110: 12 Step Conventions – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (Sort Of)

If you’ve been around a 12 step fellowship or program for any length of time, you’ve probably heard about a convention. Heck, you’ve probably been to a convention. It just seems like part of the package. But why do we have conventions? Why are they outside of the basic service structure of the program or fellowship, but instead are their own incorporated entities? Does Narcotics Anonymous have say over the conventions? Some conventions, especially at the world level, have lost quite a bit of money. Is the purpose of conventions to make money? If the purpose of conventions is fellowship, can we afford to lose large amounts of money to put them on? How are they funded? Should we be putting on conventions? In this episode, we look at what conventions are, how they work, and if we believe that they serve a helpful purpose in the program. Join the conversation by leaving a message, emailing us at RecoverySortOf@gmail.com,  or find us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, or find us on our website at www.recoverysortof.com.

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Transcript:

recovery sort of is a podcast where we discuss recovery topics from the perspective of people living in long-term recovery this podcast does not intend to represent the views of any particular group organization or fellowship the attitudes expressed are solely the opinion of its contributors be advised there may be strong language or topics of an adult nature

welcome back it’s recovery sort of i’m jason a guy who has been to a convention and i’m billy i’m a person in long-term recovery and we’re going to talk about conventions today in case you hadn’t picked that up already um interestingly doing a search on conventions there was literally next to nothing i mean there’s a lot of dates and times and scheduled conventions but there was not much information on what goes on with the convention how they work why they work what they are what they do if they’re positive if they’re negative i feel like i’ve had differing views over time in my recovery of what you know the drawbacks and positives are to them yeah and they seem to be governed by a whole other set of rules and things that are outside of what i understand of yeah 12 steps in the traditions right whole own hierarchy like it’s yeah it’s it’s a little baffling and uh so this this topic came up because you know in the 12-step world that some of the programs have conventions which is you know large mass gatherings put on for people of that community and fellowship to come to uh and i don’t know that they started outside of the program itself but they definitely have evolved to be entities that put on this that are technically outside of the program itself which is a little confusing and hard to grasp even for people who are in the program like i don’t get it so trying to explain this should be interesting but uh yeah they’re just these kind of entities that exist and so i guess maybe we should just talk about like what the convention is like uh when you go there a lot of conventions from my experience run from like friday afternoon evening ish to sunday afternoon you’ll show up you register if you have not already or if you’ve pre-registered for it you just show up and you know get your stuff you usually get this necklace with a name badge on it to prove that you’re allowed to be there so you didn’t sneak in i guess that was a problem at some point well and which way to right away you know make something different than most meetings like you have to pay to get access and some conventions will have exceptions to that if you’re a newcomer you can get in for free or they donate so many registrations lots of different variations but in general like you have to you’re supposed to pay to get access to this recovery event right and and i’m glad they changed the terminology uh to like newcomer package right because when i got here it was the indigent package and i’m like what the [ _ ] does indigent mean i’ve never experienced that word in my life you talk about being indigent in jail yeah yeah yeah there’s some of that there that’s right so uh yeah you show up and you write yeah you pay to get in which is something you don’t do at a typical meeting maybe that’s why they had to become an outside entity because they don’t just allow people to walk in freely maybe that’s where that all comes from that would make sense and so you show up you do all that uh you there’s meetings generally that go on at least every hour depending on the size of the convention some conventions i imagine are so big that there’s more than one meeting option per hour and you know they’re held in different rooms they usually hold these in convention centers some smaller ones in hotels then friday night you’ll have a main speaker saturday night you have a main speaker sunday a spiritual closed speaker that’s kind of a main speaker too you know that a lot of the meetings have topics throughout the way like you go to these meetings and it’s like relationships in recovery or you know the men’s rap meeting or whatever the the topics are some very common themes that seem to be prevalent in almost every convention yeah what’s the uh what can i do like some of the topics from our literature usually the steps right and they’ll combine them like steps one and two and steps three and four right right so there’s you know you get handed a program and an agenda what rooms these meetings are in so it’s that’s generally what the convention is like there’s usually you know a lot of congregation of people eating together at different places around or in the uh the center where it’s held at and the meetings aren’t usually typical like meeting style usually there’s a podium up front and there’s a microphone or recording typically happens and it’s usually two people will share to take up all the time there isn’t usually free sharing or sharing from the floor although occasionally that happens which always creates an awkward awkward dynamic right right no absolutely and then you know around the convention there’s usually some other rooms there’s like a a souvenir room where you know they might have the tapes and cds from that convention or previous conventions you can purchase they might have you know memorabilia merchandise from this particular convention or past conventions uh sometimes there’s like an auction room where they’re selling off old i guess historical you know stuff from the program to make money or whatever is there other rooms i feel like there is but i can’t think of anything else oh there’s usually a hospitality room where they’ll have refresh and stuff yeah just a place to hang out in general yeah so it’s it’s you know a large gathering of people um they hold them at hotels or convention centers they’re usually there’s some kind of discounted rate if you want to stay at you know a place close to or or where the convention is being held so it’s an interesting dynamic that is a break from you know hey there’s a meeting seven o’clock thursday night we’re gonna just show up and walk in right it’s a very different vibe than that um so that’s kind of what a convention is and and this came up as a possible topic because recently we found out that the world convention which at one point was every year and now i think it’s every two years or maybe even every three that they do it yeah i think they do it every other year but it’s in outside the u.s and then inside the u.s yeah so it’s very weird and and you know there’s been some controversy over time