Monthly Archives: June 2013
I can’t believe I’m at the end of this series of posts. Clichés do exist for a reason: time really does fly! It feels like yesterday that I published step one. But anyway…
Step 12, as I understand it, has a few sub-steps within it. First, it supposes that by the time you have gotten to this step, you’ve had a spiritual awakening. Now, I have only been around for a short time, but I have encountered many people, and I have never heard of anyone deny that this is true. When I first heard the term “spiritual awakening,” I pictured something like being hypnotized, or drinking the Jonestown Kool-Aid… basically, becoming a completely different, more ethereal person. Now, this may happen for some people, but it certainly did not for me. I am the same sarcastic, wise-cracking, wife, mother, sister, and daughter that I was before I completed the 12 steps. There was no lightning bolt, or burning bush, but by the time I had reached step 12, I could honestly say that I had a much deeper relationship with my Higher Power, that my obsession to drink and drug had been lifted, and that I believed God is doing for me what I could not do on my own.
The next sub-step: carry the message. Certainly, from a recovery standpoint, the meaning of this portion of the step is self-evident. As a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, it is my duty and my privilege to teach someone newer than myself what I have learned in the program of recovery. If someone is struggling, it is my responsibility to reach out a hand and help them, the same way people reached out their hand to me. I can say that helping others bolsters my own sobriety, possibly even more than the people I am helping. It keeps me committed, it keeps me honest, and it keeps me connected.
The final sub-step: apply the same principles within these steps to all aspects of our lives. Basically, the whole point of me writing this series of blog posts is an extension of this part of step 12; to show that what I have learned through the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous really teaches me how to live all aspects of my life. It helps me when faced with indecision, it helps me to parent more effectively, to communicate more honestly, and to keep my focus on the things I can control, rather than railing against what I cannot.
The point of this step in everyday living is the basic stuff we learned in kindergarten:
1. Share everything.
2. Play fair.
3. Put things back where you found them.
4. CLEAN UP YOUR OWN MESS.
5. Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
6. Say you’re SORRY when you HURT somebody.
7. Live a balanced life – learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work everyday some.
These lessons turn into well-known proverbs as we get older: do unto others, live and let live, but it all boils down to the same thing: live the best life you can, do the next right thing, and always be available to help another human being. And, just like recovery, helping someone is a reward in and of itself, and living right is its own reward!
NOTE: If you are interested, I was a guest blogger over at Running On Sober, feel free to check it out!
I am hoping this is the last in the story arc that has become my Monday morning meetings. Yes, I am posting this late, and I’m sure a post will eventually follow about transitioning from “School Schedule” to “Summer Schedule,” but suffice it to say that writing has been challenging while adjusting.
Okay, back to the story. If you are just starting out now, check out here and here. We had a break in this story because she did not show up for week 3 of her June “commitment” (commitment is in quotes because I’m still not sure with whom she committed). Okay, so this past Monday is the last in June, I show up, and I am still just praying that her enthusiasm to chair this meeting had waned.
No such luck.
Meanwhile, because it’s the fourth Monday, this is the week that I do some research, and bring some older, more historical pieces of AA literature to the meeting. In other words, this reading would be something with which few would be familiar. Which would make it difficult for someone to just step in and chair the meeting. I’m just saying.
She blows through the door (why is it that chaotic-type people enter rooms so dramatically?), and asks if I received the note she left. I look around the desk… surprise! No note. She says, “Well, I’m sure someone got it.”
Philosophical sidebar: If you leave a note and no one reads it, does the note have meaning? Corollary: If you leave a note and someone reads it, but has no idea what you’re talking about, does the note have meaning?
My answer to both of those questions: NO.
She explains that she was not present to chair last week because she is sick, her cat is sick, and her boyfriend is sick. I say, “No problem.”
I promise you, I am not making this up, nor am I exaggerating this exchange in any way.
She starts complaining about her illness (something to do with the throat). Within 3 sentences, she is hysterically crying, because, and I quote, “None of this would have happened if they hadn’t burned up my medical records! And they wonder why I’m such a bitch!!! And I had to pay $400 to get my cat fixed!”
