This is a question I have heard often from those who have not had the experience, fortunately, of being an alcoholic or addict. Simply put, there is no way to explain alcoholism to a “normal” person because they just haven’t been where we have been, done the things we have done, and felt the way we have felt.
I am proud to have a wonderful home group and equally enjoy visiting other AA groups wherever I am. I am truly grateful for the support, stories, laughter, and love I have received within the walls of the halls of AA. “Keep coming back, it works if work it” is nothing to be taken lightly and is a true as anything could be said.
There are so many reasons to keep going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings throughout the course of your recovery. Here are just a few reasons to stay involved in the 12-step community, in no particular order.
- Most of us lived in isolation, chosen or not and you would never want a newcomer to show up to a darkened room or a locked door.
The first meeting really is the most important. Try and remember your very first meeting, or just before that meeting – baffled, frightened, angry, desperate, lonely, hopeless, confused, and yet somehow sitting within seconds and inches from where willingness and clarity met. And you walked into that room – perhaps after a couple of drive-by or walk-by passes to check it out. There were all these people, some ignoring you, some reaching out to you, but almost all looking a little happier than you felt and a little more comfortable in their skin than you ever dreamed possible.
…you felt a moment’s safety, and like perhaps you could exhale, and that maybe you weren’t alone.-JAY WESTBROOK
You sat through the meeting, and whether your initial reaction was “oh my God, I’m home,” or “what a bunch of losers,” or “this’ll never work for me,” or “this makes no sense,” you felt a moment’s safety, and like perhaps you could exhale, and that maybe you weren’t alone.
Now imagine going to that same first meeting and the room being dark and nobody being there. How different would your experience have been? Would you have called to see where another meeting was, or just returned to your home and your disease?
If people showed up at your first meeting, you get to repay that debt by continuing to show up at meetings so another newcomer can have the chance you had.
- Alcoholism/addiction is a disease of loneliness and isolation; meetings overcome loneliness and isolation.
It is said, again and again, that the gazelle that is eaten is the one outside the herd or at the edge of the herd, not one in the middle of the herd.
The addict’s thinking can be so self-sabotaging, telling the person with the disease that they don’t have the disease, or that they no longer need meetings because they’ve got time, got the girl or the guy, got the house, or got professional success.
Once isolated and alone, there is a much greater chance that the disease, or the thinking that characterizes it, will convince the addict that they are well, they can have just a little, have just one, have a different mind-altering substance than the one which originally brought them to meetings.
…the shared experience and wisdom of the group has an opportunity to serve as a counter-balance to that delusional and self-destructive thinking.-JAY WESTBROOK
However, when that thinking occurs – and is shared at a meeting – the shared experience and wisdom of the group has an opportunity to serve as a counter-balance to that delusional and self-destructive thinking.
- For many, God or a Higher Power is most visible and tangible at meetings.
On the one hand, in a world that seems as violent, unfair, and random as ours, where life is both brief and fragile, it can be difficult for some to maintain an awareness of and conscious contact with a Higher Power, let alone a faith in that Higher Power.
On the other hand, in a country with as much relative abundance and real opportunity as ours, the striving for and/or attainment of financial, professional, and romantic success may distract us from an awareness of and conscious contact with a Higher Power.
That being said, it is at meetings that we are least likely to be overwhelmed with doubt about a Higher Power, or so taken with ourselves that we commence to believe we are our own Higher Power. I always say, “if you have any doubt about the existence of a Higher Power, or of miracles, just look in our mirrors and our meetings, and there you will see both.”
- Meetings provide the opportunity for connections of depth and weight.
Researchers are accumulating evidence to support a theory that substance abuse is caused by, more than anything else, either a lost sense of connection or never having been able to find a sense of connection. Meetings provide the perfect vehicle for establishing those connections and the sense of connectedness that grows from cultivating the relationships that occur as “a spiritual Fellowship springs up about us.”
[Meetings] provide the chance not only to get to know others, but to truly be known by others, and both are equally important to sobriety and a sense of being connected.-JAY WESTBROOK
They provide the chance not only to get to know others, but to truly be known by others, and both are equally important to sobriety and a sense of being connected.
There’s a great story about a young woman alcoholic in Vermont. She got sober in the middle of winter and went to morning meetings every day for her first year. After taking a one-year cake, she stopped going to meetings and stopped calling her sponsor, although she did not drink.
One night, she was sitting at home, in front of a roaring fire, when there was a knock at her door. It was her sponsor, who came in, hugged the woman, sat down and watched the fire, but never said a word.
After a few minutes, she arose and picked up the tongs. She lifted a piece of wood that was in the middle of the fire, glowing orange and giving off warmth, with flames dancing along its length. She set it to the side of the fireplace, and very quickly it turned from glowing orange to ashen gray, giving off no warmth, and with no flames dancing on it. The sponsor sat back down, continuing to silently watch the fire.
After a few more minutes, the sponsor stepped back to the hearth, lifted the cold ashen piece of wood, and set it back in the middle of the fire. Almost immediately, the wood commenced to glow, the ashen appearance gone, and flames danced along its length, and it gave off great warmth.
The sponsor slipped on her coat, and as she walked out the door, the sponsee said, “thank you so much for the fiery sermon, I’ll see you at the meeting in the morning.”
- Meetings are instrumental in helping keep one sober and preventing relapse.
Again and again, people who relapse and then return to meetings, when asked what happened, say “I stopped going to meetings.” Meetings can provide that important opportunity to be of service, and that, in turn, can create both a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging.
Further, not just going to meetings, but going to the same meetings regularly, gives the alcoholic/addict a way to know others and to be known. And, being known takes away the ability to use the “F” word – not that “F” word, the other one: FINE (Feelings Inside Not Expressed).
Maybe the alcoholic/addict can convince themselves or even strangers that they are “fine,” but at a meeting where they are known, it will be easy for members of the meeting to spot problems that the FINE person is either trying to hide or is actually unaware of. “You don’t look fine; you look like you’re ready to burst into tears,” or “you look terrified and cornered,” or “you look like you’re lying – what’s going on?”
People don’t know what they don’t know, and regular attendance at meetings allows others to see and identify what the person in the midst of a situation may not be able to see or be willing to admit.
…attendance at meetings allows others to see and identify what the person in the midst of a situation may not be able to see or be willing to admit.-JAY WESTBROOK
Finally, it is only at meetings that the alcoholic/addict can consistently hear and share experience, hear and share tools, and hear that they are not alone, not the only one to ever deal with a given situation, and that getting loaded is not a solution. There’s no situation so good, that it can’t be destroyed by getting loaded; there’s no situation so bad, that it can’t be made worse by getting loaded.
Meetings are the place where joy is multiplied and pain divided, where whatever one might be going through – good or bad – another can be found who has previously navigated and survived that experience. Meetings are where a Higher Power is most likely to be found and experienced, and where alcoholics/addicts are right-sized, neither better than nor less than anyone else. They are the venue where one’s experience is valued, one’s aging is respected, one’s relapse is most likely to be prevented, and where the miracle of service is most easily practiced and received. Please, go to meetings; you are needed.