about the world convention it’s been held close to baltimore close to us uh right it’s been held in dc since i’ve been around i believe you know i’ve heard of it on the west coast a couple times and that’s the other thing i think they go east coast west coast right every other time that it’s in the u.s and so i i think when you have it in a really populated area there’s probably going to be a lot of people that attend but i know some of the things that came up when they had one not too too long ago in brazil was that they lost a lot of money on it and and this that and the other and there was complaints of like why do we do this if we’re losing money and then last year it had to be postponed because of covet and they just announced i guess it would have been this year’s but last year they postponed it they were like there’s no way with covid we gotta shut it down and then it was supposed to be in australia this year i believe and they just sent out a email to whoever’s on the world email list i don’t even know how i got on this but i’m on it um and it got canceled and there was you know talk about what are we doing with funds and it would have lost money anyway in australia and blah blah blah blah and so i you know the idea of just looking at conventions from maybe a critical eye not to totally put them down right not to totally bash them but why do we do this and if they lose money or what’s the purpose right i guess the people who say we should still do it if they lose money would say the purpose is not to make money that’s not the goal of a convention but then what is the goal of a convention what is the purpose to it whatsoever i i don’t yeah well and then there are different conventions so there’s the world convention which i’m not again i’m not overly familiar with where that gets its funding and is that put on by world service right um but like in our case our region has a convention has the free state regional convention then recently i was at two different what were called traveling conventions which they travel to different areas and they have some members that have joined together from a host of different areas they’re not they’re not necessarily representative of any one area and they travel around up and down the east coast um and it’s called the east coast convention and they i forget how they do it they have a bidding process to see which area is going to host it each time and you can put in a bid and then there’s some people vote on that yeah it’s very it sounded very similar to that and you can watch a presentation where they you know make their make their pitch and what their theme is going to be and all that stuff it’s a little weird yeah it’s very weird it doesn’t feel any ish no it’s but so what they do though is with all the money raised from the convention any profits go and so the east coast convention what little bit i know of it is they tend to try to do it on a very low budget like they and they say that up front like this is not we’re staying in the ritz carlton you know what i mean having some plush things typically do it in college campuses or places that they can get reduced or cheap or rate and any proceeds generated from that go to buying basic techs that they put into jails and institutions so they typically do make a profit take those profits and buy literature and donate that literature to jails and institutions there’s another convention that i recently heard of the unity is a must convention and they are doing the same thing you know they’re and this is not necessarily just the east coast it’s people from all over ohio and michigan and and all over the place and they do the same thing they have this convention whatever money they make from the convention goes to buying literature to put into jails and institutions and that sounds pretty noble right like that sounds like it’s uh a nice thing to do to try to raise money it’s like a bake sale to raise money for you know your community or something like that that’s a positive but i guess my experience with most conventions is not that it’s you know the world puts on conventions a lot of regions have decided to put on conventions over the years some areas feel big enough that they put on their own conventions i think we’ve had a couple of areas around our in our region that have put on their own conventions baltimore for one and i i believe the northeast freedom area has had its own convention for a while yeah um so yeah and then i’ve seen like you know a few areas team up and do a convention that’s not the regional convention like so there’s an idea to doing this right and there is sometimes a lot of hubbub right like how how nice are the accommodations how nice is the place we’re staying at do they have fancy dinners you know some of these speakers these main speakers we talked about get flown in like their their ticket prices get paid their registration gets paid they’re you know lodging gets paid and that’s kind of interesting you know like why are we paying to fly in specific people from somewhere else and you know there’s debates about all that kind of stuff like why don’t we get a local speaker well because we’re tired of hearing the local speakers but at the same time why are we spending hundreds maybe thousands of dollars to bring people in to share some message like we can what does that say for you know anonymity i mean it’s sad to say i don’t know if sad’s the right word but it’s it’s true to say that some people are just better speakers like some people are great at speaking like you go and you hear them and you’re just you know you’re laughing one minute and crying the next and you leave the whole thing with this renewed sense of of spiritual awakening and and a vigor for recovery i mean that is a that is a truth that some people are just gifted with that ability and if you’re lucky that’s what your main speakers are some of these conventions you know some of them are are somewhat i’ll say famous or infamous whatever you want to say around n a as being these great speakers when we talk about you know you get on the convention circuit or whatever right people who just go a lot of weekends a year from different conventions a different convention and share these messages of hope so maybe the place to start uh from that you know i think we’ve kind of defined and outlined what conventions look like and how they happen but like my our first experiences with conventions might be a good place um i remember i god i don’t know i had like four months clean four and a half months clean and went to the ocean city convention the big one in ocean city maryland um what air what is that that is put on by the chesapeake and potomac region cmp reading okay gotcha so they put it on out there and and i went and i didn’t know what the hell convention was i had four and a half months clean my sponsor was just like you need to go it’s everything do it and i will say my first time there i was blown away like it was incredible like you talked about there was a speaker he shared this incredible message that was like unlike anything i had ever heard in my typical tuesday night meeting or whatever it was and and how much time did you have four and a half months okay and and just the amount of people there was mind-blowing and then they do this like thing where they go through every state and people stand up if they’re from that state and there’s all those cheers and then they do a clean time countdown which was like so incredible to me right they started like 40 years or something it might even been 30 back then people didn’t have 40 but yeah they would start at this