Tuesday, 30 September 2014

The Winner's Guide to Boring Meetings #essentialsofrecovery.com #Grapevine #recovery #Meetings

AA Grapevine May 1984

FOR A BRIEF period during my fifth year of continuous sobriety, I was going through a rough patch in my attendance at AA meetings. Somehow, the drinking stories and the tales of the early days of AA were rubbing me the wrong way. If I wasn't bored, I was angry. What to do?

Leave the Fellowship altogether? I had heard enough people say that they came to meetings to find out what happens to alcoholics who don't come to meetings. It wouldn't be quitting--I'd be allowing others to drive me out!

Change my patterns of attendance? I tried attending different groups and different types of meetings. That did help somewhat, but a complete change of groups made me feel that I was a beginner again, trying to break into new friendship circles. The loneliness I felt when I cut myself off from my familiar AA associates was not helping my mental health. I was still bored with "identification meetings" full of drunk stories, and there weren't enough Step, Big Book study, or discussion groups near enough to where I live and work.

Trying to solve my own problem by running from the Fellowship or my regular meetings was a dry-drunk manifestation of my alcoholic pattern of running from my problems. Resentments were building up inside me, and I was keeping it all inside. If I didn't want to relapse into the active form of our disease of alcoholism, what should I do?

The answer, of course, was to talk about my feelings. My first opportunity came at a "problem-study group," which I went to with the specific intent of letting it all out. It wasn't hard to do. I almost exploded as my anguish, pain, frustration, hostility, and confusion poured forth, complete with table-banging and language that would make a strip-joint bouncer blush.

The assembled members listened patiently to my distress, then offered some opinions on what they had done in similar circumstances. Here was a definition of our Fellowship in action. By sharing their experience, strength, and hope with me, they saved me, so I have been able to pass these ideas on to others trying to work the program.

Some of their suggestions included ways to occupy my mind during boring or repetitive drunkalogs. One urged me to count the words on the Steps or Traditions banner or, better yet, to examine how each Step has been accomplished in my life. Another suggestion was to use the time to take my daily or weekly inventory, making a mental list of those to whom I must promptly admit my errors. Still another bit of advice was to use the time to meditate on the word "one" or the word "unity" until I could see how I and the person speaking were similar.

The suggestion I liked best, however, and the one I subsequently practiced for six months with great, lasting benefit, was to carry a little notebook to meetings and write down any pieces of AA folk wisdom that might be lurking in the midst of otherwise uninteresting stories. At first, I was self-conscious about jotting down those pithy gems, but no one seemed to mind, and my collection grew rapidly. It was like finding gold nuggets amid rocks in the stream of consciousness.

The first saying I noted started me off in the right frame of mind: "What I don't know about this program may kill me." That was followed closely by "The clenched fist never receives" and "It's AA or 'amen' for me." After a while, I heard statements like "I don't live for AA--I use AA to live," "If you want sobriety, you must go among those who have it," and "If you want what we have, then do what we do."

Soon, my notebook was overflowing with those statements that we pass on to each other as part of the message of recovery. I learned to look at people and the way that they are handling this program of living. I learned that it is the simple, easily remembered statements that are our most eloquent contributions to one another.

To be teachable, I had to be reachable. I can see now that my stinking thinking was leading to drinking. Since the door swings both ways in AA, I had come to a turning point where I had to hang on and let go. My confidence today is gained from my humility of yesterday. Now, I go to meetings not to be entertained but to be healed, and I continue to stay around to witness the naturally occurring miracles as we love each other into well-being.

Today, I know that notes in the same key resonate together. I'm at meetings to give as well as to receive. No matter how much continuous sobriety I have to my and AA's credit, I am still only one drink away from a drunk, just like everybody else in these meeting rooms. If there's any message in all of this problem-turned-project, it can perhaps be summed up in these words heard at an otherwise dreary meeting: "I never let the seeds stop me from eating the watermelon."

C. F.
Australia, AA Grapevine May 1984

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