I received a comment on a post yesterday about not feeling comfortable in meetings:
"Despite attending quite a few different al-anon meetings, I never found one where I felt comfortable. I felt a profound emotional disconnect at all of them. I'm wondering now whether that disconnect was me all along, not the meetings."
I can remember my first meeting really well. I can't say that I felt comfortable because it was difficult to walk into that room by myself. I was at such a low point that I'm not sure that I felt comfortable with anything in my life.
When the chair asked if there were any newcomers, I raised my hand. She asked me to talk about why I was there. I can't remember the exact words but do remember saying that I was at the end of my rope--angry, confused, hopeless, and feeling that my marriage was a failure.
A lot of people told me to "Keep coming back". I wasn't sure that I wanted to. I thought that it might be a mistake that I came at all. But a good friend had told me that I needed to be there. He said that it would help me. I believed what he said. So I went and kept going.
As I continued to go to that one meeting a week, I listened intently when individuals shared on topics and their own situations. I began to hear some of myself in their stories. They talked about things that I had been feeling. Listening to others helped me to learn about myself.
I met my sponsor at my third meeting there. I felt comfortable with this person. I had begun to see the individual personalities emerge after a few meetings. I knew that I wasn't going to mesh well with everyone. I felt comfortable with the fellow with the kind smile and warm eyes. His calmness and composure, and laid back attitude were things that made me know he would be the one that I asked to be my sponsor.
I continued going to that meeting for over a year. Eventually, I found other meetings that I enjoyed. My sponsor introduced me to my home group. And from the Al-Anon schedule I began to go to a number of meetings in the district. Although each meeting was slightly different, alcoholism was the common bond that brought us together.
I now go to 3-4 meetings a week as well as meeting with sponsees. I have come to see that meetings are part of the recovery process for me. They help me to look beyond my own narrow individual limits for help, understanding, and support.
I have seen lots of different personalities emerge in meetings. And the traditions at some have been disregarded. Some meetings have definite leaders who exert control and don't always "walk the talk". In many ways, those individuals have replicated my family of origin and have taught me about healthy boundaries and to "take what I like and leave the rest".
The consequence of coming, keeping and open mind, applying the steps, traditions, concepts, slogans, philosophy, literature and advice from my sponsor is that my life is much less reactive and more appropriately responsive to events that go on about and around me, in the rooms or not. If the truth is that those who have come from the disease and suffered the most have done so because of inappropriate and unacceptable choices and behaviors, then I don't need to have unreal expectations that they are going to immediately be okay because they are at a meeting.
Here are some things that I have decided to do in order to get what I need from meetings:
- Be the change I would like to see in the meeting.
- Keep the focus on myself
- Share my Experience, Strength and Hope and keep an open mind.
- Let go of expectations and Let God.
- Adhere to the Traditions myself
- Be of maximum service