Life was very hard for us. We were often flooded with a myriad of feelings. Anger, fear, jealousy, resentment and pride often overwhelmed us. We frequently felt that there was no pathway of relief from all of these emotions. Everything became bottled up inside. Then, at some point in our lives we discovered a safety valve. We began to use drugs, alcohol, food and other substances to dampen those feelings. Initially we experienced some degree of relief. Over time we discovered that using a substance was not a solution and just added a new layer of problems to our lives.
In sobriety we still feel all of those feelings. Sometimes we need to go to meetings and just “dump” out all of those feelings we are going through. Often once is not enough. That is why you who hear people sharing on the same issue over and over again in meetings. Each time they share, the issue or feeling loses a little bit more of its power.
Meetings however are not just about us sharing. When we deeply listen to others share we can find a solution to something which has been bothering us. The collective wisdom of members of our fellowship is a power which can heal.
Personal Reflection: How do I handle my feelings in sobriety?
Before coming into the program, most of us really didn’t know how to deal with people who came to speak to us about their problems. Some of us thought they were coming to us in order for us to fix them. We often proceeded to give them an entire lecture on what they should or shouldn’t be doing with their lives. Others proceeded to just tear down the person and show them how weak, foolish or incompetent they were. Another approach was to minimize their problem and perhaps even make fun of them. And of course there was those who immediately started to talk about how their own problems far outweighed those of the person who came to seek their help.
Today, we have a different approach. We realize that most of the time people just want to be heard. It’s not our job to fix them or give unsolicited advice. There is power in just one person listening very deeply to another. As best we can, we need to drop whatever judgements we have towards the person speaking with us. We need to realize that often they haven’t had the benefit of the tools of the program in dealing with life’s challenges. Rather than viewing them as somehow defective, we need to pray that they have a spiritual awakening.
Personal Reflection: Do I give unsolicited advice?
Many of us were in love with the sounds of our own voice. We used to love to expound at length on all things great and small. Were you to ask us what the person we had been talking to had said, we probably wouldn’t have a clue. In fact, chances are we wouldn’t even be able to remember your name. This was just a manifestation of our inflated egos.
Once we entered the program, we began to explore “active listening”. This involved our focusing in a very deep way on what you had to say. Beyond just listening to your words, we would observe body language and tone. We would draw you out and ask for more detail to heighten our understanding. To verify if we had understood you correctly we restated your words and ascertained if our rephrasing was accurate.
Upon practicing active listening, we discovered an interesting phenomenon. In our previous life, people often exited from conversations with us at the earliest possible moment. We were self absorbed and the conversation was in actuality a monologue. Now a true conversation was taking place. As we practiced active listening, we found that many people now were attracted to speaking with us. As we listened to others we grew in many ways.
Personal Reflection: Am I an active listener?