So now I have several competing issues to deal with:
1. My facial expression, because, as I have mentioned in previous posts, I have the opposite of a poker face; therefore, I have to school my expression so as not to show my confusion, and frankly, alarm that I am alone with this yelling, crying woman.
2. How best to comfort this woman who is in such distress
3. General curiosity: What happened that should have never happened? How, when and why were the medical records burned? Why would a vomiting cat cost $400 to cure?
4. How best to keep this woman from chairing this meeting
I figure the best way to defuse the emotion is to ask detail questions (which has the side benefit of satisfying number 3 on my list). This has a mixed effect, some of the questions do seem to bring some calm, others promote even more dramatic (picture face in hands, chest-heaving sobbing) emotion. The story fails to get any clearer, for me anyway, but one thing I have established: all of the serious health ailments she proceeds to talk about (involving surgery, feeding tubes, and the like) took place a decade ago. Not sure how and why they’re playing into today’s conversation, but I’m just rolling with it at this point.
The conversation then proceeds to complaints about her sponsor. Okay, this is ground on which I have surer footing, and I can speak a little more confidently during this part of the discussion. She definitely calms down at this point, and says to me, “Would you mind chairing this meeting?”
Thank. You. God.
A few minutes later, other attendees start coming in, and the one-on-one conversation is over. The meeting begins (8 people total), we read, and the first person raises her hand to share. The woman has barely started speaking, and my “Committed Chairperson” noisily gets up and leaves. She is making lots of noise outside the room, someone goes to check on her, and she winds up leaving. I am told that she was too upset by what the person sharing was saying, and she could not stay for the meeting (I know you will believe me when I tell you the woman sharing had nothing inflammatory to say). The remainder of the meeting was very calm, everyone enjoyed the reading, and everyone had something to share related to it.
So, will she be back as an attendee in July? Will the cat need follow-up medical care? Will I ever find the note left for me? Stay tuned!
Alright, we are in the home stretch! That is what I thought when I got to this step while going through them, and that is what I think as I am writing this series. Recovery-wise, Step 11 works in conjunction with step 10, and so are typically done simultaneously. The way Step 10 is a mini-step 4, Step 11 is a mini-step 3 (Turned our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him).
Here’s the logistics of Step 11: In the morning, say your prayers, and make sure to ask God to direct your thoughts and actions so that you may better serve His will. This is important, because it is so easy to revert to self-will, asking for what we want, demanding what we think should happen. So getting in the proper mindset, right up front, is important. Next, take a minute to review your day, what’s on the to-do list, and what decisions need to be made. Ask God for help with the decisions, and take some time to meditate. Remember, praying is asking for God’s help, meditating is listening for His answer. Conclude with a prayer asking to be free from self-will, since it is something that pops up again and again.
Throughout the day, when faced with anxiety or indecision, pause, and ask God for guidance, help, direction. Turn the problem over to Him, and have confidence that He will handle it.
At the end of the day, take a moment and reflect on what you’ve done, both good and bad. There are many different checklists available that you can use, if you find that sort of thing helpful, but the idea is: what did you do well? what could you have done better? what amends need to be made tomorrow? Ask for forgiveness for the failings, thank Him for the successes, and pray for direction in determining any corrective actions that might be taken tomorrow.
This sounds like a lot of stuff, but in reality, each of these steps take but moments of each day, and I can tell you, make an absolute world of difference in the quality of my life.
I can’t say enough about how this step helps in everyday living. The minute I feel out of sorts, I make it a point to shoot up a quick prayer and ask for His help. Just that very small act almost invariably lifts whatever burden I am carrying off my shoulders, and I can breathe easier. When I make the effort to clue in to my surroundings, I find He answers even more than I have asked of Him!
Father and son at the start of their ziplining adventure!
This fact may sound somewhat interesting, mildly creative, and reasonably thoughtful, until you take into account the following:
1. I personally have not done an outdoor activity of this nature in about 20 years. And even then, 20 years ago, when I did participate in activities of this nature, I did it because I was seriously goaded into it, or because it was mandated by my profession in residence life at a college.
