Perhaps you’ve been on the fence about attending your first AA, NA or OA meeting. There really is no requirement to join other than a desire to stop using your drug of choice. Or perhaps you’re one of those who were once active in the program but have somehow stopped going to meetings. To you we say, “come on back and we will welcome you with open arms”. Of course some of you will think to yourselves that you no longer need to attend meetings because you know longer drink or drug. To this we can respond with a simple test. If you’ve gone through the day without at least one resentment than maybe you can do without a meeting today. For the rest of you who after an honest self inventory discover those resentments we suggest you make it back to a meeting today or tonight. We can almost guarantee you will feel better after sharing what is on your mind. You might also discover that others are going through the same issues as you and can be a source of both support and help. Of one thing we can guarantee. The coffee will be plentiful, hot and strong.
Personal Reflection: is there something on my mind I need to share at a meeting today?
Alcoholics and addicts seem to have a number of characteristics in common. One of them is what we can call the procrastination syndrome. For example walk into any bar and you will overhear conversations about future plans. One person is talking about the business he plans to to open up soon. Another is speaking about the cruise she and her husband will be taking in the near future. A third is is anticipating the promotion he will receive at work any day. Now fast forward a year or two. Walk into the same bar and you probably encounter the same cast of characters. Eavesdrop again on their conversations and chances are they will still be talking about the same thing. The business venture, the cruise and the promotion are still just hopeful dreaming.
That’s the way it is with alcoholics and addicts. Somehow all of those plans and aspirations never seem to actualize. The good news is that change is possible. Once we put down the drink or the drug and begin to work our program, we start to initially notice small changes. We make commitments to ourselves and others and begin to honor them. It could be as simple as a chair or coffee commitment at a meeting. The important thing is that we show up. Over time some of those big dreams and plans begin to come true as well.
Personal Reflection: What dream do I still need to actualize?
When a person is finally willing to give the program a chance they are certainly to be commended. Many of those people spent years floating along in life. It seems as if they never could admit that they had a problem. When they became willing to give the program a chance, it was an encouraging sign. Family members were excited that their loved one was on the road to recovery.
We in the program also share in some of that new found optimism. However, our experience has shown that much more is needed after the initial excitement of commitment has been made. That is when the real work of the program actually begins. After patting the newcomer on the back, we strongly advice him that he make ninety meetings in ninety days. We push him to get a sponsor and to begin working the steps. When a newcomer hears these suggestions and immediately puts them into practice, there is a good chance that he or she has a good shot at sobriety. However, if the newcomer isn’t willing to do the work, then all the good intentions in the world will not keep them sober; and recovery will continue to elude them.
Personal Reflection: How is my program one of action?
Fantasy is a big part of the addictive mind. People sitting on a barstool have all kinds of plans for the future. They are going to land a wonderful job, travel to interesting places all over the world and find an extremely attractive, smart and successful partner to marry. Go back to that same bar 5 years later. You will probably find that same person bending the ear of their neighbor about the identical future plans. Chances are those plans will continue to just be words in the air unless that bar stool sitter makes a change and joins the fellowship.
Becoming a member of AA, NA or OA is a great first step. As our minds cleared we understood that we had been living in a fantasy. Some of us wanted to continue in the fantasy and just coast along in our program. It’s true that we were no longer using which was great. But to gain the benefits of the program and really change our lives, much more was necessary. We needed to commit to the program in a very deep way. The more we immersed ourselves in the program, the more we saw changes in our lives. If we continued to stay on the periphery, we were just one step removed from that bar stool.
Personal Reflection: How deeply committed am I to my program of recovery?
Over and over again you hear in the rooms how difficult it was for people to enter the program. There was often huge resistance to even going to a meeting. Shame about our disease kept us out of the rooms. Denial that we had a problem prevented us from crossing the threshold. Then, one day, a miracle occurred and we actually made it to a meeting. The bigger miracle was that for many of us, that date became our sobriety date, the first day we refrained from using our drug of choice. Congratulations! That moment was a truly awesome one.
Hopefully we began to realize that a lifetime of personal dysfunction followed us into the rooms. Drugs, alcohol or food were just a symptom of the problem. Our accumulated dysfunction required a lifetime of personal, transformative work. The program provided an excellent framework for beginning that work. In particular, the process of going through the steps could be life altering. The establishment of discipline and commitment by going to meetings and calling our sponsor was also crucial. Everything was laid out in front of us to initiate the process of personal change. What now mattered was our level of engagement. Our failure to do so often catapulted us back into our addiction.
Personal Reflection: What issues of mine still require work?