I just got back from one of the best 12-Step conference events ever. It was the South Maryland Round-up, in Solomons Island, MD. 

What was so good about it? 

It was the people who showed up. A sold-out event, 600 seats filled by drunks of the AA, 12-Step persuasion, along with some of the best attitude and demeanor ever. 

The theme was “Rocketed Into the Fourth Dimension of Existence,” truly one of my favorite topics, and not spoken of nearly enough. But get this. They built a rocket ship for the ballroom lobby, okay? This is the degree of enthusiasm we’re talking here. 

A playful and fun crowd. 

My job was to open the “Round-up” event as the Friday Night Speaker, covering the first three steps, going to powerlessnessover alcohol, theunmanageabilityof life and finally turning it all over to God for the solution to alcoholism.

As serious as that all is, and as excruciatingly revealing as the stories told can be, the idea was to kick off the conference in an upbeat manner. That mission was accomplished. But I can take no credit. 

It just was not as difficult as it sounds. This crowd was positively stoked and completely ready to hear all of it. There was laughter and tears too––at the right times I might add. And they ‘got it’, because they already had it, within them. They instantly recognized both the problem as well as the solution just hearing it told. 

There’s always a few who don’t ‘get it’—who are offended by the depth and weight certain aspects of recovery are depicted via the Big Book design, when you tell stories deemed undesirable, or outside of the realm of what their ‘sponsors’ have told them they just cannot acknowledge the spiritual principles of the Big Book and are unable to hear it. It goes over their heads.

But that can happen anywhere, and it’s always an inconsequential minority in this type of event.

As a whole, the people at this event were buoyant and just plain and if not ‘recovered’, at least on their way. You had to look really hard to find a single glum person among the not glumlot.  

Later, the love emanating from that crowd as the weekend progressed was what really reached me though. The gratitude was contagious. The tears were appreciated and the joy they spread . . . well, you just can’t describe that. I won’t try. You can only experience it. 

And that’s why am I writing this. I want to promote the idea of these Round-ups and Conferences.

I’ve been to many over the years as both a participant and as a speaker. None of them have been in my own backyard and I’ve had to travel extensively to each of them. I can tell you this: It’s worth it! You’ll hear folks poo-pooing such events in AA groups—“It’s not AA,” and similar pejoratives. 

Technically that is true. These gatherings are open events and are not affiliated with 12-Step Fellowships at all. They can’t be. 

But if you love and appreciate the 12-Step Fellowships, AA and others, if you love the Big Book version of recovery, and if you would like to surround yourself with some like-minded folks and hear from some speakers who, for the most part, do stick with the 12-Step approach to spiritual awakening, God and recovery, then I urge you to check out some of these events when they are organized in your area. And if there are none, consider putting one together! 

It’s a lot of work, but the fellowship and connections made are durable and effective, even long after the chairs and tables have been put away and the hotel guests have checked out.

The biggest benefit—is it to hear a great speaker? No. That’s secondary! It’s to meet the other kindred souls attending. 

At these events, you’ll find others like yourself, people who also eschew middle-of-the-road solutions that so often run through the church basements. You’ll make acquaintances whom you’ll see, again and again, perhaps even correspond with on Social Media, who’ve had a spiritual awakening as the result of the 12-Step presentation so distinctly delineated in that wonderful How-To volume, “Alcoholics Anonymous.”

You’ll come to cherish the camaraderie and the sharing among others—the spiritual solution we’ve all found. Try it. I think you’ll be glad you did. 

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