2. In my almost 17 years with my husband, we have established a fairly comfortable routine… he plans surprises for us, I am surprised.
3. As I have mentioned in way too many posts, I have been, until very recently, quite content with my sedentary lifestyle. I genuinely look forward to night-time TV watching with my family, and I make no apologies for it.
So when you factor in these points in, the starting sentence of this post becomes quite startling, even to me. But, as is often said in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous, once you achieve sobriety, all doors are open to you. And I feel it, I really do, so what the hell! Ziplining has always seemed interesting to me, so what reason is there not to try it?
And it was a fantastic day. The weather was unbelievably perfect for it, the drive to the resort was enjoyable, and not nearly as long as I thought it would be, and it was the first time any of us had ever done this activity before, so it was a cool thing for us to do together as a family.
Besides the excitement of the day, there were some interesting lessons for me in the planning of the day. I realized the extent to which I rely on my husband to make decisions for our family, and the consequential extent to which I take a back seat. I never thought of myself in this way, until I made, no lie, at least a dozen phone calls to the two resorts I was considering for the day. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to just give up, and ask my husband to cast the deciding vote. And then I realized… has it really come to this? Am I incapable of planning and executing a day trip for my family? So I put on my big girl pants, I pulled the trigger…
And we had a blast. On the way home, my husband told me how much he appreciated the day, spending it as a family, but he also appreciated the initiative I took, he hasn’t seen that side of me in a long time.
I feel slightly guilty writing this, and because I feel guilty I will write it in the most diplomatic way possible: today’s miracle is that I was able to step in and chair the meeting I started, as the person who “signed up” for the June commitment did not show up. It was an awesome meeting, with 10 attendees, and everyone had something significant to share, it was a fantastic way to start a Monday morning.
Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
Step 10 is the first of the “maintenance steps:” actions to be taken on a daily basis for the rest of our lives. Assuming that you have done the “searching and fearless” inventory required in step four, and assuming you have done (or are working on) the amends process in steps 8 and 9, step 10 is pretty simple. As often as need be, I was taught at least on a daily basis, take a look yourself… thoughts, actions, attitude… examine, and ensure that all are in line with your new way of living. Of course, the not-so-fun part, if you happen to discover that you’ve said or done something that is not in line (Who? Me!?!), repair the damage as quickly as possible, so that you may move on.
This step is a good way to continue the practice of looking at myself, my behaviors, and my mistakes, rather than reverting to form and condemning the behaviors and mistakes of others. It’s an ongoing way of “keeping my side of the street clean.”
It’s also a way of maintaining the serenity gained from working the first nine steps. Here’s an analogy: I am guessing that everyone has at least one area of their home that serves as a dumping ground. Sadly, I have a few areas, but the worst offender is the basement. And when I do not maintain the order, and keep inventory of what is going into the basement, things slowly but surely spiral out of control, organizationally speaking (which, by the way, is the current state of affairs). Numerous times in the past 7 years of living in this house I have done the “big clean:” purge the basement of all non-essential items, organize the remaining, and then clean it from top to bottom. But then, we host a big party, and we need to get stuff out of the way, immediately! Then, Christmas comes, and all the newly emptied boxes need to go somewhere, as well as the gifts that we are unsure where to put. And then a change of season comes, and the previous decorations need to come down in a hurry, so who has time to store them properly? Before you know it, the basement is a disaster.
Now, if I had just taken the few minutes needed for each of those occasions, found a home for new things, organized the old, the basement would be in good standing. Because I did not, I now need to do the “searching and fearless” inventory that I had already done several times before.
Step 10 is taking those few extra minutes each day to keep my life in good working order. If I fail to regularly take a look at myself, resentments start to pile up, regret over poor choices gather, and, before I know it, I am feeling horribly and can’t begin to unravel the emotional knot my life has become.
There are other benefits from taking this mini-inventory: it keeps me from the wasted energy of judging everyone else, it keeps the focus on what I can control (myself) and keeps the focus away from what I can’t (everyone else). Making amends promptly is, like everything else, not easy to do, but with practice gets a lot easier, and there is something to be said for laying my head down at night with a clean conscience!