upward number and then they count down every year and the people who have that time stand up and you know by the time you get down to the end of it it’s like everybody is just roaring with applause and cheers and you know there’s people with like a day clean that are there and everybody’s chanting keep coming back and they’re giving them a basic text or whatever it’s like wild right and all this energy and i i just it yeah it increased my thirst for recovery for sure and i have always felt so bad for that person with the least amount of time there at the convention that’s got all those people yelling at him and hug i mean in a good way it’s meant in a loving but gosh that would like i’m a socially anxious person i don’t like being in crowds and big gatherings and usually when this clean time countdown and all that takes place is right before the main speaker so you typically have the biggest crowd the biggest crowd of the weekend a majority of the people some of these conventions are smaller some have a few hundred people right some are quite big that ocean city one now i heard one of the last ones was like 12 000 people yeah they got an overhaul right but even then even a few years back it was still several thousand people at that convention so could you imagine being a person in a room with three or four or one day clean at this convention and all these people chaining at you you know keep coming back and they like throw napkins at them you know it’s very weird but yeah that would be so overwhelming so i always feel so bad for this but and i wonder because i’ve never been that person but i wonder if that is like the overwhelming experience of like this is way too much or if that’s the overwhelming experience of like oh my god i can feel all the energy and love in this room and i can’t not come back to this place yeah i’m sure that’s unique to the individual but yeah and and i would hope the latter i would hope that they feel the love and overwhelming support and right you know that’s that’s the hope anyway well i can tell you that i left that that convention pumped as anything like recovery was gonna be my life after that right like so i if the purpose of a convention was to increase you know energy and mood and and desire for recovery and you know i heard all these new messages and i bought some of the i think they were still tapes maybe they were cds back then i don’t remember but like if that was the goal of the convention it worked at least at that point in time in my life i was like amazed by i couldn’t get over how incredible the experience was what was your first convention experience so i had been to different types of conventions before i got into recovery my parents owned a retail business and they would have you know whatever luggage conventions and gift conventions so the idea of what a convention was it’s like a long weekend centered around a specific topic like that just wasn’t like i understood what that was so when people talked about a recovery convention like oh i can have a pretty good idea of what that is right um it was slightly different than a but it’s the same idea you didn’t have a bunch of booths with meetings telling you they had the best meeting no yeah all right it actually sounds more fun but you’re you know it’s it’s a social event as much as it is uh you’re learning to go go in there to learn and get educated on different things and and i being a person that doesn’t i don’t like big crowds i don’t like big groups um shied away from going to conventions for years i think i went to my first convention when i had like four years clean and people would come back and talk about it oh it’s great and i’d be like yeah i bet it is you know good for you like i’m so glad you had it and so when i went to my first convention i wasn’t overwhelmed and and in fact i remember even now being a little underwhelmed by the clean time countdown and stuff i think from hearing people talk about how exciting that was i was not overwhelmed by what maybe because i knew what it was it didn’t catch me off guard it had been explained to me what was going to happen so so the magic was gone yeah the magic was gone um maybe we’re ruining someone else’s convention oh my god or shut up don’t listen if you’ve never been to a convention whoops we should have said the disclaimer at the beginning but i will say i did leave with that sense of a renewed uh vigor for recovery i heard some amazing speakers um even to this day some of the best messages that i’ve heard and that carry through in my recovery today came from conventions maybe not necessarily main speakers but some speakers i heard at different workshops at conventions i mean it is it is a really great place to get a different version of the message you know from the the diversity that’s in the program right right so i since that initial experience of the amazing convention i attended with four and a half months clean i’ve had varying experiences uh and i don’t know necessarily that they’re all the experience they were based on the convention or where i was at during the convention like internally i’ve found that over time like when i go back to the same conventions a few times because i’ve been to ocean city a few times free state regions i’ve been to a few times in different locations like it’s almost like the more times i go there the less magic it holds for me um i have gone to some out of state conventions which are a little different to me at least uh so when i go to a convention that’s local it’s neat to see a lot of people i know and love and yet at the same time it’s almost overwhelming because i know so many people at the convention that it’s like i don’t really get to put the time into the conversations with everybody that i would like to it’s like oh i saw so and so but they were running to this and i was running to that or i was already talking to this person and i just got to give them a hug and i didn’t really get to like i haven’t seen him for years i’d like to really sit and chat with him for a little bit whereas out of state conventions have felt cool because it’s kind of like i’ve gone in groups and so we’ve already had the camaraderie of our group there it didn’t feel lonely because i didn’t know anybody but i also had i felt like i had the ability to kind of disappear from the convention when that felt like the right thing for me right like yeah i hit a meeting and then i kind of just feel like i want to go back to my room for a little while and not talk to anybody and i don’t feel guilty about that in any way when i don’t know anybody like nobody’s like well where the [ _ ] do you go it’s just i go wherever i want right um but it has been weird and i think the amount of time and my focus has changed my experience with them too right because early on you know i don’t want to present this the wrong way but conventions are kind of known for like hooking up with people at times when you’re newer in recovery and and being a place to to participate in you know checking out people that you’re interested in or whatever um they have dances and stuff sometimes comedy shows whatever and it’s an environment to do that and like as my focus in my life has changed from i’m not a young guy out on the prowl or whatever we’d like to call it right i got that doesn’t do a whole lot for me so like i don’t go to dances or any of that and i’m kind of there if i go i’m there to hear a few meetings not really to participate in any of the other extracurriculars we’ll call them so what about you what have you found with your experiences yeah it’s interesting my wife and i have completely