I went to my second AA meeting today under my VASAP requirements. I’ve never been to an As Bill Sees It (ABSI) type of meeting before, so I didn’t really know what to expect. The first thing that surprised me is that the room was set up so the tables were shaped in a square. There were small books set out at each chair.
I was only 10 minutes early, so I was uncomfortable that there were so few people there and they were all talking among each other when I stepped into the room. I was welcomed by two of them immediately, which set me at ease. I found a seat and an older gentleman came over and actually hugged me. He was so grandpa-ish about it that I almost started to cry (I’ve been so weepy these days, almost anything sets me off).
Eventually, more people came in and every seat at the table was filled. I find comfort when the meetings are large because it’s easier to hide. Yes, I hide in these meetings. I don’t know if it’s appropriate or not to speak up because I’m not an alcoholic. I have some stories to share, but I have yet to be at one meeting where family or friends of alcoholics speak up if it’s not specifically a family or friends-of type meeting. I do enjoy hearing these people speak because it makes me feel less alone when facing tough times. Right now, I’m still very much down about what happened to me, so when someone say they got a DUI or tell stories that are so much worse than mine, I feel better (at least for a little while). That’s one of the positive things about the AA requirements. I’d say I wish that they had AA meetings specifically for DUI offenders, but I’m not so sure I would enjoy that. I’ve heard some bad things about meetings where large amounts of offenders are present and how unproductive and annoying they can be.
Anyway, for those that don’t know about these types of meetings, there is a book (yes, it’s called ‘As Bill Sees It’) that is filled with writings from the co-founder of AA, Bill W. The group usually has someone read a topic from the book and you can take part by doing additional readings (that relate to the topic) or share stories related to the initial reading. As with all AA meetings, you’re not required to say anything if you don’t want to.
Now, this group comprised about half the people from the last AA meeting I went to, but they were different this time. It wasn’t so cliquish. Yes, a few made some inside-jokes, but for the most part, it seemed much more welcoming for a new-comer.
I should say that the one thing I’m growing weary of is the look I get when it comes time to hand out the chips. Each meeting I’ve gone to so far for these programs (5 now), the chip-giver takes a long look at me when they hold up the white one. I want to stand up and tell them I’m not an alcoholic and I don’t plan to stop drinking, but that would be very rude. Today, the chip-giver stared at me as he talked about what the white chip meant and while he held it up for anyone to take it. He offered it again after he went through the other chips and again stared at me, as though he were encouraging me to take it. It makes me feel a little awkward, but mostly I feel bad. I feel like I’ve invaded a world that I don’t belong in and, though I try to be a fly on the wall so as not to disrupt their therapy, I’m noticed as a new face in the group.
Today’s topic was about service. Service is one of the pillars of AA. The overall gist of it was that not only should you provide service to other AA members- new or not- as a means of doing your part helping others, but that it is a fundamental part of your progression through therapy. You are given the gift of support in recovery and it will help your recovery to give that support to others. And even as a non-alcoholic, I know the feeling that giving provides to you. When you feel down, if you help someone, you feel better. When you pass on something helpful or positive onto someone else, there is an undeniable feeling of reward. In my business, I’ve encountered more than a few people that want to hold onto their knowledge because they’re worried about job security. They’re afraid if you learn something they know, you can replace them. I’ve always hated that employers allow this to perpetuate among their employees. It breeds paranoia and contempt. Me? I’ve never worried about that. I love teaching people because of the feeling I get when I see that understanding pass across their face and they feel better.
So, it was a good meeting. I probably won’t go back to that one because I think it will get harder to hide there. The last meeting I went to, which most of them went to, as well, was bigger and was more loosely set up so you’re not having to face each of the attendees. But I did like the ABSI forum. I spent some time before the meeting reading through the book and found a lot of things that I could use in my personal life.