The picture above is my son and his boy-band mates (my son, in the middle, sang, while his friends played sax and guitar) after their performance in the school talent show yesterday. What a miracle to witness their enthusiasm!
Since I am in “follow-up” mode this week, I figure I’d follow-up last Wednesday’s post.
I committed, to myself and to a fellow blogger, to start (re-start? for the gazillionth time?) my fitness routine. I have languished, and that is putting it mildly, for the past year, and it’s time to get back on the horse again (in this case, the horse is an elliptical machine).
Committing to somebody other than myself, so far, has been a brilliant maneuver: I have exercised, in some form or another, for 10 days straight. May not seem like much, but for me it feels like 10 days sober did… a miracle. I genuinely cannot remember a time that I have exercised 10 days in a row.
And I have seen progress, too, in this short time. First day: 14 minutes, and I thought I might pass out. Today: 28 minutes, and I could have gone longer, but I am trying to do the “slow and steady” approach, so no more than one-minute increases each day until I hit 30 minutes, and I will re-assess this weekend.
So here’s my story for today: I have been fortunate to grab the same machine each day since I started back to the gym. This helps me because I can use the final numbers as a relatively accurate chart of my progress. This morning, I was not so lucky. An older woman was puttering around “my machine” for so long that I decided that I would just use another.
Which meant that, by the end of my time, my miles travelled, and calories burned, were way less than any of the other days.
Now, my logical mind certainly knows that each machine is different, and that the numbers are relative anyway. But my competitive, instant-gratification senses were fairly disappointed: how could I go for the longest time yet, and come up with such poor results?
Pre-recovery me would have sulked about this all day, would have held a deep resentment to the puttering old lady, and would have berated myself for such a poor performance, which in all probability would have led to giving up.
Post-recovery me knows that I committed to exercising every day, no matter what, and I went above and beyond my commitment to myself (20 minutes is the minimum). Further, post-recovery me knows that using a different machine uses different muscles, which in all likelihood was better for me all around.
So, take that, old way of thinking!
Refraining from shooting the old lady dirty looks definitely constitutes a miracle. Oh, second miracle… had a conversation at the bus stop about Garanimals, which I had to explain. We compared ages, and are within a year of each other (which makes me all the more confused as to how Garanimals does not come instantly to mind). There was surprise at my year of birth, the thought was that I was of a younger generation. Tell me that is not an excellent way to start the day!
This story just keeps getting… well, I won’t say better and better, I guess I’ll choose more and more interesting.
I’m just going to jump right in (if you are new, please read Jesus, Take the Wheel). I get to my meeting this morning, usual time, about 30 minutes before it starts. I will be honest here: when I got in and saw I was by myself, I breathed a sigh of relief. I recognize this is probably not the most charitable attitude, but there it is. So I set up, make coffee, and settle in to select a reading (usually I do this over the weekend, but I wasn’t sure what to expect with this woman, so I didn’t bother. Also, the second week of the month is the easiest book from which to select a passage, so I knew I would be safe either way). I had just finished reading what I knew would be a perfect subject about which I could share, and zooming into the parking lot, at “club car” level audio, is my mystery chair person from last week.
Damn! Again, uncharitable, but honest.
So I sit in the chairperson’s chair and wait for her to come in. She breezes through, and says, “Oh, I’m so glad you’re here and you made coffee, because I’m running late.”
Side note: I am getting annoyed all over again just typing this story.
I say, “I will always be here, because I started this meeting, and I have been the only chair up to this point.”
She says, “Yes, well I’m here now, and I signed up to chair this month.”
Okay, at this point, I would imagine anyone who is not familiar with AA tradition is possibly jumping up and down, ready to scream at me in frustration. Why didn’t I just put her in her place?!?
Here’s the answer: AA has 12 steps and 12 traditions, which are the closest thing our group has to by-laws. Tradition 2 states:
For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority—a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
What this means is that even though I started this meeting, and I am the only member who has chaired, does not make me the dictator of the meeting. All decisions made for a meeting should be done with group conscience. So, if this woman wants to chair the meeting, and I don’t think she should, the correct means for me to go about “dethroning” her would be to take a vote of all the attendees. Which, of course, I am not going to do.