different takes on going to conventions which has been interesting over the years most of the time she’s more like you where she will go and hit a few meetings but really use that as an opportunity for what i would say is almost down time like it’s almost like an excuse to get away and have a nice relaxing weekend and hit a few meetings and just take it easy and me i always feel like if i go to this convention and i pay to register that i want to go to like 17 meetings in a 24-hour period plus the main events plus all the shows and like i want to do everything like i feel like i’m paying for this i’m here i might as well do as much as i possibly can um part of that is i think the social my social anxiety uh hiding in a meeting every hour is much more comfortable than like chilling out around the area trying to either talk to new people or talk to people that i don’t know right it’s way easier to go to meetings because then you’re not expected to talk to anybody you just go in and listen and then that meeting’s over and you run to the next one because they’re usually real close back to back so you got 15 minutes to get a drink and pee and hit the next meeting um so some of that i think is my way of trying to hide from the social anxiety of being around thousands of people that are all in recovery i know for for again for my wife she’s always described like being around a bunch of people in na and feeling like they’re like her brothers and sisters and feeling this camaraderie and i guess my natural state i don’t feel that at all it still feels like a bunch of strangers people that i don’t know people that i don’t necessarily feel safe around like just because they’re in recovery i don’t give them that pass they might try to sell you light bulbs and right and uh so it’s easier to hide in meetings than it is to try to deal with a lot of that social anxiety of being around thousands of people that i don’t know that’s interesting so i think mind separates from your wife’s just a little bit in the sense that like i only hit a few meetings but i’m not spending the rest of the time hanging out around the convention really i might peruse the convention a little bit but a lot of my experience is well what else is there to do in this place that i’m at because i want to have a vacation as well right so like an ocean city well let’s go mini golfing in the middle of the day why not right or you know let’s go get a cool dinner or a cool lunch or i think we went to north carolina we went golfing like in the middle of saturday so it’s not so much like oh i don’t want to be in the meeting to hang out with these people it’s just like i want to do something else this is also time away for me yeah she’s very much like that as well this episode has been brought to you in part by voices of hope inc a non-profit recovery organization made up of people in recovery family members and allies together members strive to protect the dignity of those that use drugs and those in recovery by advocating for treatment harm reduction and support resources and mentoring please visit us at www.voicesofhopemaryland.org

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so i i think maybe now we can delve into some of the logistical problems or or criticisms of the convention world that at least i’m aware of or have come to um one of my earliest thoughts about criticizing conventions was definitely the money right like and and i’ve started to see in a couple of conventions this is being adjusted so now it’s more of like a pay scale of how much clean time do you have and you pay based on that which i thought was kind of fascinating right like if you’re in your first two years the tickets are ten dollars and if you’re you know have more than if you’re between two and ten it’s 20 and if you’re above 10 it’s 30. like i thought that was kind of fascinating right yeah that’s interesting and probably like uh six months or less it’s free or something i don’t know the exact scales but i just found that aspect to be really fascinating to me because if they are all 35 at the door or whatever you know 25 if you pre-register yeah i’ve never i’ve always been bothered by that like well what is the person with no money dude and i get it like there’s always that if they show up somebody will pay or we’re not going to turn them away but yeah why do we like who show like and that’s for me i know other people don’t mind this i’m not showing up at a 35 event if i don’t have 35 right like that’s just my own [ _ ] but well i’ve heard so i because i’ve known people that have went to conventions and i’ve heard people say things to the effect of well i just came to hit one meeting or i just came to hear the main speaker or i came to support my friend and i wasn’t spending you know 40 or 60 dollars just for that you know they don’t have a sliding scale like i’m only gonna hit two meetings it’s all or nothing right right now and i’ve felt that way too like so you know we talk about the money we spend to fly in main speakers and everything i got asked to share at an area convention at a workshop which is what they call the littler the littler meetings around and i paid 35 dollars to get into the convention to share the workshop and then that was the only meeting i was at the entire weekend like i had a busy weekend and i showed up to be of service but i paid 35 to share a meeting basically it was like well that doesn’t feel right at all so my wife got asked to be a main speaker at a convention recently and they didn’t pay for our hotel or we paid for our registration and no one even took us out to dinner so we got nothing for free yeah that’s not necessarily true we volunteered to pay for our stuff we weren’t we’re not in a financial situation that we couldn’t afford you know whatever it was the 100 bucks for the registration and right hotel room but yeah i was like thinking but it was a small convention and it was their first year so so i guess you know charging for the convention would really again fall back to like what is the goal or motive of putting on a convention right is it to increase the atmosphere of recovery in your general area or the you know enthusiasm about recovery and if that’s the case why would we want people who can’t afford it to not come that seems kind of awful yeah and i would say that’s been a general issue in our events even at a local level like what is the purpose of events you know why do we have them um me personally i’ve always been of the mindset that events are to promote unity and connection and a sense of you know belonging and inclusion and that making money shouldn’t be the goal but at the same time you have to weigh that out you know against is that the best use of our funds is at the best use of our money i mean you hope that the goal i i’ve heard that i always like the best with events and i’ll carry this over to conventions from what little i know is you know worst case you break even you know best case you make some money but the worst case is you try to break even i think the idea for events does carry into like showing people who are new this is in my head at least that new people get the idea that there is fun without the use of drugs right there is fun in this other lifestyle like i didn’t think that was possible when i was considering getting free from drug use and yet it was some of the examples of like oh we play softball here right like oh we do these other trips yeah right that’s pretty cool and and i will say that my first experience with the convention was a lot of fun right so it did feel like learning that there was fun on the other side in this