Sometimes people will complain during their share that people were not friendly to them at a particular meeting. Now, there are many meetings where there are greeters at the door to make you feel welcome. At other places, people new to the meeting or just visiting are given an opportunity to introduce themselves. This breaks the ice so to speak and can be a platform for conversation after the meeting. These are wonderful examples of efforts made to make us feel welcome and wanted.
The reality is however, that for many of us, part of our disease includes feelings of isolation and being a victim. We can take those feelings and have a field day with them at a meeting where people in our opinion are not friendly. We could immediately go to our default victim position and hop on top of that pity pot.
In program we learn that we are not victims. If we are isolators, we need to admit to that fact. Once we do so, the next step is to to take an action. This could be as simple as positioning ourselves by the coffee pot where people tend to congregate before and after the meeting. Just introducing ourselves as we’re sipping our coffee can open up conversations and lead to friendships. At our home group we can also reach out to someone new or visiting as well. This helps to break through our isolation on our home turf.
Personal Reflection: How do I make myself and others feel connected?
Therapy is an excellent option for many people. It has provided a window for self discovery to countless individuals. Interestingly, quite a few of us ended up in the program because of therapy. As we sat there sharing with our therapist, he or she at the end of the session recommended that we go to a meeting of one of the fellowships. We were often told that we needed to join a 12 step program to address our issues of addiction.
When we arrived at our first meeting, we looked around to see who was the expert in charge. After a few minutes we deduced that the person leading the meeting was in charge. We were taken aback when we found out that there were no real leaders and no so called “professionals” running the meetings. Everyone had an equal voice and just needed to raise their hand to share. Rather than rely on professionals, we learned that the program was essentially one of self regulation. Ultimately we decided how many meetings to go to a week and how quickly to work the steps. Although we were the ones who would do the work, we needed the power of the group to help us maintain our sobriety. We began to understand the phrase that “this is a we program”.
Personal Reflection: How have others helped me to maintain sobriety?
Those of us who have been around awhile still make a lot of meetings. The reasons why we go today are different from when we first came in. Back then, it was all about putting down our drug of choice. We had the support of the fellowship to help us get through a day without picking up. Gratefully, that obsessive urge to use has lifted. Even so we don’t delude ourselves. We know that the meetings help us maintain our sobriety.
These days we go to to meetings for other reasons as well. We very much enjoy the camaraderie of the membership. Where else can you go and get to share your innermost feelings without fear of being judged. We also enjoy helping newcomers and others In the program who are still struggling. We have come to understand the value of service. Perhaps the most important reason for attending meetings has to do with emotional sobriety. All of those character defects which we possessed still raise their heads in one manner or another on a daily basis. New layers of emotional sobriety get laid down every time we go to a meeting. When we don’t make meetings, those same layers get ripped up. To build or sober emotional core, we need to commit to regular attendance at meetings.
Personal Reflection: Am I making enough meetings?
Alcohol, drugs and food were like a light switch for us. As long as we stayed away from our drug of choice, we often appeared to be quite well adjusted to those around us. Once we took that first drink or drug, then all bets were off. That switch was turned on, and everything changed. Perhaps initially we became the life of the party or felt at ease in social situations. For many of us, that light switch also unleashed a lot of pent up feelings we had been carrying around. In particular, we tapped into a mother lode of anger and resentment. These were feelings that we had often carried for a long time without having addressed them.
Perhaps abstaining from our drug of choice removed the trigger for our anger. It didn’t take long however for us to discover that all of those feelings of anger and resentment were only just below the surface. Now almost any life situation could trigger us into some kind of emotional tirade. Left unaddressed, these feelings would eventually lead us to taking that first drink or drug. That’s why it was imperative for us to begin to address all of those feelings of rage and anger. We made it our business to tap into the fellowship for assistance. We also asked our Higher Power to remove our reactivity to the vicissitudes of life.
Personal Reflection: Is anger still my master?
There is a pathology about arrogance. Rather than admit that we don’t know something, we will place ourselves in all kinds of situations which are to our detriment. Of course the classic example of this, is the refusal of car drivers (and without being sexist they were usually men) who refused to ask directions when lost. Multiple gas stations where the answer was at hand were passed because the driver stubbornly refused to ask directions. On some deep level asking directions was an admission of our ignorance and lack of perfection. Pride caused many a family to endure a half hour delay while dad tried to tough it out on his own. Thank G-d for the invention of the GPS.
The same pathology can occur in recovery. That’s why we have sponsors and friends in the program. Life is really not designed for us to fly solo. We are a fellowship because Bill W. and Dr. Bob understood the power of one alcoholic (or drug or food addict) helping another. The only thing is that we are not mind readers. When someone from the program needs advice, it’s their responsibility to ask for help. We encourage them to get beyond the shame of admitting their ignorance. Once they do, we are more than happy to share our experience, strength and hope. Asking directions also includes turning to our Higher Power for council as well.
Personal Reflection: Have I been holding back from asking directions about something?
It took a lot of courage for us to enter the rooms of AA, NA or OA. Most of us walked through those doors for the first time alone. It was a daunting experience. We had no idea what to expect. At first some of what we heard sounded pretty darn strange. What exactly did you mean by “take it easy” and what was with that “think” sign hung upside down? We had also never heard people talk with such honesty about themselves and their challenges.
At the end of our first meeting, someone usually came over with a meeting book. What really impressed us was that the last page of the book was filled with the names and numbers of people from the meeting. People also came over to us and asked for our number as well. Before that meeting we thought we would have travel the road to sobriety alone. After that first meeting we realized that we would never be alone on that journey. Members of the fellowship would be there for us anytime we called upon them. We chose one member to become our sponsor and developed a relationship with him or her unlike any we had ever had before. We felt safe speaking about anything and were never judged for it. We also began to develop a relationship with a Higher Power who would never leave us.
Personal Reflection: How do I utilize the fellowship for support?
There are many ways to categorize people in this world. There are a entire class of people who will discourage you from moving forward with your life. These are the people who find what appear to be strong arguments against whatever it is you are attempting to accomplish. It makes no difference what it is you want to do. If you want to buy a house, they will tell you all of the reasons you should stay in your apartment. If you want to return to college, they will tell you about how many people who have graduated from college and are looking for jobs. In fact, celebrated author Wayne Dyer came up with 18 things people will say to you to discourage you from personal growth. Of particular note for people in recovery are the statements, “I’m not strong enough”; “I don’t deserve it” and “no one will help me”. The best thing you can do when they attempt to squash your aspirations is to tell them to not disturb you as you leave them in the dust. Our fellowship helps us tap into strength from our higher power; have an awesome life and know we can call upon our brothers and sisters for help as needed.
Personal Reflection: Do I believe the discouragers?