Thursday, August 14, 2008

Having something to say

When I first started in Al-Anon, I shared but often felt a little apprehensive. There was still a lot of pain going on in my life. And there were meetings where I felt uncomfortable. After going to a lot of meetings, I've found that there has only been a time or two that I didn't share. And I've found that the meetings I go to are the ones where I do feel comfortable.

I've found that I get a lot out of listening to others. In fact, I would much rather listen to others than actually talk. But there is something about being in a meeting that makes me feel okay about sharing my E, S, and H. I can remember dreading having to tell my story the first time. Now, it doesn't seem difficult at all. I was so serious and in a lot of pain for that first year but this year, I have gotten the message and feel much better about myself and others around me. It's as if a thick cloud has disappeared and there is nothing but clear skies.

I sometimes wish that everyone would share or had a chance to do so in a meeting. Everyone in the meetings has a story to tell or an opinion. And I learn something from everyone. I also fully understand that it is difficult for people to share, to trust and open up to a group. I have been in a meeting where the person chairing was trying to push another to share. I believe that saying "I pass" is to be respected and no issue need be made of it. I thought that the lady who kept pushing the person to share even though she declined was being pushy. Meetings are not about control but about helping us to recover from being controlled or controlling.

And sometimes people will share off topic because they need to just get something off their chest. They may be hurting or have something that is really bothering them. I think that is okay because the meetings are there to help someone who is suffering.

I found the following information on sharing a message of experience, strength and hope at meeting level. I thought that these provided a simple guide to getting the most out of a meeting.

  • Part of sharing is sharing time. Give others a chance to share. Three minutes is all it should take to carry the message at meeting level. (Humility and Service - Steps 7 & 12)
  • If you share a problem, also share the solution. (Hope, Faith, Integrity and Service - Steps 2, 3, 5 and 12)
  • Sharing IS carrying the message and that means sharing about a spiritual principle or step. (Hope, Faith and Service - Steps 2, 3 & 12 and Traditions 1, 5 and 11)
  • If God wants you to share someone will call on you. (Faith, Integrity and Humility - Steps 3, 5 and 7)
  • When you have very little to say, then say very little. Do not start by saying, “I really don’t have much to say”, and then ramble for the next 15 minutes. It is selfish and it blocks others from sharing the real message by taking up valuable meeting time. Brevity is the hallmark of efficacy. (Courage, Integrity, Willingness, Humility and Service - Steps 4, 5, 6, 7 and 12)
  • A 12 Step meeting is not group therapy, counseling, church or a garbage dump. This is the place to carry the message of recovery, not spread your disease. You are there to carry God’s message, not your own. We are, at best, vessels for the message of a loving Higher Power. (Hope, Faith, Humility, Brotherly Love, Spirituality and Service - Steps 2, 3, 7, 8, 11 and 12 and Traditions 5 and 11)
  • After you share do not get up and walk right out. Set an example for the newcomers. (Willingness, Humility, Brotherly Love and Service - Steps 6, 7, 8 and 12)
  • If you can’t get to the meeting on time you have surrendered your right to share. (Willingness, Humility and Service - Steps 6, 7 and 12 and Tradition 11)
  • A step or topic meeting is about that step or topic. It is not about you. If you know little or nothing about the step or topic then listen rather than share.(Honesty, Integrity, Humility - Steps 1, 5 and 7)
  • If you share you should also contribute to the 7th Tradition. (Integrity, Willingness, Humility, Brotherly Love, Spirituality and Service - Steps 5, 6, 7, 8, 11 and 12 and Traditions 1 and 7)
  • Do not call on yourself. If you feel powerfully moved to share then politely attract the attention of the chairperson and wait to be recognized. (Honesty, Faith, Integrity, Willingness, Humility, Brotherly Love, Spirituality and Service - Steps 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11 and 12 and Traditions 1, 2, 5, 9, 11 and 12)
  • Sharing is a means in which “God will constantly disclose more to you and to us.” I have not been able to maintain anything like ‘perfect adherence’ to these principles. I have been able to share the message more effectively when I ask God to work through me to help someone who is suffering. I keep coming back.


    1. Thanks, for this great reminder Syd. Very timely for me.. my 1-yr al-anon birthday is coming up. Sharing is a struggle, but always worth it.

      Congrats on your 2-year birthday! :)

      flying free, listening & learning

    2. Good topic, Syd.

      I don't know if it's done everywhere, but here the chair asks if there's anything enhancing or threatening your sobriety, so we can discuss it before we pick a topic. I don't mind people discussing their problems because, being newly clean and sober, there are times I don't know how to solve issues without using. And when I share, I usually do so to help the newcomer with tips other than "go to meetings/call your sponsor".

    3. Hi Syd, I dont mind sharing at the top table, well I do but I always oblige but I dont like sharing from the floor, maybe Yoda is right I am a coward.
      I just feel like when I share from the floor that what I say is somehow silly or inferior, i cant explain it.
      I have always hated public speaking well dont we all really.
      I guess I will have to be a bit braver

    4. and sharing is just what the words mean. share your pain, and it's less for you to carry. and sometimes sharing is easy, sometimes it's hard, sometimes it's necessary, sometimes it's just the thing you need to feel better.

    5. For someone like me, who can easily use 10,000 words or more, to say absolutely nothing, well, thanks.

      Especially I liked the thought, that sharing refers not only to my ESH, but sharing my TIME, whether it be at a meeting, picking up a drunk and taking him to detox.

    6. When I started in program, I felt I had nothing to say, and would force myself to mumble something when called upon, because I felt I needed to, for my recovery.

      Nowadays, I share for that same reason, and also for the others at the table, because many times in 20-odd years, someone has commented at a meeting, "I keep thinking about what you said last time..."

      Our Higher Power can use us to say the very thing another member is desperate to hear. Consisely.

    7. Sometimes we stray off the topic, if someone feels the need to share about something important to them.
      It usually works out fine,and I always learn from them.

    8. Those are tough, Syd. I think our group flunks out on almost all accounts! lol

      I too am surprised someone would push someone to talk that had already said they'd like to pass.

    9. Thanks for the post Syd, as a two meeting attendee I'm still learning the ropes.

    10. Hey Syd,

      Thanks for the comments on sharing. I use to feel like a blathering idiot because sharing for me has been tough. I use to feel very uncomfortable having people look at me when I was speaking. I also didn't feel like what I said was making any sense or was just rambling nonsense. I share now because I am told it will help my own recovery and maybe someone else will hear something. I've been in a few 24s and now know that getting outside my comfort zone is good for me. Thanks for the reminders--I'm going to share this with my home group next week. Namaste..Kim A.

    11. This is why I value my blog and all of you peeps.My voice would be silent without your sharing.

      On a side note.If my Mom hadn't found Al-Anon years ago - I wonder if she would ever have had a place to share - and heal.

      Great post - As always.


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