new way of life well and i’ve talked to people that their whole recovery is based around conventions that’s what they do like they don’t they get in these convention committees or they become a part of these conventions and and you know i know these traveling conventions specifically like that’s their whole social network and what they do for recovery is you know they don’t necessarily go to meetings outside of conventions or people i don’t know if you have seen people like this but there are people that i see at conventions that that’s all they do is go to conventions they only go to conventions wow yeah it’s weird that is weird so i i mean okay so you look at the idea of being of service and you meet other people generally who are committed to the program and are serious about their recovery a lot of times uh at least i think that’s how it has been the people you’re describing makes me question that a little bit right like but i mean to form a network to form a new community that’s probably not a terrible idea to be on a committee of some sort and getting to know people and working closely with them um you know other other criticisms that have come up along the way about conventions is the idea of making money and and what why are they outside of you know like so i’ve had been in some heated area service meetings where the you know the area area body is like well we don’t think this should happen and and the people the convention board or maybe the person who leads the convention board or is there to represent them it kind of says uh you don’t tell us what to do we’re an outside institution like you don’t run us and i’m like do they not didn’t they like create you at some point like that’s kind of [ _ ] weird yeah they definitely don’t serve the groups i know we had an issue and this goes 10 or more years ago where for the free state convention they used to do a thing where each different area got tasked with a responsibility for the convention that year and our area had been tasked with speakers but then when it came right down to it we didn’t just get to pick speakers for the convention it’s like we got to pick out of people that they gave us and then even out of the people that they gave us there was still like rules and requirements like and i forget what they were but it’s like the friday night speaker needs to be someone who’s of color or a female and then the saturday main speaker needs to be and so it wasn’t even pick a bunch of speakers it was here’s the speakers you can pick from and in those here are the requirements so yeah it was very much like wait a minute this doesn’t feel like we’re not really picking you’ve already picked you’re just giving us like three choices for a main speaker like that was like here you get to pick and it was it felt very weird you know it was like like you said it didn’t feel like we were really a part of that process yeah and that doesn’t fit into how you know we understand the service structure works within the program and i get it these are outside entities they’re you know the convention board or committee is its own incorporated entity so it does fall outside of our service structure technically but that just feels and always has felt really really weird to me that this convention board just kind of does what the [ __ ] it wants and there’s no oversight necessarily from the people who it serves like that’s strange to me yeah and that’s where it gets like say weird i don’t i don’t get it how do you get to run around and present as narcotics anonymous because they definitely use oh yeah the logos and the sayings and our literature and and all these things i mean they definitely wear that fly that flag but then they aren’t necessarily answerable that’s a right word to the groups they’re not accountable to the groups at all well and i think that comes into play with some of the criticisms of this world convention it’s the idea that uh yes we want to be inclusive yes we want to hold this you know in places where people would like it to be held it’s not like oh you can only hold it in the us because we’re the only people that matter that’s not the goal but if every time you hold it in some other territory or country or state it doesn’t make money and it loses a lot of money well maybe we want to rethink this idea right there right like if you hold it in brazil and it loses money and then you’re gonna the next time you’re like well australia right but if most of the people who attend are tied into the united states that doesn’t really make a lot of sense um and so i think that is like part of the criticism is there is no oversight undersight whatever you’d like to call it from our service structure there’s no ability for the people to say we don’t want to waste money like it’s just kind of told to us where these things are going to be and there’s not a lot of transparency as to how that’s decided or who’s making those decisions or where the money goes like that’s not reported about at the area or the region or when all i’ve ever the only answers i’ve ever heard of that is well you got to get in involved and get involved with the committee and try to get on the board like that’s how you change those things but that sounds crappy you know what i mean like i can’t get on every convention committee well and so sometimes they do come into area or region and talk about the financial aspect of it and they’ll give reports on it right i do think that has happened in my experience but it’s not like a report where you can make any decisions or do anything about it like that’s for them to decide but they’ll just tell you hey we made twenty thousand dollars at this convention it cost us eighteen thousand to put on this twenty thousand is going to go to try to make it bigger next year and we’re gonna start renting the spot with it so none of the money seems to go up the ladder i’m not saying that it never does or that there’s never a donation to the next you know step of of the area or the region or the world or whatever it might be which is how our money usually flows which is another probably contestable point to some people but in general like that money gets reinvested oh well we made 20 000 this year next year we’ll try to make 25 000. we’ll hold it at an even nicer place so we’re just gonna reinvest this money and again the goal is not to make money but what is the goal and why why are we choosing fancier places or bigger places if we’re doing just fine the way we are yeah and i’ve been to conventions in really nice places and i’ve been to conventions in the one was on a college campus and we were in dorms and uh they were crappy college dorms with like two inch mattresses that we paid for you know my wife and i paid and we got two separate rooms because each room only had one little single bed so you couldn’t even necessarily sleep together

