I was quite apprehensive about going to a meeting, more so than I expected to be. I am not an alcoholic, and I was nervous about being invasive to those who are… I am involved in other support groups and I would feel violated if a student sat in one… especially if they participated in any way. I comforted myself with the fact that is acceptable to have visitors at open meetings… then I had to find open meetings. I was also worried about encountering really small groups, or intimate groups. That did happen, and I felt badly about that.
I have to admit that I was also worried about meeting people that I know at meetings… for several reasons. One, I didn’t want to be known as an alcoholic. I know that is pretty sad, that I shouldn’t worry about it, but the shame attached is very real and I didn’t want to associate it with me… I don’t have any close family members who struggle with addiction either, so I didn’t have that experience to pull from… since I planned on being a silent observer I knew that logical conclusions would be drawn.
As a teacher and a foster parent myself, daughter to a teacher in my own town, and wife to a 911 dispatcher for the closet big town to us (Sanford) as well as the County (meaning another 13 towns) I know a lot of people in the community. Two, if I did encounter someone that I knew, I worried about violating their privacy… it would feel different to me if we were both there for the same reason, then there is a sense of camaraderie… I didn’t want to falsely create that or impact what they already had in the group. I had a feeling that it wouldn’t be like what I’ve seen in TV, where there are easily 30 people in the room… nfortunately I was right… the largest group that I encountered was about under 20. I had intensions of trying to get to a meeting in Portland hoping to find a larger group where I could have more anonymity… but it never worked out. Sunday, 7pm at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Kennebunk This was a Bog Book meeting. As I had feared, it was quite small. I was surprised how the meeting actually started on time, I mean, how often does that ever happen, and I liked that it started with the serenity prayer… one of my favorites.
The reading of the steps I had expected, but the “traditions” I didn’t know as much about. I felt really uncomfortable at this meeting because I felt that most of the folks, of not all, already knew each other… I felt like a fraud. I didn’t share, and really didn’t say much of anything. I felt kind of like an actor, just not on purpose. I imagine that my discomfort made me seem more like a nervous first timer than anything else, and I really hoped that was true… I would hate for them to know the truth – that I was just a student doing some much needed extra credit.
At the end of the meeting (which I left quickly, pretty much just smiling and nodding at folks) I got in my car an drove down to the beach to jot down some notes and I realized that I didn’t remember a lot of details from the middle of the meeting… I had kind of been lost in my own thoughts and discomfort… It made me realize how intense this experience must be for an alcoholic… if nothing else it is an hour where you have to be still with your thoughts, and it is hard to keep your thoughts off of your drinking when you are surrounded by supportive others who are further along in the process than you.
Hearing the steps and knowing that many have been successful with them before you must be powerful, but I can see how it could go different ways… it could empower you, or make you feel inferior or hopeless because you KNOW that you can’t do it with so little to go on. It made me thing that the 90 meetings in 90 days is an excellent idea for newcomers, but then I was immediately frustrated again, because I knew the trouble that I was having finding meetings that fit my full time schedule and childcare needs. Monday, 7:30pm at St. Mary’s Church in Wells This one was also pretty small, but there was a different feel to the meeting… ess, I don’t know, somber, serious maybe. I don’t know if that is fair, I mean the folks at the first meeting talked and chuckled together, but it just seemed more serious. I again felt nervous and invasive, but at least I knew what to expect a bit more, so I was probably more relaxed. The group was still pretty small, but it seemed bigger, if that makes any sense? I was a bit surprised to learn that one of the focuses of this step meeting was gay/lesbian issues. I think it is great that there are such specific meetings to allow people to feel even more comfortable (I would have like to go to a women’s meeting too).
I can’t be certain of course, because not everyone shared, but I am pretty sure that I was not the only straight attendee that evening, not that it really matters. What struck me the most about the meeting was how in my head I went into “teacher” mode… I think that in that meeting I got a more real world understanding of how society can impact the GLBTQ community and how that can manifest in an individuals life. I teach 7th and 8th grade Health/FACS and we talk about tolerance and look at some of the statistics regarding suicide rates in particular for the GLBTQ population, but it was made real for me hearing people share… nd it wasn’t like everyone was spilling their life story or anything… it was a similar set up to the previous meeting, but the prejudice that they encounter everyday came through loud and clear to me. The other part that was comforting, already, was the way that the beginning and ending were the same. Friday, 7:30 at St. Mary’s Church in Wells This was a week after the Thursday one that I attended. I will admit that it was comforting going to the same familiar building again, and once again having a better idea of what to expect.
This one was the biggest turn out of any of the meeting that I attended and I felt even more comfortable, I think due to the size of the group and also my experience level. I wished that I had gone to this one first! I am pretty sure that one, possibly two people from the other St. Mary’s meeting were there, but I still didn’t talk much, just smile and nod for the most part… I did get into a conversation about the beautiful weather for this time of year with a couple of ladies before the meeting started, but that was about it.
This was another “big book” group, but it was actually about the book this time, not about the steps like before. Someone read from the book and then people took turns talking out it… it was very interesting and moving to hear what people had to say… it was kind of like “real world college” to me, the way were discussing literature 🙂 I don’t feel at all comfortable writing about what was actually discussed, but I will say that by this point I didn’t feel like so much of an invasive underhanded person any more, and honoring the anonymity helped me to get there.
I did realize that there are open meetings, and I had intended to go to those, but again my frustration would resurface when faced with schedule issues… I can’t imagine being truly in need of a meeting and just having to wait until I could find one that would fit my schedule. I guess that is probably where the sponsor part comes in, more so in our rather rural areas I imagine. Over all, my foray into the world of AA was informative and enriched my understanding of the disease.