Plus, practically speaking, I am hoping to increase attendance at my meeting. So the last thing I want to do is alienate someone I don’t know, and have her badmouthing her experience.
So I do what I told myself I would do if she showed up: I sit down in the “spectator” seats, and I wait for her to start the meeting.
She begins, has no idea what book we are reading from, I fill her in (she has to ask my name twice), and we start reading. She shares first, which is traditional, at least in the meetings in my part of the world.
Spoiler Alert: this is going to get a little catty.
She announces that she just celebrated 16 years of sobriety, and passes around her coin for all of us to see. Which is awesome. But then she starts to share what is going on in her life as it relates to the passage we had just read. The story starts out relevant, but quickly and terrifyingly devolves into impossibly hard-to-follow stories from childhood. Stories that include, but are not limited to: pagans, warlocks, organized crime, and holding people at gunpoint with a shotgun.
As good an imagination as I have, I promise you I could not make this stuff up. Truthfully, I am leaving a lot out, because some of it is not fit for this blog.
On the one hand, I am always happy to lend an ear for someone who needs to talk. She actually admitted that she did not speak at meetings for, and I quote, “the first 18 years of her sobriety” (yes, if you are paying attention, she did say 18 years, even though she passed around a 16-year coin. Frankly, by this point I wouldn’t have asked for clarification even if I wanted to). She clearly needs to get things out, and that is what meetings are for.
On the other hand, as the one who started this meeting, as the one who has something invested in it, and as the one who really, really wants to increase attendance, this kind of stream-of-consciousness, frightening sharing worries me. All of the other attendees at today’s meeting are older, some retired, and consistently conservative. Will this kind of sharing turn them away? I just don’t know.
Two bright spots: first, this month only has 4 weeks, so we are already halfway there. Second, I have gotten close with one of my regular attendees, a woman with 28 years of sobriety, and more wisdom than I could ever hope to achieve. I am going to email her and ask for her advice, as she is a witness to this madness, but has been around for a lot longer than I have, so will probably had some sage advice on where to go from here.
No matter what happens, I have been planning on doing another “media blitz” to re-market, I am definitely waiting until this situation resolves itself!
That I don’t have warlocks or pagans as part of my recovery story. That may sound sarcastic, but I am serious, I am grateful!
Step Nine: Made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others
There is a lot of debate among members of the 12-step fellowship about which step is the hardest to complete. If I was the deciding vote, it would be step nine. Full disclosure: I am not even halfway through this step yet, I am procrastinating for all sorts of reasons. Here is what I can tell you about this step: it does give a real sense of freedom. For me, when I have completely and thoroughly made amends to someone, I felt like I could, once and for all, stop hanging my head in shame regarding my addiction.
So, let’s break it down: what does it mean to make direct amends? Here is how I was taught to complete a step 9 amends: first and foremost, it should be a face-to-face encounter (the “direct” part). Next, it is very important to explain what you are doing to the person with whom you are making amends. After explaining the process, you should dive right in, and list out the harms you have caused, being as direct as possible. It is critical when doing this process to focus only on the harms you have done… this process is about cleaning up your side of the street, not pointing out the failings of others. After you have listed out the things for which you wish to make amends, tell them the regret you feel, and ask what you can do to make things right. At this point the dialogue can vary, depending upon the response you receive. Finally, ask if there is anything you left out that is still hurting the person, something you may have forgotten, or not realized you have done.
The difference between step nine and an apology is the part about making things right. As alcoholics/addicts, we have all apologized too many times to count. An apology is regret for a past action; an amends is a commitment to rectify the past action to the best of your ability, as well as an honest effort not to repeat the mistake.
So why, if it’s so liberating, have I not completed it yet? Because, and here’s the bottom line: it’s damn hard! It’s hard to sit down and write out for each individual everything you need to make amends, it’s hard to muster up the courage to approach the person, it’s hard to explain to someone not in recovery why you must dredge up the past, and it is really, really hard to look someone in the eye and admit your past mistakes.