yeah yeah yeah and it’s it’s definitely you know why like why are we doing this what what’s the purpose like what would happen if we didn’t have conventions would recovery suffer is it just a gathering and and if it is just a gathering to unite and talk about recovery then why do we need these fancier accommodations and these you know large price tags is there a history the origin of the first m a convention i am sure there is but i do not know that yeah some historian knows that right right and and charging prices for meetings like that seems kind of awkward too like and and so one of the things i’ve seen over the last few years maybe a little longer is this idea of like there’s fundraisers for the convention like i don’t remember that being a thing when i first got here there was pre-registration which you know they got registration money and then that helped him fund putting on the convention but this is where i start to really get lost and i’ve never been on a convention board so probably somebody has these answers i do not but if you made the money you made from last year’s convention and that’s put into funding this year’s convention then why do you need pre-registration money to fund this year’s convention as well and now even further why do we need these fundraising speaker jams and events to fund conventions like why do we keep needing more and more money to fund these conventions when they supposedly made enough last year yeah so i i i don’t know it just it does seem like a lot of money going around for i don’t know what yeah and that happens a lot i think people don’t recognize the the value of these like fundraising events and is this the best you know stewardship of our funds and resources you know is there a better way we could be reaching out to people that are in need or people that need help yeah and we talk about a 12-step program that deals with obsessive and compulsive behaviors and then you go to a fundraising event and the way they’re mainly raising funded funds is this big 50 50 raffle for free convention spots and everybody’s gambling and it’s like is that the healthiest thing we can do you know i’ve heard about the idea that bingo i think we talked about that when we talked with uh lewis for for aaa the idea of like is bingo gambling and and should that not be an event we put on so that’s i’ve never thought of bingo’s gambling by the way i could see i get it like maybe to a gambler it does feel like gambling um what other criticisms of conventions have you heard along the way oh one of the things that has always struck me or i’ve been consciously aware of as we have these conventions and then the way that us as a community conducts ourselves at these places how we treat the staff how we treat the facility you know are we just leaving trash around are we you know parking where we’re not supposed to be parking and smoking where we’re not supposed to be smoking you know and inappropriate behavior at the [ _ ] pool or at the restaurant lots of [ _ ] being and i don’t know where other yeah language that is totally inappropriate when you’re in a convention center that’s in a hotel around other families you know and just recognizing that again even though yes we’re having a convention like we are still representing narcotics anonymous and we are still you know especially when we’re at conventions wearing badges that say we’re a part of that convention and then we’re in the restaurant of the hotel cussing out the wait staff because we had to wait 10 minutes for our coffee like you know that stuff has always really bothered me that people are not aware of how they’re representing narcotics anonymous in those big settings yeah we talked about that in the tradition of like when you wear an n a or any 12-step programs memorabilia or merchandise on you you become you know an accidental representative of that program and not only do people have the the necklaces would say in their you know a badge that they’re welcome there but a lot of people choose that opportunity to wear their n a merchandise because why not it’s an a convention’s perfect spot and yeah yeah we probably are leaving a bad taste in the mouth of people who witness us i mean if you think about the idea that like for us it’s kind of a time to kick back and not focus so much on how we’re behaving it’s more like a laid-back i don’t want to say a party atmosphere but kind of a party celebration right and so i was recently we were recently at this convention and we were at the restaurant in the in the hotel having breakfast and i can’t swear these people were part of the in a convention oh they were but there was a couple that came down in their bathrobes to eat dinner in the restaurant in their bathrooms fancy yeah right and it just was like we just laughed i mean would you really think like yeah i’m just gonna go down to breakfast in my bathrobe and no no i wouldn’t but but but thinking of this idea of like you know we just talked about in the in the work episode of like people knew where a lot of enthusiasm comes from they’re gonna feel this is the time to get a little wild and that wild behavior is not gonna be the great representation of you know our program that we hope to give off to the rest of the world when they enact with us and here they are like you said trash everywhere people parking illegally trying to get into a meeting and yeah that’s probably i i know smoking in guest rooms that is definitely what happens um vaping all over the place oh yeah i’m guilty of that now i’m vaping now um i i think that’s an interesting thing that like i have not thought a whole lot of honestly but it’s probably a very true one and so i know of conventions that have changed locations and it’s not because they outgrew the spot they were in right like i know ones who have outgrown the spots they’re in but i also know one two have changed and i don’t want to swear that i’ve heard that it’s because of our behavior or what we did last year there but i can almost guarantee that it’s because people don’t want to deal with the madness that comes without holding a convention at their location yeah so it’s just it’s one of those things that’s always bothered me and i am very very aware of it when i’m there you know so when i see people just leaving their trash sitting around on tables or you know doing these things it’s like ah it’s it’s bothersome right you don’t you don’t have that like entitled view of like well we’re keeping people jobs by doing that yeah it gets to clean up that no i feel like we have so much stigma and so much bad you know history to overcome that if anything you know we should be trying to set a better precedent we should be trying to go in my view above and beyond to show like hey we are not these [ _ ] animals that people portray us to be oh my god that’s totally how we look so what’s the worst part yeah should we just like meet in the woods and not have any outside people around us maybe that would be it does kind of break anonymity yeah i mean if you think about it like anybody that sees you at that convention with your badge on knows what you’re about yeah huh never thought about that either well i i believe it comes down like most things in our program to the senior members being able to conduct the right uh attitude portray the right message to the people that we know if we see people that and again i’m not the person that’s going to run around and police conventions start yelling at people i don’t know that they shouldn’t throw their cigarette butts on the ground or whatever else but if it’s people that i know or someone that i sponsor you know obviously i want to be aware of how i’m conducting myself and what am i sneaking extra people into my room am i you know leaving my [ _ ] all over the place am i smoking where i shouldn’t be smoking like you know how am i conducting myself and then am i creating the right you know attitude and and carrying that through to my sponsees or people that i know and that’s that’s interesting right because how many people there don’t have sponsors and how many i feel like this what you’re talking about almost to me ties into the whole problem that was existing in my previous area where the the proportion of people the influx of new people into meetings or places in the locality was way more than the amount of senior members ability to help or carry like when i got here there