Charlie H. from Falls Church, Virginia, USA, has served as a WSO Trustee since 2016 and Board Chairperson between 2019 and 2022. He will be stepping down from the Board of Trustees at the end of his term of service after the 2023 ABC. In this interview, we learn more about Charlie H., his experience as a WSO Board member, and his advice to members about serving on the Board.
How many years have you been in ACA?
I joined ACA in 1986 and have been actively involved since then, so it’s been 37 years. My wife Robin, whom I met in 1994 through 12 Step programs, has been an active ACA member since 1983, so she has seniority in our house!
What ACA service did you do before becoming a Trustee?
Until 2015, all my service work was local – sponsoring, helping at meetings, etc. An ACA intergroup formed in 2015 in my area, and I jumped in. That same year, I was asked to speak at an ACA conference. I thought it was going to be a local recovery day event, but it turned out to be the WSO Annual Business Conference! That was my first introduction to WSO, and I’ve been involved ever since. Before becoming a Trustee, I was a member of the WSO Service Structure Committee and Chairperson of the Literature Evaluation Subcommittee.
Why did you want to join the Board of Trustees?
It started with my talk at the 2015 Annual Business Conference. After 30+ years of recovery, I really wanted to help ACA newcomers by increasing information about sponsorship and creating new literature tailored to newcomer needs. I also saw a chance to work on ACA’s administration and governance, such as expanding the role of rank-and-file members in the Annual Business Conference and WSO. Finally, I saw a need to create a more inclusive procedure for recruiting and vetting Trustees. When I joined the Board, Trustees were selected “by invitation only.” Existing Board members would identify and appoint new Trustees without a formal application or vetting process. Today, we have a much more formal and inclusive process, which is especially important as our global membership grows.
What are your favorite things about being a Board member?
In addition to being able to make a lasting difference in a world recovery community, being on the Board has significantly helped my personal growth. Every day, I see the Traditions and other program principles applied in our work. A good example was the Board’s group conscience decision to conduct the 2020 Annual Business Conference online-only because of the COVID pandemic. Despite some concerns, the ABC had more attendance than ever before, and the ACA World Convention turned into a 24-hour per day virtual experience that members from around the world were able to enjoy and participate in. The decision to conduct the ABC and AWC completely online expanded its reach, inclusiveness, and effectiveness rather than doing the opposite. That was an amazing example of a higher power at work. I also really appreciate all the people I’ve met and gotten to know. The Board members are a wonderful group of adult children in recovery; even when we disagree, we are almost always able to reach resolution amicably.
What challenges have you faced on the Board, especially as Chairperson?
The biggest challenge I’ve faced has been dealing with authority issues among ACA’s and building trust with members who feel frustrated or unhappy with WSO’s direction. When I’ve been triggered by comments directed to me, I’ve tried to use the program to really hear what the person is saying, repair damage, and make amends when appropriate. The program has helped improve my communication and social skills in this regard.
How do you balance work and Board service?
It’s a challenge, but not an impossible challenge. I’m a career journalist, but I currently work full time in the public affairs office of a federal department. I try to build several blocks into my week when I am not doing ACA service. Except in very rare situations, I do not do service on Sundays. I try to schedule my evening WSO calls on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and keep all other evenings for my personal life. The one stretch that was genuinely tough was when I served as Board Chair. You get a lot of unexpected emergencies in that role, and I essentially worked six-day weeks, which is more than many people would want to take on. But things have calmed down a great deal in the last year since I left the Chair position. The Board has become much more conscious about reducing the workload, and we adopted a policy that Trustees should take a month off from ACA service every year to maintain a healthy balance between all aspects of their lives. Obviously, Board service is less of a challenge for someone who doesn’t have a full-time job, but my wife Robin and I have made it work.
How do you practice self-care and have fun?
For self-care, I walk regularly and have lots of mini-meetings with Robin. We do a reading and talk about our days in the context of the program. I’m a bit of a homebody and enjoy the routine of domestic duties. I’m able to compartmentalize when I’m overwhelmed and focus on “one thing at a time, one day at a time.” For fun, I love free-floating conversations with friends and family, especially Robin, watching old movies, and rooting for the Boston Celtics. I also enjoy traveling and discovering new places. I’ve discovered that my inner child loves to be nurtured and entertained, and one of my biggest gains from ACA has been to stay committed to his happiness and safety. That keeps the rest of me happy and safe and strengthens my loving parent!
How have you grown since being on the Board?
I’ve learned how to deal with conflict with emotional sobriety – standing in my own space and still hearing what others are saying. I’ve learned how to “accept the things I cannot change” in WSO while still doing my best to change the things I can. I have shed the shame of perfectionism. And I’ve really experienced the power of the group conscience and higher power, strengthening my overall faith in the process.
What would you tell others who are considering applying to the Board?
I would encourage anyone who is eligible to apply, or at least to consider it. This has been one of the most meaningful experiences in my life, ranking right up there with fatherhood and marriage, and has resulted in some of my most significant accomplishments. I stepped up to serve as a Trustee because I was ready to help WSO, and right now WSO needs your help, especially if you are a member of an under-represented group. The journey is challenging, but worth every step. You’ll need a strategy for balancing work and service; be ready to set healthy boundaries; be prepared to deal with conflict; be patient; be able to face your self-doubts and understand that you have gifts, talents, and experience. You will also need to make sure that you can still meet your own personal needs and take care of your inner child.
Charlie H. is available to talk with anyone interested in serving on the Board of Trustees. He can be reached through the Nominating Committee at [email protected]