M(3), 1/13: The Value of Meetings

I want to write about an experience I had at my meeting this morning, but first, for the sake of continuity, I will write about the meeting itself, which was, as usual, a great one.  Eleven attendees, and the reading was a chapter from the book Living Sober, “Going to AA Meetings.”  The chapter breaks down for the newcomer what an AA meeting is like, the different formats that AA meetings follow, and the many benefits that can be gained through regular meeting attendance.  The group had some laughs reminiscing about our first meeting experiences, and how we have evolved through our various lengths of sober time.  All in all, it seems like everyone gained insight and wisdom from one another, the goal of any 12-step meeting.

Here’s the other part of the meeting I wanted to share, and hopefully I can describe it effectively.  My meeting takes place in a “clubhouse” of sorts.  For those not familiar with the term, a clubhouse refers to a facility that is used exclusively for 12-step fellowships.  Some are specific, such as an AA Clubhouse, which will run meetings several times a day, every day, and is usually open between meetings for people to socialize.  The clubhouse that houses my meeting is available for any 12-step fellowship, although in reality it mostly holds AA meetings.  It is a relatively new facility, less than 2 years old, and is struggling, both financially and in terms of actively involved members, and the future is uncertain.

One more piece of information to set the scene for this morning’s adventures:  it is a large and unsecure building.  At some point, the front door was permanently unlocked, and I have never sought out the reason for why this is so.  Since I am (more or less) only in the building during daylight hours, I have never thought much about this fact.

Back to the present:  I arrived, as I typically do, about 30 minutes prior to the start time, and I happen to pick up a gentleman who does not drive on his own.  Normally, he and I are the first to arrive, as luck would have it, another regular attendee was there early, and he brought someone with him.  I knew this because I saw his car in the parking lot.  The gentleman I drive and I walk in through the front door, and walk the short hallway to the meeting room we use.  To the right of the meeting room is a long dark hallway, which leads to other rooms.  As I’m opening the door to go into the room, I hear, from the dark hallway, a tentative “hello.”  Thinking it my friend, I say hello back, and continue into the meeting room.  Imagine my surprise when I see my friend already in the meeting room, so I walk back out to the hallway to see who was in it.  From the darkness  a disheveled looking man appears, holding the clubhouse phone in his hand.  He launches into a story asking if there was going to be a meeting, because he had been here on a Monday before hoping to find one, and finding the clubhouse empty.  By this point, both the mystery man and I are back in the well-lit meeting room with the other meeting attendees.  I cautiously explain that I run the Monday meetings, and I am always here, and he begins backpedaling, saying maybe it wasn’t a Monday, but in fact some other day of the week.  Everyone, of course, welcomes him into the meeting room, and we all begin the process of setting up for the meeting, which includes starting coffee, passing out books, and setting up several free-standing heaters to warm up the room.  In the course of this activity, we realize that one of our units does not appear to be there, at which point the mystery gentleman goes back down the darkened hallway, and reappears with a heater, saying he saw it in one of the other rooms.

Hmmm…

So here’s the conundrum for me as the meeting leader:  our traditions state, unequivocally, that the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.  On the other hand, this behavior is extremely unusual, and it was uncomfortable for me personally.  It would appear that perhaps he was setting up shop somewhere in the building.

How I resolved the issue of how to handle this gentleman, for the short-term (aka today’s meeting):  one of the attendees present is also on the board of the clubhouse, so I took my cues from him.  He shook the man’s hand, engaged him in conversation, and did not appear ruffled in the least that the heater was temporarily “misplaced.”  I watched this officer go back down the hallway, and I can only assume that he checked things out, and the mystery man did stay for the entire meeting.  The officer returned to the meeting, and, again, did not appear concerned, so I proceeded as I normally do.  At the end of the meeting, the mystery man left before me, and everything appeared intact.  The officer of the clubhouse left before I had a chance to speak with him privately.

So why am I sharing this story?  Because it was unsettling, for one, and this is where I can let out uncomfortable feelings.  For anyone reading who may be considering a 12-step fellowship, please don’t let this story discourage you… I have been a regular attendee at 12-step meeting for over 2 years now, and this has NEVER happened before.  Really, it is a strange set of circumstances, most buildings would be secure for this very reason.

I guess the other reason I am sharing it is to ask for advice… what kind of follow-up should I do?  Should I be fighting for more security in the building?  Should I be thinking about taking my meeting to a more secure location?  I would feel badly about this second option, for my meeting is one of a small handful that has stuck with it, and has regular attendance.  I don’t want to abandon these people, but… I don’t know.  It’s a strange and uncomfortable situation.

So, I would love some feedback:  how would you have handled this situation, and, more important, how would you handle it going forward?

Today’s Miracle:

That I have this support system on which to lean!

Posted on January 13, 2014, in Monday Meeting Miracles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Do you have the phone number of the member who’s on the board? Maybe giving him a quick call and asking him what he thinks:-) It definitely is unsettling and a meeting place should not have those kind of feelings associated with it. Good luck and let us know what happens!!!!

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  2. I had a similar situation happen a few months ago, in our clubroom. It was not a good feeling and because several of us were feeling the same way, we approached a few ‘senior’ members and the GSR of our group. They agreed that they did not want to ask the particular member causing the issue to leave, as they thought he would leave on his own (and sure enough, he did, just a few weeks later), but they did keep a close eye on him when he was around. We also decided as a group that nobody (male or female) closes up on their own anymore! We fortunately, do have a locked door to our clubroom and keys are signed out. So now, we always have one or two people wait for whomever has the key to open/close for the meeting of the day and we walk out together! Just wanted to share this & hope you find some resolution, too! I agree that you handled it well today & do keep up posted! 🙂

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    • Rosalyn, thank you so much for sharing this story! I think (just my opinion) part of the problem with this clubhouse is that there is not enough experience with other clubhouses; in other words, every problem is a unique one, and they don’t know how to handle. I am going to bring this story to their attention. Thanks so much for sharing it!

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  3. The loose security sounds typical and unfortunate because it could lead to something avoidable. He might be harmless, but clubhouses aren’t supposed to be shelters (not that kind anyway). Listen to your gut, and I definitely wouldn’t go to the building alone, which it doesn’t sound like you do. If you can track down the officer and talk to him about it, that might be a good place to start. Good luck and be safe.

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    • Listening to my gut… there are profound words. It took me a solid 24 hours of trying desperately to ignore my gut on this one, but I finally took the bull by the horns last night. I am going to post an update later today. Thanks, Kristen, and LOVE your new gravatar!

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  4. I don’t have experience in setting up meetings, etc. but I can tell you that in watching those who do set them up – everything is locked. Always. Not that they don’t trust alcoholics, but people are people and opportunities arise…you know what I mean. There is effort and money in those bins being lugged around, so certainly keeping them under lock and key is very important. I have also seen people lug that stuff to and from their vans. Not the best idea per se, as if you’re sick, how is the meeting supposed to be set up? Nonetheless, I would probably talk to someone about maybe getting an inexpensive IKEA like bin box or something sturdy that can be locked. Or perhaps put in a locked office there if they have.

    Hope y’all find a solution to this 🙂

    Hugs,
    Paul

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    • Great ideas, Paul. And yes, I go to meetings that are “mobile” like that as well. The issue here is more the entire building is currently up for grabs, and, particularly in cold weather, I believe entirely too appealing for someone with nowhere else to go to set up camp. I really do appreciate the feedback, though, and I will be posting an update later today!

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