Intrigued by this meeting I had been invited to attend, I saw the secretary took no notes, created no minutes and had no real agenda. People chimed in all over the place. A guy at the right side in the seat of honor did nothing the entire hour (the job I would try to land for sure). If I had to attend these meetings to try to keep “she who must be obeyed” off my back, then the easiest job available would be mine.
The reality of the “not drinking” purpose of these meetings was lost on me. I sank deeper and deeper into my disease. When that changed through no action of mine except daily 7:00 a.m. meeting attendance, it began to dawn on me how clueless I had been about how meetings really worked. I saw how trusted servants had volunteered their time, sometimes at a sponsor’s subtle nod, to help make things happen rain or shine.
I seek out those meetings, return to them and survive because of them
I heard one meeting continued after a brief group conscience on the morning of 9/11. After all, sober men and women seem to deal with tragedy a bit better than those who aren’t. I took hard the lesson that if the man you tried to 12-Step didn’t get it, you were to move on to the next suffering alcoholic. The Big Book’s authors had recovered; they told us how they had done it. They shared vivid and desperate stories, promising no matter how far down the scale you went your experience could help another.
So why would we leave the one who did not get it behind? How could we abandon even that one? The story of the shepherd going to any lengths to save one sheep gone astray was a reverberating counterpoint. But it was I who did not get it.
The life of a meeting depends on its members
As time passed, I realized that those who seemed to make it did so because of something within driving them to survive. No one had been able to instill that in me. I realized I could likewise not instill it in the next person. I could only carry the message, not make them hear it. So too it seemed with those meetings I attended.
While my Home Group has not changed, often my schedule gives me other alternatives. I have found those meetings where I “want what they have” all seem to have that same sense of a drive to survive. They seemed compelled to do the next right thing as a group to keep their attraction alive. That does not mean they just have the best array of cookies or a variety of organic teas, although rigorous honesty demands the acknowledgment that I do not find those to be detractions. It means they found a sense of purpose that is palatable to me.
Hands are quick to be raised for help with cleaning up or to grab a commitment that is open. The awkward silence of waiting for a volunteer, if present, is short. The people in those rooms seem to exude a genuine caring. Many might call it love for those about them, particularly ones who are suffering, whether with just 24 hours or decades of sobriety. They realize that living life on life’s terms is not always easy. They make that awareness evident in how they participate in the meeting.
That attraction is infectious to me. I seek out those meetings, I return to them, and survive because of them. I have come to believe that they survive because of the same reasons that I was drawn to the program in the beginning. Their members share the exact same reality I experienced—that to drink is to die. They seem to know, truly, that the statistics are against the alcoholic. So in the same way as life depends on it for me, I see how the life of a meeting depends on its members living this reality and going to any lengths, one meeting at a time.