was 30 people in the meeting and you know 25 of them had more than six months and were invested or at least seemed that way and those attitudes of those 25 kind of set the tone for the other five new people in the room whereas you know before i moved up here it was 55 people and maybe seven of us had you know more than six months so it’s like 48 people in recovery houses in the vicinity who and they’re setting the tone for the meeting because they are the majority now and that’s the tone of you know being on your phone or flirting with people or doing whatever you wanted during the meeting or walking in and out a lot during the meeting to take phone calls like it’s just hard to do and i feel like if that’s a microcosm of what’s going on at these conventions how can the senior members set a tone when they’re not the majority anymore they’re just the people putting it on i would say my experience at least judging from the clean time countdown is there always seems to be more people with years clean than there are with months and days clean at conventions really that’s interesting i wonder if that’s because all the people with little time just don’t stand up like i’m not self-esteem they’re not gonna stand up i’m not gonna do that so it’s interesting so what do you think i mean are conventions quote unquote worth it like i would say at this point in my life i just don’t know right like i really don’t know i don’t know that the added benefit of them really is doing something that can’t be done in other ways uh and outweighing the drawbacks of them for me like i i don’t really want to pay to go to meetings would i go to conventions outside of my area still i probably would but mostly as an excuse to like get a few guys together and drive to another state and hang out for the weekend really that would be like my main goal would be hit a couple meetings sure but it’s more for hanging out with people and an excuse to do that than anything yeah that’s probably that’s true for me as well it’s it’s usually an excuse to get away to go do something with some friends or be you know have a week basically a recovery weekend you know than it is to support a convention and i could i mean really you know it’s kind of like and i do the same thing sometimes with meetings i’m like hey i’ll get a few guys together we’ll go out to a meeting and then we’ll go get something to eat like i don’t know that us going to that meeting really provides anything except something to laugh about at the meeting when we talk about some stupid chair or whatever right like we could just literally get together and go to the meeting or get together and go bowling or get together and do something else that i feel like would serve exactly the same purpose and possibly better i feel like we’re just tied to this idea of this is what we get together around but it could be anything and i’m feeling the same about a convention like we could plan a trip to another state just to go to another state and do anything we could go golfing we could go to a water park like we don’t have to [ __ ] go to a convention but that seems like like the viable excuse for some reason yeah that’s not a bad excuse it’s kind of fun yeah they hear good things so what i mean if you were i don’t want to say in charge of this region but if you were casting a vote if our region had a general you know i’m going to put this straw poll out there and figure out who actually is interested in holding conventions in this area and thinks they’re worthwhile which way do you vote

um before i could give a what i would say my honest vote i would want to know where do they get their money and does it ever come from any of the groups individually or whatever but in general i would probably vote for them i think there’s i think there’s a purpose behind them i think there’s a vibe and it it’s not for me it’s not my thing but there’s definitely people that love that whole atmosphere that love the whole experience at conventions and good for them you know that’s part of the diversity of things what’s the difference between having a convention and having a speaker jam which is just usually like you know four to eight hours filled with speakers and doesn’t cost anything to get into right well and i would say a convention usually has a little bigger feel to it like and there’s usually like you’ve mentioned there’s usually like a dance and a banquet dinner you know a fancy dinner and things like that but don’t we also have those at other times too like we have dances outside of conventions and we have banquet dinners or something like it i’ve seen them for at least new year’s occasionally yeah i’m just curious like could we just do these things in other ways that don’t seem to cost so much and also provide the same thing i went to a speaker jam one time i stopped in it was in dc i think and on the flyer ford it said mini convention and it was like convention main speakers that were at the speaker jam and it was pretty goddamn packed it was a lot of people not thousands for sure but it was like well this is free right why do i need to do a convention that cost money for a whole weekend when i could i don’t know i’m thinking i might vote why i just just why i don’t really even with that really good experience and some other positive experiences i’ve had from conventions i just don’t know that i see them being really viable or worth what we’re putting into them like it’s a i mean if it’s making twenty thousand dollars like what else could we do with twenty thousand dollars it might be more beneficial so the biggest i guess pro i could say for them is there’s almost and now i don’t know about the losing money part but there’s any of them that i’ve ever been to they seem to be pretty damn packed there seems to be a lot of people there so people either must like it or want to go there i mean it must be something people want because they don’t there definitely doesn’t seem to be a lack of attendance no no and i would agree with you there and and you know the ones that do get lack of attendance end up folding and that’s kind of the way i think it’s supposed to go you know you have those people running around the area announcing the meeting that needs support because it’s been around for 30 years or whatever and i’m like i guess that marine doesn’t need to be there i don’t think we need to beg for support for a certain meeting i’m that’s just not my opinion yeah i think the bigger problem with most of them is that we have typically what we have in narcotics anonymous is it’s just a bunch of addicts trying to get together to do stuff and not all of them are the best stewards of money or make maybe the best business decisions or ethical decisions and yes it’s maybe you know mismanagement or focusing on the wrong what i would call the wrong thing yeah like trying to make it fancier or more you know plush or nicer and kind of getting away from the purpose of like hey we’re just here to get together and be united but even in that i’ve heard people talk about in our area like why don’t we put on an event that is nicer like instead of having some valentine’s dinner in some church basement like why don’t we put on a nice [ _ ] dinner like i’ll pay 150 bucks to go out to a really fine catered event because that’s what i would like to do in recovery with some speakers and things so there’s a can be a desire for that as well well but does that break the unity right does that deviate like that skews to the people who can afford to do something like that and takes away the unity of like we’re all the same don’t you think like uh it’s not like i can show up