Another stumbling block for me personally is the second half of step nine: except when to do so would injure them or others. This portion has stopped me in my tracks with many of my amends. Dredging up the past in order to “clean up my side of the street” sometimes feels as though I am doing it at the expense of causing those closest to me pain, which seems contradictory to the process. How I have handled this conflict so far is: when it doubt, hold off on the process. I believe when the time is right, I will know it.
Everyday life can prove equally as challenging in the application of this step, but the payoff is just as rewarding. You don’t have to be an alcoholic to have life-long resentments, hurt and anger you hold on to way longer than is necessary, and ultimately hurts you more than it hurts anyone else. Making amends, doing what you can to right your wrongs, has a way of releasing that negative energy from your life. Step 9 is not something that you can just pluck out of order, do and expect instant results… you need to do the prior steps in order to have the right perspective to make a proper amends. But if there is something in your life… a relationship, a past incident, anything, that just keeps resurfacing, then in all likelihood it is something you need to examine, and find your responsibility in it. If you can do that, and clear up your part in it, then you are the best possible position to let that pain go, and what better payoff is that?
I can tell you this, even with the limited number of amends I have completed… when I finished each one, I felt freedom unlike anything I have felt before.
In honor of my friend Christy, today’s miracle is five badass days in a row of exercise!!!
So, I’m going to tackle a subject I really, really don’t want to… health and fitness. If you’ve been following, even in an half-hearted sort of way, this blog, you will know this has been a tumultuous relationship all my life. Issues with body-altering substances predate issues with mind-altering ones by a lot of years.
When I hit my personal bottom, I was at the lowest weight of my adult life. But, let’s face it, active addiction is not a beauty regime… I looked like shit. Not that I was paying close attention to the numbers on the scale, but, then again, the fact that I can tell you the first fact of this paragraph means it registered in some way. So, fast forward through the past 16 months, and life is exponentially, magnificently, miraculously better. So much better, in fact, then let’s have some celebratory food… you get the picture. And up the weight has gone, through the past 16 months.
At first, I was just so damned happy to even want to eat, I was actually relieved to see the scale go up. I am not a therapist, but I don’t think it takes one to see that low weight (for me, that is) and active addiction are connected in my brain. So seeing a weight with which I am familiar is now connected with sobriety.
Except that is the stupidest form of logic ever, because my low weight is still well above the ideal weight for someone my age and height!
And here’s the other part, the part that is all about how my addicted brain works… if I am choosing not to worry about my weight (which for a long time I did, in order to make recovery my focus), then why not just go whole hog and eat whatever I feel like? And if I am eating whatever I feel like, then why bother with the gym? And so on, and so on, down the spiral we go. Which, as anyone who has tried to lose weight will tell you, the further down the spiral you go, the harder it is to turn it around.
Meanwhile, all the regular bloggers that I follow are, for one reason or another, going on cleanses, giving up sugar, running marathons. And you want to tell me God does not speak directly to us?!?
So, for all sorts of reasons, health and fitness have been on my mind. And every time I try to get up the gumption to do something about it, I feel overwhelmed, and I fall right back to my normal routine, which, as you know, has been a beautiful thing for me for the past 16 months. But, still, even though I had taken no action, I really have been thinking about it, praying about it, and trying to get quiet and listen for the answer.
This weekend, something new came to me. I have no idea if it is the answer, or just a load of crap, but any action is better than the total inaction of the past few months.
I realized that part of what overwhelmed me about trying to get myself “in shape” was the magnitude of the task. I mean, I have probably 6 or 7 major things that I should change, immediately if not sooner, to live a healthy lifestyle. But every time I thought of taking on this task, it tired me out just thinking about, plus that whiney little voice in my head saying, “oh great, yet another thing we need to give up!” It was just easier to think about it “later.”
So this weekend, it occurred to me: perhaps this all-or-nothing thinking might possibly be the stumbling block? Perhaps just taking one or two of the 6 or 7, focus on them, and see how I feel, might be the starting point. And, while I’m at it, I can address the whiney little voice by doing this… take 1 or 2 items that don’t require me to “give up” something; rather, take 1 or 2 items on the list that just have me add something in, and see how it goes.
