I was talking to a friend yesterday who is in recovery. She mentioned that she goes to very few meetings. Why? Because her home group meetings tend to focus on the using stories, you know, the war stories, the drunk-a-logs, the remember whens. It’s often a negative experience for her. Unfortunately there aren’t many options for her in her town and not having a vehicle, it’s difficult to get to other places where meetings aren’t always looking at the problem.
I am grateful that my home group has good recovery. We read that we don’t need to regret the past or shut the door on it, but rather, learn from it and apply it to our lives today. And yes, there are days when there seems to be a table full of members complaining about their problems with relationships, neighbours or finances, but the sharing somehow always comes back to living in the solution.
How does the group achieve this? I believe that it is taught by continued good sponsorship. When I was young in the program, I think I had maybe three or four months of being clean and sober, I became very aware. Now that substances weren’t clouding my judgement, I could see my defects and deficiencies. As they say, a horse thief who isn’t drinking is still a horse thief. I was beginning to see who I really was. I used a meeting to complain about the program, the pace of my recovery, my fears and worries. I can see now that I was focusing in on my problems at the meeting.
Fortunately for me, after the meeting, an old-timer asked me, “Do you have a sponsor?” I was rather taken aback by his directness, but replied that I did. “Then I suggest you use him,” he advised. Fortunately I was willing to listen to this advice and learned a valuable lesson: Bring your problems to your sponsor and your solutions to the meetings.
Yes, it’s important that meetings are places where one can go and vent about what is going on in ones life, but I don’t think my friend is wrong in her assessment of her local meeting. We need to hear solutions. We all know the problems but we often have difficulty, especially in early recovery, in using our program and applying solutions to those problems. That’s what I need to hear. I don’t want to hear about your problems at home, I need to hear about how I can apply the program in creating solutions. We all have an irritating coworker or someone who cuts us off on the road, but tell me how you are finding serenity in the midst of it all. I don’t need sympathy and compassion, I need to know how you managed a similar situation. My sponsor or the person beside me might share a new perspective or idea from their experience, strength and hope.
I get those solutions from working my twelve step program with my sponsor and by having these same people sharing around the table. I get the solutions because we have a policy of no cross-talk: no giving direct advice to a person. Rather than commiserating with the person or telling them what they should do, we share how we dealt with people, places, things and events that happened in our lives. I get the program because sponsorship is encouraged and promoted. That for me is the program in action, and in action in a very positive way. If you’re not hearing solutions at meetings, perhaps it’s time to look for another home group. There’s a lid for every pot; find look for one that fits you well.