Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Drug Court, 12 Step Meetings, and Questions

I chaired a few meetings recently and was surprised at the large number of attendance sheets I was asked to sign for people mandated by the court system to attend 12 step meetings.  Whatever it takes to get them there, I guess.  I hope they stick around after their "sentence" is up. 

I recently stopped hearing from a girl after her "sentence" was up.  It is very exhausting sponsoring someone who just gets a sponsor because it is one of the conditions of her drug program.  I don't know anything about how all of that works.  I was asked to be of service in the program, so I said yes, as I was taught to do early in recovery.  I think it is a good suggestion. 

Plus, I said yes with an open mind and heart.  I can't judge someone's intentions right away (although I had some suspicions based on her actions.)  Nonetheless, I gave her the benefit of the doubt.  I am sorry for her that she isn't ready yet.  I still think about her and pray for her.

Back to the topic of signing these sheets (which are usually given to the chair person before the meeting starts and they are signed and returned to the individual after the meeting is over.)  I ran into three scenarios that I wanted to put out there in hopes that those of you who chair meetings and sign these sheets will give me some feedback on what you would do in these situations:

Scenario 1:  After the conclusion of a large meeting, a man brings his sheet to me and asks me to sign it.  Since there were so many people at the meeting, I don't remember seeing him.  Would you sign it if you are not sure if he was there or could have just wandered in after the meeting was over while everyone was up visiting, walking around, and cleaning up?

Scenario 2:  On another man's sheet he lists all the meetings, with their respective dates, times and group numbers, he's been to in the last week and the chair person's signature is next to each meeting he attended.  I notice that my group's number is listed from the previous week's meeting, which I chaired, and there is a signature present next to this entry, but not my signature and I know in my heart he was not at that meeting because he is one that I notice is there each time he comes.  Would you call him out on it?

Scenario 3:  So, I have 10-15 people coming up to get their sheets after the meeting is over and I don't know who is who and some don't even have their names on them.  So, I say - "which one is yours?" and they tell me and it is confusing and chaotic and one guy says, "this one is mine" and he grabs another one and says, "that's my friend's, I'll take his, too."  Would you say, "I'll give it to your friend, where is he?"  or just let it go, knowing that his friend probably isn't even there?

Thanks for your perspectives.


  1. Interesting. My home group doesn't get this many - but our drug court is just starting, so this may be something the local groups face, so it is definitely food for thought.
    Here's my thoughts:
    Scenario 1: I'd ask my other home group members if they saw him throughout the meeting, and sign it if someone could vouch for his attendance.
    Secenario 2: This is a tough one, but yes, I'd ask about it, but put it in terms of "Hey, it looks like you were here last week, but that's not my signature... did you get the groups confused?" I'm terrible for remembering group names, I just know what day they're on and where they are. He may have written in the wrong name by accident. Benefit of the doubt and all that.
    Scenario 3: I'd only give the sheets to the person it belongs to. If he's not there, then I'd cross my signature off.

  2. Oh, and if this is something you regularly have to do, I might put something into the secretary's announcements about the "rules".

  3. Unfortunately, some don't want to be honest, they lose something in the process... sometimes they lose everything.

    I had a friend, Trapper, he put the pen in his dog's paw and had his dog sign his court paper. Funny, he ended back up in AA anyway and he's one of the strongest memebers I know now.

    He was also the type who cops came into the meeting to get the first couple years in sobriety. I'd trust him with my newborn now.

    I sign all sheets and ask if they have a big book. If they don't I give them one and I make sure to look them in the eye as I hand them their sheet and say, "glad you came, hope to see ya again!"

    Of course, that's exactly what my sponsor instructed me to do when I went back to him in a huff because someone who wanted me to sign a court slip came in 10 minutes before the meeting was over.

  4. I deal with these situations in pretty much the same way as Jess. I am pretty hard core about the idea that AA should never, in any way, become an extension of the justice system. I applaud the motives of judges who send people to AA meetings but I feel we should not change our meetings in any way to accommodate the courts. We don't keep membership lists and we don't take attendance. So, when someone brings me a slip I sign it and try to at least exchange few sentences with them about the meeting, AA, or recovery in general.

  5. I sign them no matter what. It's not my place to judge or police them.

    All that is asked is that a signature be obtained. When I was in treatment there were many times I had somebody else in the meeting sign rather than the secretary. Sometimes I didn't have time to wait after the meeting for the card to come back and sometimes there were certain secretaries I avoided that were either unwilling or unable to hide their disdain for my meeting card.

    From a different perspective as an ex drug and alcohol counselor, I can tell you that those slips are scrutinized when handed in, at least by some of us. Some people are caught for their dishonesty.

    After seeing what I saw in my professional life the last few years, I've come to the realization that even a court card can't force someone to walk in to a meeting hall. I can't tell you how many people referred to me by the courts as part of their sentence never showed up, or disappeared quickly after beginning the program.

    It's a choice. Some choose to do the right thing and attend as required, and some choose to walk away and take their consequences.

  6. That's a great dilemma: certainly one any NA/AA/CMA/MA (etc) secretary has to face relatively soon in their service.

    When I had 2+ yrs. clean I worked in an outpatient drug treatment center. One of the guys who'd failed a U.A. a few weeks back was in the NA meeting collecting a 1 yr. key tag. I gave it to him because he came up to get it: I wasn't legally able to say I knew he was our client, much less legally able to reveal the results of his failed U.A.

    As they say in program, "You're clean when you say you are." I believe in the progression of the disease. If someone's able to use casually they don't need NA/AA/etc and will likely leave soon on their own. If they really are an addict their using will kick their but soon enough without my interfering mothering (which is a real turn off: not "attraction rather than promotion" at all). We're a high risk population. We get out of 12 Step in proportion to what we put into it.

    I use the same policy with slips. It's not my job to be the police: micro-managing is part of my disease. I won't dig deep into the truth (show me ID to verify this slip belongs to you & video to prove you attended the whole meeting) but I will sign the stack of slips in the basket... at the end of the meeting.

    On a different note, I heard a speaker once refer to court slips as a "gift certificate." I like that.

  7. awesome points, everyone. Thanks. signing that paper I am stating that the person was present in the meeting, which I think gives us accountability. What if that person just robbed a bank before he came in at the end of the meeting and you signed his slip saying he was there the entire time? just a thought.

    That is why personally, I am against the courts asking us to do this - even though I know we are supposed to "cooperate" with outside organizations. And in presenting you with the bank robber scenario in this comment, I just did a quick search about signing court papers and any legal ramifications and I found my answer from! YAY!

    This is what they say:

    "Proof of Attendance at Meetings -
    Some judges require written proof that offenders have attended a certain number of meetings.
    Often, when the court-ordered newcomer attends an A.A. meeting, the group secretary (or other
    group officer) is willing to sign their first name, or to initial a slip furnished by the court saying
    so-and-so was at the meeting on a particular date. Hopefully, all involved recognize that neither
    the group nor its members are “bound” in any way by the signature, nor does this courtesy
    signify affiliation of the A.A. group with any other program or guarantee that the attendee was
    present for the entire meeting; it simply illustrates cooperation. Court professionals should
    understand too, that attendance at A.A. meetings doesn’t guarantee sobriety."


    "Since each group is autonomous, and providing proof of
    attendance at meetings is not a specific part of A.A.’s program, each group and group member
    has the right to choose whether or not to sign court slips."

    For the complete memo regarding this topic go to

    Thanks for guiding me to dig a little deeper by taking part in this discussion, everyone!


Thank you for sharing!