at the meeting with the rich ceo and the judge and the lawyer and you know i work at burger king and i feel equal like now it’s oh these other people get to attend these these nicer costlier events and i could never do anything like that now they’re separating um i mean i would think it depends on how often you’re doing those things like if you do that all the time then probably not but if you did once a year like we have a once a year you know nice thing or every now and again nice event i mean see i i don’t know i definitely stand on the other side of this and this is slightly outside the convention realm but same kind of idea if you’re going for richer or fancier or nicer like they put on some supposedly pretty fancy new year’s event in my old area at one point and i was like really questioned it i’m like to me the point of events is to show the new person that there’s still ways to have fun and to be inclusive to that like that’s the whole goal right if you want to go to a fancy new year’s event go the [ _ ] to a fancy new year’s event like that doesn’t need to be an n a thing but most of those aren’t centered around recovery or abstinence or you know you’re going to go to those that are people are going to be drinking yeah and i get that i get the drinking aspect right so maybe that’s a bad example for that point of it but i guess there was this this thing like they wanted to make it like a like any other event that look like that just minus the alcohol and and maybe i guess that is what some people want but for me i was like that just seems totally contrary to what we’re doing here like if you want a nice fancy dinner on valentine’s day get together with your group of friends and go to a nice fancy dinner for valentine’s day like that doesn’t seem to fit into the purpose of n a events which or 12 step events would it be similar to and because this is a problem i guess we always have with events in in our area would that get similar to like i don’t know paintball was one we did that a certain amount of people loved it and thought it was great and then a bunch of other people are like that’s [ _ ] stupid and a waste of time and money because who wants to go out and get shot by paintballs or like a canoeing or outdoor camping or maybe a white water rafting trip like any of those are well camping probably cheaper canoeing probably a little more expensive white water rafting probably a little pricey you’re not gonna be able to do that for you know ten dollars a person or whatever but does that mean we shouldn’t have those types of events either because not everybody likes the outdoors you know i don’t know most people don’t want to be out in the woods so with things that i guess in my mind and of course this is just one guy’s opinion obviously but in my mind when they’re moderately affordable for your average middle-class person that’s in recovery i hope that’s an average middle-class person in recovery i hope we’re not all poor or anything you know if the ticket’s 30 bucks i would gladly if i’m going and i knew somebody who didn’t have the money i’d gladly front their ticket i’d pay for that that’s not a big deal to me so i hope with events like that that that’s done if you’re talking about 150 dinner i am probably not buying that for any [ _ ] except myself right and my wife obviously but i just think there’s a price range there where you take out the ability to also include others right and you’re gonna have a limited number of tickets anyway yeah but it’s it’s one thing to me to have an event that people just aren’t interested in like oh i just don’t like paintball but to have an event where the resources don’t allow a certain demographic to go that kind of gets into a struggle area in my head of like i don’t think that serves our 12-step program’s purpose and again that is my opinion like if they hold a fancy dinner what did i do i bitched about it and didn’t go right like they still held it but that’s what people seem to want but i thought the concept was really exclusive and that’s not what i think our events are supposed to be yeah that’s i don’t know that’s just again that’s my opinion but i i wonder if conventions are the same thing like if you don’t live near it and you got to pay for the hotel room and you it’s a 500 weekend easily right yeah it’s pricey and you’re paying for all your meals is that too exclusive for for new people yeah you can get new people have free registration that’s easy enough but where are they going to stay right right right so it’s it’s yeah i i don’t know i i think i lean towards that i don’t think i at least don’t think they keep in mind what the primary purpose of 12-step events is in my mind i don’t even know if that’s really our primary purpose for our events i have no idea maybe that’s why they’re outside entity or whatever because they don’t have to or i don’t say they don’t have to you would hope they would still try to adhere to those principles i think sometimes and this happens in our inside entities and in the special events and everything we just lose track of what the goal is or we don’t know the goal i mean do you think anybody in our area actually knows the goal of special events as laid out for what it’s supposed to be i know what i think it is or yeah maybe they have a different opinion of what they think that goal should be versus what i think it should be right so we get wrapped up in like well what are we what do we want and we elect them as the chair and then well wait a minute we elected you but you don’t share my vision suit right right so i mean what events would i hold if i was special events chair i would probably do stuff like paintball or you know laser tag or or things that seemed like they included movement or fun maybe yoga maybe softball right i would do these kind of things i would never put on a dance why because i don’t [ __ ] like dances does that mean that dances are bad no but it just serves no purpose for me i feel like people don’t want to do that because i don’t want to do that um but yeah i would hope that whoever we’re putting in these positions we do remind and keep in mind the idea of like what is our goal is it just let me put on things that i want to do right that’s fine i guess if that’s what your goal is but to me the goal is to show newer members that there’s fun and newer members don’t have money to contribute to that fund so it’s got to be cost effective i don’t know anything else about conventions no if you’ve never been check one out see what you think yeah forget all about the clean time countdown thing yeah don’t exist be surprised um yes so go out there uh check out a convention for yourself get your own opinion of it and have a good week i didn’t have one other thing and i don’t even know this do you know does like aa have conventions like this do other 12 step fellowships have conventions like this uh so i am speaking and not knowing for sure here but i am pretty sure aa does okay and i know some of the s programs have some form of conventions and they’re not put on anywhere near as frequently or as often and i can’t imagine they walk around with badges that say like sex addicts on them

right right um but yeah there are these convention type things whether they call them conventions or not there are these things and i’ve heard an al-anon speaker from one so they have them too okay so yeah this must be like a universal thing that that’s because every universe will got you okay sorry all right yep so uh go out there check one out for yourself form your own opinions and have a great week

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