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A Truly Excellent Meeting

I am guessing (I write with a martyred sigh) that I will be writing my Monday Meeting Wrap-Up posts on Tuesdays during the summer months.  I just can’t seem to get my act together before then, but, better late than never!

Yesterday’s meeting was wonderful in a way it hasn’t been in quite some time.  It’s not that any one big thing happened, I guess a collection of smaller events, but the totality of the experience had me in an upbeat mood for the rest of the day.  Add to it that I was able to meet with my sponsee later that same afternoon, and she is getting close to celebrating 6 months of continuous sobriety, and I had a recovery day unlike any in recent memory.

So what makes a good meeting?  There were a few components that made it special.  I think the number of participants helps.  Too many, and you can get lost in the crowd, or feel intimidated (not that I have ever had to worry about this particular issue).  Too little (an ongoing struggle for my particular meeting), and then people feel forced to share, which can lead to somewhat muddled topics.  We had 10 at yesterday’s meeting, which, as Goldilocks would say, was just right.

Next ingredient that made the meeting magic was the celebration of anniversaries.  We got to celebrate two:  one gentleman had 27 years of sobriety, another had 60 days, and the juxtapositioning of these milestones was inspirational!  The importance of their sober time was so evident to each of the men, that it gave me the chills.

I guess the final piece of the puzzle was the subject matter.  Now on this portion I am obviously biased, since as chairperson, I select the readings.  I picked Chapter 6 from the book Living Sober, entitled Getting Active.  The title jumped out at me, due to my recent commitment to physical fitness, but there was so much more in that chapter than exercise.  In relating to the chapter with the group, it allowed me to relive my life and daily routine in early sobriety, and compare it to the present day, not something about which I sit and ruminate by myself.  After I spoke, every person had something relevant and insightful to share… again, it was a cool thing to hear the perspective of someone 60 days sober, versus someone with 27 years (actually, we had 2 different people with 27 years!).

I will end with this small story, just to give an update on the posts about mystery woman who was “helping” me in June.  When I first arrived, a friend was there before me, a gentleman who normally does not make it to my meeting because he likes to sleep in.  I expressed my surprise and gratitude, and into the parking lot roars my mystery chairperson.  I must have had a look on my face, because John said, “oh, you know Crazy B?”  John is one of the people who have 27 years, so he probably knows most of the AA members in the area.  I explained what had happened in June, and then she walked in.  He immediately took over.  He starting talking with her, and within 2 minutes of the conversation managed to fit in, “You know Josie, right?”  She is the chair of this meeting.  You’re not the chairperson, correct?”

As I’m typing this story out, it sounds condescending, but I promise you it was not.  It was direct, and assertive, but not as obnoxious as it may seem in my storytelling.  She said, “No, I just decided to chair in June.”  John said, “Well, from now on, Josie can let you know if she needs a replacement, you would be willing to help her, right?”  She says, “Sure.”

And in 30 seconds the situation resolved itself.  By the end of the meeting, the woman approached me, and said she is thinking of starting her own meeting!

So, my recovery friends, I’d love to hear from you… what makes a good meeting for you?

Today’s Miracle:

I have been doing a walk/run mile on the treadmill, and was able to shave off an entire minute… Hooray!

Jesus, Take the Wheel: The (Fingers Crossed) Conclusion

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!

Chairman of the Board

Another day, another milestone!  Today I had the privilege of chairing my first 12-step meeting.  A little background… each fellowship, I am sure, has its own proceedings, but in Alcoholics Anonymous, each meeting is very regimented.  It is typically one hour long, and has one person who leads the meeting… that person is the chairperson.  There is an agenda that is followed exactly the same at each meeting.  There are different types of meetings:  speaker meetings, where the chairperson asks a member of the fellowship to share his or her story.  There are literature meetings, where the group reads a portion of AA-approved literature.  Finally, there are topic meetings, where the chair person talks about something related to recovery.  No matter which type of meeting, the last 30 minutes are devoted to sharing, where the group talks about how they relate to the speaker, literature or topic, or they simply share what is going on in their lives as it pertains to their addiction.

Mondays at my group are speaker meetings, so I asked my sponsor to share her story with the group.  I was very surprised to discover that I was nervous this morning.  Typically I don’t mind speaking in front of people, plus I believed that the chairperson has a fairly straightforward job.  But I did not realize how different it would feel sitting in front of the group, rather than in the midst of it.  And I felt the importance of my task from the moment I sat down… this meeting could be life or death to someone, and I was in charge of it!  It felt like a tremendous responsibility in the moment.  And yet, at the same time, the encouragement and support from the “regulars” who have gotten to know me in the past 93 days was absolutely overwhelming, and gave me the strength I needed to power through.

And I don’t really have the words to describe the feeling of accomplishment I had when I completed the meeting.  I have been watching the chairperson for a really long time, and thinking that I would never meet the requirements for taking on the role (90 days of sobriety), so the feeling of pride I have, even now, is amazing, and I look forward to volunteering for the role again!

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