And, of course, because there are no coincidences, Christy over at Running on Sober, right at the same time I am formulating this plan, asked me to join her in a new fitness regime, which I gratefully accepted.
So, like I said, no idea if this will work or if it is just another lame-ass attempt on my part that will fall by the wayside in a few hours/days/weeks. I hope not, but my track record is not good in this department. I do know this: since the idea came, and Christy asked, I have been to the gym every day (oh, and, for the record, the second item is to drink more water).
Sorry for the long-winded post. Interestingly, this is the first time in a long time that I have to actually stop myself from writing more. I could honestly go on for a lot longer with this thought process, which tells me that I have been putting this idea off for far too long (and should warn readers that this is not the last you will read on the subject). Wish me luck!
Summoning the courage to write about a sensitive topic… my normal way of thinking would have me achieve a goal before announcing my intention, so I am scared to reverse the order, but it’s time to try something new!
Man, have I got a good story to share today! Okay, to repeat for the umpteenth time, I chair the AA meeting I started on Monday mornings. This morning I had a woman I know, a fellow addict but one who is resistant to 12-step fellowships, come with me to check out my meeting and see if she could find some common ground for herself. So in we walk to the meeting room, and, lo and behold, a woman I have never met is sitting in the chair person’s seat reading a newspaper. It is about 25 minutes before the meeting is to start, and, truthfully, I don’t think a thing of it. My meeting takes place in a “recovery club house,” a building that houses different 12-step programs, so I assumed she was connected with the club house in some way. I put my coffee mug and purse down on the desk and introduce myself. She responds in kind, but says no more, and does not appear to be interested in moving from the seat. I then say, “are you here for the 10 am meeting?” She says, with a bit of attitude, “of course I am, I am the chair of the meeting.”
Now, let’s take a brief pause in this story. For those of you reading this who know me, can you picture what my face must have looked like? For those reading who don’t know me personally, I am extremely facially expressive. Now, obviously, I can’t see myself, but the friend who came with me was chuckling later, and saying, “I wish you could have seen your face!”
Okay, back to the story…
I try as best I can to recover from my surprise at this new revelation from the stranger. I am surprised for the following reasons:
1. I started this meeting, solo venture, 8 months ago.
2. Up to this point, I am the sole chair person of the meeting
3. I have never met this woman in my life
So, I say to her, “I’m sorry for my surprise, I did not realize you had volunteered to chair. To whom did you speak to take on this commitment?” She says, “I signed up for it,” and begins looking around for whatever sign-up sheet she is referencing.
Side note: I do not have a sign-up sheet for my meeting.
Back to the story… I say, “Don’t worry about looking for the sheet, it doesn’t matter, I am happy to share this responsibility, and it will be great for the meeting to have a different viewpoint!”
And I take my seat in the audience. At which point I realize she has no reference materials, no meeting format, etc., so I pull out my binder and I get everything ready for her. I explain the rotating literature format, and tell her this week is Big Book, and she seems amenable, so again, I take my seat.
The meeting proceeds fairly smoothly. We have 7 attendees (I will now include myself!), she selected a story from the Big Book, and the meeting went on as any AA meeting would. Turns out she has 16 years of sobriety, and again I am stunned, as I have never seen her before, at this club house or any other area meeting I attend.
There’s not necessarily a moral to this story, just an interesting chain of events that I wanted to share. She did end the meeting saying that she “signed up” to chair for the entire month, so I guess we’ll see what happens. On the one hand, I firmly believe that this or any meeting can only be improved by a variety of view points, so having someone volunteer to chair the meeting is a good thing. I will admit, though, it did throw me a little, the way in which it played out. I would have liked the opportunity to initiate this change myself, rather than have someone just jump in and do it for me, but my best guess is that she actually signed up for another meeting at the club house, and came to mine by mistake. So we’ll see what happens next week…
I would say my recovery from my surprise chair person (facial expression notwithstanding) counts as a miracle!