Jesus, Take the Wheel: The Follow-Up

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!

Today’s Miracle:

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!

Posted on June 10, 2013, in Monday Meeting Miracles and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Oh my gosh! I can’t help but smile at this and ask, seriously?! Wow. I’m SO proud of you for going with the flow despite wanting to give her a piece of your mind! Thank God for the steps and traditions that teach us these tools! Can’t wait for next week’s update!


  2. I’m sorry but this is just funny. I’m still laughing. I love how your irritation comes out in your writing. Beautiful. My goodness, I’ve been to so many meetings like this and asked all the same questions. This is so right on target. For me it’s a measure in humility. I am not in charge. If I was there I’d chair and be on time… I hope 🙂
    ps. just goes to show you … more time doesn’t necessarily mean more recovery


    • So true, Lisa. I heard early on “some are sicker than others.” I repeated that, mantra-like, through the hour.

      My irritation showed through? So now I can add to the ways I wear my heart on my sleeve 🙂

      So great to hear from you, hope you are feeling well!


  3. Y’all beat me to the good stuff (“some are sicker than others” was the one I thought of right away after reading this). Great comments!

    Yeah, I don’t know Josie….you are more spiritually fit than I would be. Again. I would have probably (in a *nice* way 🙂 ) asked the person where the sign up sheet was, what group she thought she was chairing, etc. I guess in the end I have no clue how I would have handled that. I haven’t had that experience. But good work on the 2nd Trad there…nice play. Humility, like Lisa said, is key here. Erase ego. Go with the flow, etc. And it seemed like it was fine last week, by your accounts. What I would have a problem is someone hijacking the meeting to go on a bizarre rant. I have seen it many times, and I haven’t said anything because I wasn’t chair (25 months of meetings and I have yet to chair a meeting, if you can believe that! Embarrassing!) Anyway, I think you did well to seek counsel from a long-timer who was there. Be good fodder – would love to know what she says.

    Sounds like she might have a few things going on there, obviously. Alcoholism might be the tip of the iceberg. Who knows. But you did great, Josie. (And by the way, I was waiting for the “catty” part of your post…you’re too nice…lol)

    Love the updates!



    • Thanks, Paul, for the validation… believe you me, I did not feel spiritually fit yesterday. Still waiting to hear from my friend, I am so curious as to her position on this issue.

      I cannot believe that you have not chaired a meeting, I wish so badly that I could have you come down here and share your story at mine. Seriously, give some thought to adding it to your resume… you have so, so much to give, you would add so much to whatever meeting you chaired. And, from the other side, there’s something very, very fulfilling about the experience!

      And of course, if you do, please write about it, I can’t wait to read about it!


  4. I’ve seen a few mentally ill individuals derail meetings with tangential or unintelligible shares or odd behavior, but what’s made me feel good is when chairs and attendees exhibit patience and gentle redirection (even when this doesn’t really work). What a great idea to pick your friend’s brain. Maybe she can give you some tips or lead you to someone else who has experience with this.


    • Thanks, BBB, and I agree… off-topic rants are usually handled diplomatically, it’s just in this case, she is the chair, and the meeting is so small it becomes awkward to do so. I am hopeful my friend will have the perfect advice to give me, she usually does, I’m just waiting to hear back from her. If this keeps up, you’re going to have to take a road trip up my way to check it out!


      • haha, I am curious enough! Plus I’d have your back. I hope the others at your meeting speak up too. At the very least, this might encourage others to “sign up” to chair.


  5. runningonsober

    Principles before personalities, huh?
    Love what Lisa said: more time doesn’t necessarily mean more recovery.

    I would have been irritated too. Smart move to not cause an unneeded scene. If you talk to her, I’d do it in semi-private (so she can save face) with another fem AA with you to back you up and witness. I really would talk to your sponsor about this and to a couple folks in your meeting. Maybe set something up in advance with them like a signal in case she goes off-topic again; or maybe enforce a time-limit? If anything, it’s good practice… chair enough, and go to enough meetings, I imagine you’re gonna see some crazy shyt go down. Always good to have an idea of a plan on what you’ll do to handle it.

    Like I said, proceed with caution, and mind your personal safety first. Trust your gut.

    On the bright side, at least no one could say it was a boring meeting! Warlocks…. huh? 🙂


    • I could not agree with you more, absolutely no one could label that particular meeting as boring.

      Thank you, too, for giving me a new way to look at this situation: an opportunity to learn how best to deal with this type of situation. Because you are so right… it will not be the last time I encounter it, so I may as well work out the best strategy for dealing.

      As always, you are an inspiration!


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