Why I Go To Meetings
Why I Go To Meetings
The other night I was reminded, once again, why I go to 12 Step meetings. I am reminded every so often of the importance of meetings, usually when I don’t feel like going. When I am in my lazy mode and just want to stay home. But going to meetings today is a vital part of my recovery. I am also blessed to live in a city where there are so many meetings to choose from. I’ve had the privilege of attending meetings in a couple different cities, and the Fellowship we have here is amazing.
Just one of the many sets of tables I’ve sat around in my days of recovery.
The following are just a few reasons why I go to meetings:
This is my number one reason for going to meetings. I remember in early sobriety, my head was a jumbled-up mess of emotions, feelings, and garbage. I was learning how to live life on life’s terms, and I was having trouble.
When that hamster started going in my brain, round and round on its little wheel, I knew I was in trouble. My head, even on a good day, is a dangerous place to be. So, when those crazy thoughts started spinning in my head, I hit a meeting. Sometimes I had to go to two meetings a day just to get through. Especially late at night, when it started getting dark outside early. That’s when the depression kicked in, and I couldn’t get the thought of a drink out of my head.
A few months into sobriety I started taking on service positions. I started small with making the coffee, going around and refilling everyone’s cups during the meeting. As time went on I worked my way up to signing cards, then chairing meetings, and eventually I was treasurer for my home group meeting.
Service work of any kind gets me out of my head, even for just a short amount of time. Right now, I have a committed service position at my Friday night meeting where I go an hour early to set up chairs. That position not only gets me out of my head, but it gives me a reason to leave the house too. I’ve had many nights where I don’t feel like being around other humans, but having a committed service position makes me go, even when I don’t want to. And I always feel better when I do.
Today I still have a mild form of social anxiety. But it is not nearly as bad as it was when I first got sober. When I was in early sobriety, the very thought of going up to someone and introducing myself felt like a huge challenge. But going to meetings helped with that fear. As time went on, and I met more and more people, I got to know the people around me. I realized they weren’t judging me after all, and many of them were struggling with the same difficulties too.
I developed coping mechanisms for the times I felt uncomfortable. I learned how to talk to people without wondering if I was saying something stupid. I learned what true friendships were, not just acquaintances that I thought were friends. And, I built self-confidence, something I don’t think I’ve had since I was young.
This one may sound morbid, but it is the truth. In sobriety, the odds are against us. Yes, there are many people who sober up and stay that way. But, there are many more who don’t make it, and relapse. Just last night I ran into someone whom I know has been struggling to stay sober. He termed himself a “chronic relapser”, meaning that he stays sober for a while, and then relapses. Those are the painful ones. Especially when you see them at meetings. You see the fire in their eyes, a glow in their personality when they finally start to grasp the Program, and then you hear that they relapsed.
Relapse doesn’t have to be a part of sobriety for anyone. Unfortunately, for many, it is. Some people think they’ve hit their bottom, but as it turns out, that bottom was only a false bottom, and they keep falling farther.
I go to meetings to share pieces of my story: what I was like, what happened, and what I do today to stay sober. The main reason for meetings is for people to share how they have stayed sober.
Unfortunately, not all meetings are like this. I’ve been to many meetings where people only talk about what happened to them when they were drinking, also known as drunkalogues. Those are the meetings where I need a lot of serenity because I’m not hearing the solution, I’m only hearing the problem. But, instead of just sitting there, complaining in my head about how awful the meeting is, I speak up. I share my idea of the solution, and hope that someone is listening.
I don’t go to meetings to sit and get something out of it. If I did that, I wouldn’t stay sober. I do go to meetings however, to share the Message of recovery. Sometimes people listen, and sometimes they don’t. But that’s not on me, that’s on them. All I can do is try.
I go to meetings to receive support from others in the Fellowship. Building camaraderie with other people helps boost my self-confidence in the good times. And when I’m having a hard time, or a bad day, I have the support of my fellows as well.
This was especially true in early sobriety. On the days I wanted to say fuck it, I had support from others because they too had the same feelings in early sobriety. Or, when a life event came up, and I didn’t know how to handle it, I could find someone who had a solution.
I can give that support back to others at meetings as well. I can help others with their problems by keeping in touch with them, and talking to them on a continuous basis. It’s a give and take kind of thing. Before I got sober it was always give, give, give. I would give everything I had, every ounce of energy, but would receive nothing back. Today, thankfully, that is not the case.
I go to meetings so the newcomer has a place to go. Without me, and countless others, there would be no meeting for them to go to. Sometimes helping the newcomer means introducing myself, giving them my phone number, and offering to help when they need it.
Other times it is giving them a meeting list, and circling the meetings I know are good, or the meetings that I go to on a regular basis. By circling the meetings, I am helping them find a meeting where they will have a friendly face to recognize. I know the feelings that come with trying out a new meeting all too well. I also know having someone there that I know already goes a long way.
There are many different types of Fellowships available today. AA, NA, SMART Recovery, meetings online, and blogs here on Medium. Some people also receive support through in-patient and out-patient treatment. But my point is, there is no right or wrong way to get sober. What works for one person may not work for another.
My advice to you is this: First, don’t let anyone tell you one Fellowship is the only way to get sober. You know, those people who scream from the rooftops, and say AA is the only way to get sober. It’s not. Don’t listen to them.
Second, if you have a variety of support groups available in your town/ city, try them all. Go to different meetings, different groups, and see what works best for you. But, give yourself time to decide. Don’t go to one AA meeting and write it off as a bad job. Try a few different meetings, talk to some people, and get a feel for it before you decide it’s not for you.
Believe me, not every meeting is the same. In AA alone there are Open Discussion meetings, Closed Discussion meetings, and speaker meetings. Try one of each and see what you like, or don’t like. But the thing is, you must try before you know.
Originally published Dec 8, 2016 – medium.com