M(3), 6/30: The Highs and Lows of Running a Meeting
Can you seriously believe it’s the last day of June?!? It’s seems like only yesterday that I was complaining non-stop about winter, and now the 4th of July is right around the corner (which, for people outside of the US, probably seems like a terribly random day, but it’s actually our Independence Day!).
Today’s meeting was a roller coaster of excitement, at least for it was for the chairperson (aka, Me). Let’s start with the positives:
1. Another record-breaking week: 17 attendees! The room is actually getting crowded!
2. Two separate compliments about the value of this particular meeting in their lives. Very heart-warming, and humbling too, that something for which I am responsible makes a difference in someone else’s life. Powerful stuff.
3. The months that house 5 Mondays within them are becoming quite challenging for me, as it requires extra work to research reading selections. About 30 minutes before the meeting I realized that the selection I prepared for the group was quite brief, and I was concerned that we would run short of materials to discuss. Not only did that not happen due to a large attendance, but the reading really struck a chord with this audience. For anyone with a subscription to the AA magazine Grapevine, the article is entitled “Drunk In Church” and can be found in the April 2014 issue. I picked the article both for its provocative title, and, tongue in cheek, for the regular attendee in my group who also happens to be a Catholic priest (which I told him, and he enjoyed). The discussion that followed, however, seemed to pick up on the theme of the very common dual diagnosis of depression and alcoholism. As someone who does not suffer from depression, it was eye-opening for me to hear about the challenges experienced by those afflicted with both conditions. To take or not to take medicine, judgment from the fellowship either way, and struggling to use the tools to deal with both the disease of addiction and the disorder of depression. There was a wide variety of personal experience, research, and opinion in the meeting, and I really took away a lot of wisdom. I would like to think the group enjoyed this discussion as well.
Alright, here’s the downside of today’s meeting, I’m not going to number this portion, as it falls into one general story. For those who do not follow regularly, last week I wrote that a newcomer approached me and asked me to be her sponsor. If you do remember this, you might also have notice the careful way I worded it, because I was not completely convinced her intentions were pure. On the other hand, who I am to judge, so I said of course, and gave her some basic instructions to follow about where and when we would meet next to move forward. For the rest of the week, I received some communication from her that indicated she might not have fully understood our discussion. For example, she wanted me to “give her a website where she could order some step work online and get started herself.” To those unfamiliar with the 12-step process, this is the polar opposite of how the steps work, at least the opposite in my 12-step fellowship. Again, fighting the urge to judge, I simply responded that we should wait until the agreed upon time, at which point I will have everything we need to get started.
She cancelled our meeting, and did not reply to the subsequent communication, my last one being, “Will I see you Monday?” By the time I started the meeting this morning, I assumed that I may not hear from her again, not uncommon at all within my Fellowship, and the meeting continued. Until about 25 minutes in, when she dramatically entered the meeting.
Let me take a pause in the story to describe dramatic: attention-grabbing outfit, loud entrance into the room, and, I kid you not, tried 3 different seats before she found one she liked. All in the middle of an ongoing meeting… “Oh, brother,” I think, “I’m in for an interesting second half!”
So now my chairperson sensors are on high alert, because I suspect I am going to need to intervene, something I have written before is not comfortable for me to do. All’s well for the next 5 minutes until break. During the break, I hear her emotionally speaking to the person next to her, and I hear the person next to her direct her to me. She approaches, and I am not clear on if she remembered that I am the one she asked to sponsor her or not, but launches into a personal story for which she needs advice. This is about 4 minutes into a 5-minute break.
Lest I sound heartless and/or insensitive, I have true empathy for the distress this woman seems to be experiencing, and I mean it when I say I have prayed for her every day since I’ve met her. On the other hand, I am struggling with being compassionate to her, and being compassionate to the other attendees of this meeting. So I apologize for interrupting (quite the feat, as she is speaking, not two inches from my face, in a rapid-fire manner, she is what Seinfeld has labeled a “close talker”), but I need to resume the meeting, let’s talk afterwards. She goes on for a bit more, but sits down quickly enough, and the meeting continues.
And then it’s her turn to share, and I am once again torn between letting her get out her emotions, and being fair to the rest of the group. If you have never attended a 12-step meeting, this story may make little sense; for those who are familiar, she is the type to take the meeting hostage. At least I had the foresight to check the clock as she started speaking, and I would have cut her off at 5 minutes, she spared me by finishing just shy of 5 minutes.
Here’s where it gets interesting: the main concern she shared was her family’s inability to accept her new sober self, and how much this disturbs her. Now, she is very new to recovery by her own admission (last Monday she told us she celebrated 75 days; today she said she “ninety-some” days sober), so I assume no one knows her personally, and certainly none of us knows her family. My thought process would be to guide her to looking more at herself and her actions, and less on her family’s. However, the next person to share seemed to hold a very different opinion, and spoke of how it can be difficult for the family to adjust to someone’s sobriety, and the resulting chaos that comes as a result. By the way the newcomer was vigorously nodding, I could see she enjoyed the support she was getting, and attempted to have a conversation on this subject, which I was able to deflect by calling on the next person to share. Not surprisingly, at the meeting’s close, the newcomer opted to speak with the supportive attendee rather than continue her conversation with me.
From my end of things, this woman, and how to proceed next, is a “let go and let God” situation. I would not have been giving the advice I clearly overheard the other woman giving; then again, who’s to say I know what’s right and what’s wrong? I am available if the woman needs me, at the moment she does not appear to have that need, and I will be available if that changes. As far as the balance between meeting the needs of the newcomer and the needs of the remaining attendees, I am hopeful that I kept a decent balance, but I suppose I will always wonder and second-guess myself. I guess if no one shows up next week, I’ll have my answer!
Having the privilege of getting up from writing this post, and making a pound cake for my Mother’s 74th birthday (found a recipe online that says it’s Elvis Presley’s favorite pound cake recipe, I’ll let you know how it turns out). Happy birthday Mom, I wouldn’t be the person I am without you 🙂
Posted on June 30, 2014, in Monday Meeting Miracles, Recovery and tagged 12 step, 12 step program, 12 steps, AA, Alcoholic Anonymous, Alcoholism, Clean and Sober, depression, God, Sobriety, Substance Abuse, Support group, Twelve-Step Program. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.