I consider A.A. meetings like medicine I need to take daily and I found that the medicine is most effective if I can share something with others.
Some of the most extra-ordinary things have happened to me because of sharing my experiences. I remember well when I first started attending meetings I had all kinds of crazy thoughts spinning around in my head. I was not able to concentrate much on anything. As soon as I put up my hand and asked to share two things happened.
First, I was forced to make a coherent sentence from what was bothering me. This helped me to stop the madness for a bit. It allowed me to be able to quell the storm of activity and get a grip on things again. Even if it lasted just a few seconds or minutes, I was delighted to have those few moments of relative peace to savour.
Secondly, sharing these thoughts was like releasing some pressure which was building up inside me. Alcohol had affected me that way. I was used to bottle up and suppress my feelings, my fears and anxieties. Being able to communicate these with a group of people who are able to understand what I was going through brought just an overwhelming sense of relief. By getting some of these boogeymen out in the open did make me feel vulnerable at first but once they were out, there was no way I would allow them back in.
Some members of A.A. seem to believe that newcomers have no call opening up their mouths in meetings. In my experience they are short-changing themselves and the group by adopting these guidelines. And I have heard some terrible things said in meetings about this as well! “Take the cotton out of your ears and stuff them in your mouth!” some would say or “Newcomers should keep their toilet shut!” So much for love and tolerance being the code…..
In a few online meetings and groups I read that all newcomers should do is to “click like” and move on. And if this was not spelled out the belligerent language some A.A.’s have towards newcomers sure don’t sound welcoming.
I have gotten so much help through sharing in group meetings about the step I was doing. If I did not understand something from the book or my sponsor was not able to get through to me invariably I would be able to pick up something in a meeting that was helpful to me after explaining and talking about that which was bothering me. Those more experienced than me always found a way to be of assistance and support without putting me down. I am so grateful today for all these loving fellows who through experience and a kind attitude have carried me through recovery.
Now that I have been succesfully able to put a few 24 hours between me and my last drink I still take my medicine. Only now I am more eager to listen than to talk. I enjoy having newcomers in a meeting and like it when the whole group rallies around him or her. Not only do I want to “Thank it forward” and do my utmost to give some of what was so freely given to me. Maybe more importantly I do it for myself. Listening carefully to a newcomer reminds me of how things were for me. It helps me to deflate my ego and remind me of who I am, a sick person needing his daily dosage of good medicine if I want to look forward to another 24 hours of sanity.
When I do share I try as much as possible to express my experience, strength and hope with the rest of the group. I try not to rehash what is already said in the literature. This would only insult the intelligence of everyone at the meeting, as if they could not read it for themselves. I try to relate my experience to the wisdom that is found in A.A. literature and try to bring it across in a way that, maybe, could shed a new light on the topic. All I ask for is for my Higher Power to let the same love that was given to me to shine through to others.
As for those hostile old-timers who only appreciate listening to old-timers, I remind myself, some of us are sicker than others and only time will heal those wounds. Whenever possible I encourage sharing by those new to recovery and try only to be an example of healthy recovery. Our program is one of attraction. All I can do and all I can be is one satisfied customer.
Thanks for letting me share!
“Resolve to be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant with the weak and wrong. Sometime in your life, you will have been all of these.”
― Gautama Buddha