10, 11, and 12 on a daily basis. They usually have chaired BBSS meetings, and are sponsoring people through the 12 steps. They often give a very brief history of their drinking, recapping their AA experience up until BBSS, then focusing specifically on the text and their experience with the directions for the step being studied. The entire talk generally lasts around 20 minutes.



The Meeting Itself.


An hour and a half with no break. Start time is 7:30. It's divided into three basic parts: the reading, the speaker, and discussion of the step being studied.


1. Who Can Share.


Only people who have completed their 5th step and are on 9-12 may share during the meeting. Most people who have been through the process qualify by introducing themselves, and saying that they have done the 12 steps as they are laid out in the Big Book with a BBSS sponsor, and have done the steps this way, or something to that effect. This differentiates them from those AA's who are not familiar with the BBSS process. Each person shares their experience with the step for up to 5 minutes. The chair keeps track of time and usually will ring a bell or signal by hand when time is up.

2. What to Do When Unqualified People Try to Share.

It is the responsibility of the chairperson to determine whether a person is qualified. The chairperson must listen carefully to what the person is saying about the step and try to determine whether the person's experience is consistent with the directions in the text. Some warning signs that someone is at a BBSS meeting for the first time; mentions other methods, other 12 step literature, AWOL's, treatment center step work, Joe and Charlie seminars and tapes, the 7 deadly sins, assets-liabilities checklists; talks around the step and won't get to the point; is unfamiliar to the group and is not familiar with BBSS meetings; is visiting from another group; is a popular and well respected "oldtimer," but speaks very little of their own step experience, or how exactly they did the steps.

As described earlier, the chair must interrupt a person and ask them if they have "done this step the way it is laid out on these specific pages in the book Alcoholics Anonymous?" There are many approaches to this. Most successful approaches are direct, but always courteous and polite, and start with "Excuse me..." If the person says they have done it this way, or if there is still some doubt, the next step is to ask them if they would mind answering a few questions to satisfy the group. If they have done the steps, especially the 4th step the way it is laid out, they shouldn't mind too much if they are asked some questions related directly to the basic instructions for the 4th step, such as, "Can you please tell me what the main parts of the 4th step are?" and "What are the 4 main defects in the 1st part of the inventory? " or "How did you do your turnarounds?" and "How did you do your sex inventory?" These are not meant to embarrass the person, but to see if they are qualified to share. It is not fair to ask other people to pass and listen who are writing their 4th steps for months on end, and let people with questionable experience get by and water down the meeting. This weakens the group, and will frustrate qualified people who have had the experience, and do not want to hear (or for their sponsees to hear) about other methods which the group conscience rejects.

If the chairperson fails to do this at meeting level, a qualified person should go up to the person in question directly after the meeting to explain the format, and ask some of those same questions. Some chairpersons ask to see the visitor's 4th step, and offer to show them their own. This is all done in an attitude of genuine concern, helpfulness, and loving service.

What happens if the person becomes angry and insists on sharing? It is wise to give them their 5 minutes and let them have their say. But, at a later time, they still need to demonstrate that they have had the experience, if they want to participate on a sharing level. Our inventories have shown us that outbursts of anger are often self-seeking strategies to protect our security, self esteem, personal relations, ambition, and pride are designed to get us the things that we want. The old expression "an empty barrel makes the most noise" best describes this type of reaction.


Step Rotation & Readings

Week 1 - Step One

"We admitted we were powerless over alcohol..."

The Doctor's Opinion pp. xxv-xxxii

Week 2 - Step One

"...that our lives had become unmanageable."

Chapter 3: More About Alcoholism pp. 30-43

Week 3 - Step Two

"Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity."

Chapter 2: There is A Solution pp 17–29; also Appendix II: Spiritual Experience pp 569

Week 4 - Step Two

"Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity."

Chapter 4: We Agnostics pp. 44-57

Week 5 - Step Three

"Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him

Chapter 5: How It Works pp.58-64

Week 6 - Step Four

"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." Resentment

Chapter 5: How It Works pp.64-67

Week 7 - Step Four

"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." Fear

Chapter 5: How It Works pp.67-68

Week 8 - Step Four

"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." Sex Conduct

Chapter 5: How It Works pp. 68-71

Week 9 - Step Five

“Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”

Chapter 6: Into Action pp. 72-75


Week 10 - Step Six & Seven

“Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”

"Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings."

Chapter 6: Into Action pp. 76

Week 11 - Step Eight & Nine

“Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”

“Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”

Chapter 6: Into Action pp. 76-84

Week 12 - Step Ten

“Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”

Chapter 6: Into Action pp. 84-85

Week 13 - Step Eleven

“Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him , praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”

Chapter 6: Into Action pp. 85-88

Week 14 - Step Twelve

“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics...”

Chapter 7: Working with Others pp. 89-96

Week 15 - Step Twelve

“...and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

Chapter 7: Working with Others pp. 96-103



The Big Book Step Study meeting works by being very structured and specific, providing "clear cut directions" on how to recover from the disease of alcoholism. They work by putting the principles of AA ahead of our own (and other people's) personalities, and by keeping one aim above all else: carrying the AA message to the alcoholic who still suffers—no matter how long they have been sober.

It is essential to have done the steps this way in order to have the experience, faith, and courage it takes to pass it on. As it says on page 164 of our book: "But obviously you cannot transmit something you haven't got."


Step Rotation


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