Meeting Differences

I got sober in one place. I lived within a 20 mile area from the time I was born until I was 22. That’s where I went to meetings for six years, and it’s where I got sober. When I was one year sober (after five or six of drinking, but still in AA) I moved very far away from my home. Over the next twelve or so years, I moved many times, usually only living somewhere for a year until I moved back to my home town and stayed there for six years. Then I moved again and I’ve lived where I am now for almost ten years.

I have always gone to AA through all the moves. It is amazing to me that in all those places, there are thousands of people recovering through the AA program. All of the moves were within the US, though I did go from one side to the other and back, and a bit toward the middle. All the AA meetings used the same books, steps and traditions of course, and the meetings are more similar than they are different.

I really hesitate to criticize a meeting because at the core, it is an AA meeting, people are getting sober there, and I owe it my life. I wonder if moving and finding it hard to totally embrace different meeting formats is a problem of oldtimers. With lots of time, I would think, one is apt to get set in their ways, and would find it more difficult to accept something different than a newer person.

So personally, I do find all the reading boring and frustrating. Especially bad, to my patience, is the reading of items from the newsletter. So many times the person reading tells about little details of far off meetings and it eats up time. But honestly I also find it tedious to listen to “How it Works” at every meeting, all the traditions, all the promises, and goodness knows what else. I also find listening to one speaker tedious at times. Where I’m from, speakers spoke for shorter periods of time, and in an hour meeting there would be at least two of them. Finally I don’t like the aspect of the discussion meetings in my area where no one gives feedback. This is not the dreaded “cross talk,” but a format where the leader or speaker might make a short comment rather than, no matter what someone has said, say, “Next.”

Well this post is even boring me. I obviously have opinions about what I like and what I dislike regarding the format of an AA meeting. By no means, though, am I putting down the AA here or anywhere. I’m sure these things evolved for a reason, and the variety is actually interesting. It’s that certain night of the week when I know the nearby meeting features lots and lots of reading that gets me down. And I know I could join the group and try to see if others would see it my way and cut down. But I don’t do that.

Meetings

I didn’t go to a meeting today. I had meant to, and if everything had gone as expected, I would have. As it is, we had snow. I stayed home and worked from home, and my wife stayed home to go to the dentist. So I sort of felt like if I couldn’t go to work, I couldn’t go to a meeting. There is a small element of actually being afraid of the weather. I’ve been in situations where, as my car slid, I wondered what I was doing out. I’ll probably go to a meeting tomorrow instead.

I’m following a blog of a young woman who is on her third day sober. She didn’t go to a meeting today. I also have recently had the awesome experience of introducing two people to the program and watching them get sober. They also declined to make 90 meetings in 90 days. This was just so done when I was getting sober (unfortunately, a period of time that spans years). I still hear it being suggested and I still suggest it, but it seems to have fallen by the wayside.

I could write about all the reasons I think that people who are able to should do 90 in 90. That’s probably not addressing my purpose here, though, which is to reflect on long term sobriety.

So I didn’t go tonight and I probably will go tomorrow night. I don’t really like the meeting that is closest to me tonight. Part of that is having “grown up” and gotten sober elsewhere. I don’t like the format of the meetings here as much as the ones that were popular when and where I got sober. At the meeting that I would have gone to (and it’s actually going on now, as I write), they read, no lie, for 10, 15 or twenty minutes. The preamble. The grapevine. The steps. How it works. The traditions. The newsletter. Then they break to divide into several meetings. Then they start the respective meetings and then they end an hour after they began.

I do go to other meetings that are farther away, and I’ll continue to do that probably lots of the time. That has advantages and disadvantages, but when I’m that irritated with the format the advantages probably outweigh the disadvantages.

At this time in my sobriety, I go to one meeting a week for sure, often two, and every once in a while even more. I don’t have kids at home, but there is the matter of the dog. I’ll leave that for another post.

Alanon

I went to three meetings yesterday – a beginners meeting in alanon, a regular meeting in alanon, and to my regular home group meeting. Alanon is something I’ve mostly held off all these years. I’ve been to less than five meetings total, counting the two yesterday.

To say I qualify would be silly. I cannot think of any relatives, really, who aren’t alcoholics or addicts. My parents and several grandparents, my wife and probably my son if not both of my kids. I can go to any category of alanon and fit perfectly. I don’t know why I haven’t liked the meetings I’ve been to. I haven’t identified big time with the “adult children of alcoholics” since I’ve heard of such a thing. THE first book, written in the 80s, really left me cold. I usually think it’s because my father died when I was so young (6), that I never developed so many of the character traits that are common to this group. But even as I say that, I know that my mother still to this day presents me with issues because of her drinking. Yet I usually just don’t identify.

Yesterday’s meeting was on a tradition, which bores the hell out of my even in AA. So not a good example. But I told the friend who suggested I go that I will go again. I’m well acquainted with “contempt prior to investigation” and of course I know better. I’m also trying to borrow a page from another friend’s book that says that when someone asks if they can help, don’t say no, say I don’t know, and explore what they offer.

Being true to myself

This is one thing that has become increasingly important to me. In being true to myself I decrease the likelihood of developing a resentment toward someone or something. The way this might play out is, for instance, let’s say someone wants me to do something for them or with them, and I don’t really want to. I could be true to myself and say, “no,” or I could do it and be miserable throughout the experience. That isn’t fair to me or the other person. And when I’m miserable in the experience, it is my own fault. (This is not to say that I don’t sometimes do things that I don’t want to as a compromise, because I do. In those situations I make a conscious decision to do the thing that I don’t want to and to NOT develop a resentment because I’ve engaged in ‘whatever’ for the sake of a relationship.) Get it?

Living on the Sixth Step

My current best idea of how to begin is to begin on the sixth step.

Became entirely ready to have God remove these defects of character.

These defects of character being those that were listed and shared during the fourth and fifth steps. For me, those took place over ten years ago, and over five years ago the time before that. The first time I did the fourth and fifth steps I continued on down through the rest. The second time I didn’t. So as I approach, I think, the third time, it struck me that it may be best to first revisit six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, one, two and three.

It’s already a huge challenge to write and try not to correct and edit and make it better. But writing like that probably wouldn’t get me far, so I’m going to try to let that go right now. And I do mean now.