An Invitation To A New Way Of Life – Part 2 of 2
This blog is part two in a series to cover frequently asked questions in relation to Twelve Step meetings. The answers are an amalgamation of two individuals with long-term recovery (combined 32+ years) experience, strength and hope.
Why Are There Meetings, and Why Do I Have to Go?
Alcoholism and addiction are lonely diseases. It’s said in meetings that when you are home alone and still a practicing addict or alcoholic, you are behind enemy lines. It’s also said that the disease wants to get you alone, so that it can kill you.
As addicts and alcoholics, we often find it very hard to connect on a deep level with other people. We choose the wrong people, bring out the worst in other people, lack the courage to get involved with other people, or simply can’t stand other people. Whichever scenario rings true for you, there’s a cosmic loneliness inside each of us. Connecting with others in a healthy way is actually a big part of the solution.
AA meetings came about as a means of sharing the method by which alcoholics became and stayed sober, and this is the format that’s been followed by every fellowship since. Initially, the first meetings took place in the living room of the home of an early member of AA. At the time, the group didn’t even have a formal name. The name Alcoholics Anonymous didn’t come about until later. Meetings took place once a week. In order to join, you went over to the home of someone you really didn’t know, where the meeting took place. You had to go to one of the upstairs bedrooms with a sober member of the group, and take the first three Steps right then and there. After all that you would finally be admitted to the meeting.
Many things have changed since then, but the basics have remained the same. Today, if you want to go to a meeting in any fellowship, you just go. No more taking the Third Step prior to the meeting. Today, everyone is welcome at an open Twelve Step meeting. Sober people are welcome, as are people who are drunk or using (as long as they aren’t overly disruptive), friends, family, hostages, observers, everyone. (Open means that anyone can attend and closed means that only individuals who are sober or seeking to become sober are welcome.)
Twelve Step meetings work because pretty much everyone in the room understands why we’re all there. We’ve all been where the newcomer is. We aren’t judging you. We’re just happy you found us. We know the pain and suffering of active alcoholism and addiction. We understand that alcoholism and addiction are not moral issues. As we say “in the rooms” of recovery, it’s not about bad people becoming good; it’s about sick people becoming well.
There are few places on earth aside from Twelve Step meetings where alcoholics and addicts can talk openly about their “adventures” while drinking and using and still feel accepted and appreciated. Very little goes unsaid or hidden: getting in trouble with the law, losing jobs or careers, destroying marriages and relationships. If anything, when you tell stories like that in a meeting, people love you all the more. (After a while, it’s time to tone down the “drunkalogue” or “drugalogue”—but in your earliest days, let it rip.)
In short, meetings provide a safe place for people in recovery to meet, share their experiences, positive and negative, feel better about themselves, feel less lonely, and begin or continue the recovery process.
The Beginning of Meetings
When AA started, you could only find a meeting in Akron, Ohio, where Bill and Dr. Bob so fortuitously met, or in Manhattan, when Bill returned home. Eventually, people would hear about the program through word of mouth—a doctor in Akron might mention it to a colleague in Columbus, or a person in Chicago might find his way into an Akron meeting. Those individuals took AA and spread it to those other cities. Little by little, meetings grew around the country, and eventually, around the world. As time passed, AA’s blueprint for recovery from alcoholism became the roadmap for the other Twelve Step fellowships.
Today, we take for granted that wherever we are, we can look online and find a comprehensive meeting list with dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of meetings taking place each week within a given locale. Today, we have meetings for men, meetings for women, open meetings, closed meetings (just for those who have acknowledged a problem with alcohol or other drugs), meetings for young people, LGBTQ meetings, meetings in Spanish or Persian, meetings in the United States and across the globe, and so on.
It’s possible to step off a cruise ship in Alaska and find a meeting in Juneau, catch the meeting, and make it back before the ship sails on. You can find beach meetings in Hawaii, London, Berlin, and Tokyo. Meetings are held in churches, office buildings, courthouses, police stations, group homes, individual houses, essentially anywhere. In many ways, we just don’t realize how lucky we are that the hand of the fellowship is available, pretty much anywhere, any time.
Just come in, talk to no one if you don’t feel like talking, sit in the back and just observe, or if you feel like it, you can speak at the very first meeting you attend. However you play it, Twelve Step fellowships will welcome you.
What Goes On in Meetings?
People talk about alcoholism and addiction, about how they recovered from those issues, what they do to stay clean and sober on a daily basis, and sometimes, how their cat is doing. Every meeting is different. Twelve Step meetings run the gamut from highly disciplined and focused to cocktail party chatter about how everyone’s day went. Some are run democratically, in keeping with the “Traditions” of AA. Others, alas, are run by autocratic power trippers who have no life aside from being important in Twelve Step meetings. Every meeting is different because each is a reflection of real life and real people. Will you like everyone you encounter? Probably not. It’s said that if you like all the people in all of your meetings, you aren’t going to enough meetings.
Sometimes trying up to ten different meetings is required to find one’s true niche. Whatever you do, don’t let one experience at one meeting deter you from seeking a new of life. As the Twelve Step cliché puts it, “We have a wrench for every nut.”
What Do I Have to Do in a Meeting?
You will hear suggestions, and it’s advisable to follow some or all of the suggestions if you want to stop drinking and using and stay stopped. But as for obligations, the good news is that there are none.
In some meetings, newcomers will be invited to identify themselves, to stand, or to come up and get a “chip and a hug.” You don’t have to do anything. You can just sit there quietly, minding your own business.
So don’t feel as though you’ve got to identify yourself in any way. You don’t even have to call or label yourself an alcoholic or addict. That’s the beauty of the Twelve Step program—you don’t have to do anything or be anyone. Just show up and work the program in the manner that suits you best. (How to do that? Keep reading.)
Come on in; grab a seat in the back. But just come in. You might hear something that transforms your whole life, and you might meet someone who will help save your life.
If you break it down to its bare essentials, given what you have learned from these two blogs, what do you to lose from trying a meeting out? The typical answer is nothing but the misery of active addiction.
If you or a loved one are struggling with alcoholism/addiction contact Sagebrush today for a free and confidential assessment, 888-977-0573