Many newcomers feel very uncomfortable about sharing at meetings. They sit there very stoically with a grim look on their face. Their minds are racing with all of their regrets, fears, resentments, anger and shame. Yes, it’s true they are no long using, but they feel pretty miserable about their life.
Then one day, perhaps thru another member’s encouragement they finally share. When they are finished, they realize that they feel a little bit better; and sometimes a whole lot better. It seems almost counter-intuitive. Although everyone was listening, no one gave them advice or tried to solve their problems for them. Yet, thru the process of personal reflection thru sharing, something changed within them. Over time we have come to realize that having the opportunity to share with others is extremely therapeutic.
The flip side of the coin is also true. By listening to others share and identifying, we see that our feelings of isolation and negative uniqueness are lies we tell ourselves. The shares of others verify that our feelings are just part of being human.
After the meeting we can seize the opportunity to speak to others and get advice if that is what we want. There is great collective wisdom within the walls of the fellowship.
Personal Reflection: Am I sharing enough at meetings?
Although we had entered the rooms of AA, NA or OA, we felt very alone. Yes, people had come up to us at the meetings to make us feel welcome; but we still very uncomfortable. Part of this discomfort was due to to the fact that for a long time we held the belief that no one would ever really get us. We had felt this way while we were active, and we still felt this way.
Then one day something amazing happened. We had finally been asked to qualify at a meeting. Although we had a lot of discomfort about it, we pushed through it and told our story. We really did believe that our story was a totally unique one. As people around the room shared on what we had spoken about, we found out that our journey was not as unique as we had once thought. Many of the comments were ones of identification. When someone referenced a part of our story and said, “me too” we realized that perhaps we had been wrong about our perceptions of others. We actually had a lot in common with other people in the rooms. There was a comfort in knowing that many of the feelings we had carried about ourselves, were actually almost universally shared. We finally felt like we truly did belong.
Personal Reflection: In what was do I identify with others in the program?
At the end of a meeting you will often see someone who is coming into the rooms for the first time. You can almost sense their discomfort. Perhaps a lot of what they heard at the meeting was confusing. They might have been shocked to hear people speak about their feelings so openly and honestly. Many of them are grappling with coming to terms about their own addiction. Most likely they are in denial about that addiction. You can almost see them grimace at the mention of the word addict or alcoholic.
Almost all of us can identify with this moment because at one time that newcomer was us. So how did we evolve to being actively engaged in our program? As long as we came back after that first meeting; we discovered that we had found a home in AA, NA, OA or whatever program(s) we were involved with. We usually decided to come back because we identified with something someone spoke about. Many a newcomer has said, “as I was listening to you, I felt that you were telling my story”. There is a place in the program for anyone who is struggling with addiction. All you have to do is claim your seat.
Personal Reflection: How did I recognize my seat?