by: Ben Rose
Meetings – a Must?
Meeting Makers Make it. ~AA Slogan
I have heard it said time and again that to get sober, one must:
- Attend meetings
- Get a sponsor
- Work the steps
I agree with the idea behind these statements. I attend numerous meetings a week, have a sponsor and work the steps to the best of my ability. The inherent flaw in these statements is that AA and NA are not programs of commands, nor are they programs of absolutes.
The only absolute is this…absolutely do not drink alcohol or use nonprescribed drugs. Click To Tweet
The rest of the program, contained in the steps, are suggestions. You don’t “must-have” to do a damned thing except not drink alcohol or use nonprescribed drugs. Then you are clean and sober.
What’s the Big Deal about Meetings?
If meetings and all the attendant processes of sponsorship, steps, and service work are not a must, then why even bother with them? We can stop drinking and using, can’t we? Clearly, we can, because evidently millions of others have. Perhaps we can’t do it alone, but if we attend a place of worship, talk to a few trusted friends, and find other activities to fill our time, do we need the meetings?
Let’s take a deeper look at what meetings are and what the steps say. Meetings are nothing more than people gathering for a common purpose; to stay clean and sober. There is a testimony called telling one’s story, and there is sometimes confession; there is a discussion about improving the quality of one’s clean and sober life. All told, this resembles some of the better religious services I have ever attended.
Meetings Provide an Opportunity to Find a Sponsor
“All true communication must be founded on mutual need. We saw that each sponsor would have to admit humbly his own needs as clearly as those of his prospect. ” AA Today, p. 10
Taking a sponsor resembles discipleship to a large extent. We want to learn a new and better path toward a more serene existence that does not involve ourselves in chaos and constant crisis. Therefore, we look to others whose lives appear happier, more joyous, and freer than our own. We may also find someone who has life experiences similar to ours who is willing to help us with the steps. That is all that a sponsor is.
Steps – Take Them or Work Them?
So, what are the steps? What do they offer? The steps are a way to finally admit that our life is out of control because of drugs and alcohol, which is the message of Step 1. Having admitted and accepted this, we look for a solution to remedy the situation. We can find those solutions in the dogma of a church, the strict rigors of a cult-like setting, or through less structured environs.
What Does Each Step Mean and What Do I Do?
Steps 2 and 3 of AA and NA are about identifying a power greater than ourselves that can restore sanity and turning our will and life over to this power. At no time is it demanded or even suggested that this power is called Jesus, Buddha, Allah, or The Tao Logos. In fact, this power is so personal to us that it can be literally any power greater than ourselves.
People have often used their homegroup, the ocean, or just about anything else one can imagine. Again, while the dogma of a church can work, AA and NA do not require this.
Steps 4 and 5 are, in essence, the confessional found in many religions. We come to terms with our issues, assets, character defects, and shortcomings, then confess these to our higher power, another human being, and internalizes for ourselves that these exist.
Steps 6 and 7 are about asking that higher power to remove the character defects and shortcomings. In some belief systems, this is accompanied by baptism or some form of ritual. It need not be in AA and NA. It can be if one wishes.
Steps 8 and 9 are about figuring out who we hurt while we were addicted, and even at times when we were not. Once we determine who these people are, we try to make right our wrongs…providing that we don’t do further harm. There are parallels to this in some spiritual beliefs as well. Doing penance, performing good deeds, etc.
Maintaining Our Recovery
g Step10 is about continuing to learn how to be a better person by not repeating our learned negative behaviors. We try to build on our assets and decrease our character defects and shortcomings. Or, in other belief systems, we strive for perfection and continue to confess when we do not achieve it.
Step 11 is about prayer and meditation. By this time, we usually find that we’ve achieved a measure of serenity. Life is looking better, the world is looking better, and the pain of the old life is decreasing. To continue this, we take time to thank our higher power, pause for a while and breathe.
Some people do structured readings, or they might decide to review their day. The parallels to other belief systems are fairly obvious here. The process is again less structured than a prayer meeting, but the result is the same.
Principles of the Steps
Each of the 12 Steps has spiritual principles attached to them. We use them when we take the corresponding step. Try using these principles today, as an alternative and replacement for self-defeating behaviors and thoughts. I guarantee that you’ll get better outcomes in your life and not have to travel to a Buddhist monastery or some mountaintop to do it, although you’ll find many similarities.
A Complete Package Wrapped Up for Recovery
Meetings, sponsorship, and the 12 steps are not the only way to get clean and sober. They are a proven method, albeit not the only method, to find something far beyond a life of misery and denying ourselves a pleasure source that we desperately desire.
There are other benefits from attending meetings. Our lives become richer and more fulfilling when we engage with like-minded people. There is a camaraderie that builds over time. In showing up early and leaving late, we have the opportunity to meet other people who share their lives outside of the meetings. Like everyone else, addicts and alcoholics are people of varied interests and lifestyles. We’ll likely meet people who share our interests. It takes time and attending different meetings, but we will usually find our people.
I have met many others with whom I can have intellectual discussions about literature and philosophy. These are people I likely would not have known if I didn’t attend meetings.
Meetings Also Provide a Much Needed Social Connection
If you enjoy strong coffee and light nosh, meetings often provide this as well. With the current pandemic, this part has decreased, but one day it shall return. I have found meetings that have coffee, baked goods, pizza, sandwiches, and even holiday meals. Getting free nosh isn’t the main reason to attend, but it has its place on the list of reasons.
Some people have found employment through the meetings. This isn’t a guarantee, but it does sometimes occur. Mentioning your skill sets to people, after the meeting, someone may approach you about a job, which I got, and this wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t attended this meeting.
So, yes, we can find all of this at religious meetings, civic organizations, and many other places. However, we also find people who share a common problem and solutions in a recovery meeting.
That vital link makes everything else that much easier on a personal level.
Are support meetings required? They are not, but they can be helpful, though. In fact, they can be quite helpful. Click To Tweet
Bio: Ben Rose
Ben is an Oregon native who currently resides on The Florida Gulf. He has travelled extensively by bus, car, freight train, Amtrak, and foot in an effort to see America and find stories to write.
Born at the end of the turbulent sixties, his travels began in his formative years. Early in life he developed a love of cheap motels, greasy spoons, and great comedians.
He speaks fluent hipster as well as English and a smattering of French.
Ben is an ally to the LGBTQ+ Community, a supporter of human rights, and a believer in racial and gender equality.
As one with Aspergers, GAD, and PTSD, Ben has seen his share of hard traveling, abuse, and bullying which is reflected in his literary works.
He currently resides with his beautiful better half, and their emotional support cat.
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