Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Beginner Meeting

Last night I attended my first beginners' meeting. I know that sounds strange but since it took me two years of sobriety to even set foot in an AA meeting, I didn't think I belonged in a beginners' meeting. Like so many other preconceived notions I had about AA, I was WRONG. You'd think I'd be used to it by now.

Anyway, my sponsor asked me to join her in the meeting when it came time for the big meeting to split, so of course I went. (And of course my alcoholic brain made it all about me. Have I done something wrong? Does she think I need a beginners' meeting. Jeez.) But she said that she likes to attend them from time to time. After it was done, I have to say I agree. I learned a lot in that short 45 minute time frame.

Learning #1 - Meetings Have Rules
I always knew about the "no cross talk" rule but I did not know about the "no double dipping".  I felt so bad for this one guy (let's call him T) who was clearly struggling with his sobriety.  He didn't talk over anyone but he did need to be heard again.  What he said was apparently inappropriate (see Learning #2) but I'm not sure he needed to be called out about it in front of everyone.  The leader did a good job of delivering the message and I know that everyone benefited from hearing it (me included) but I feel there was a better way to handle it.  It was really uncomfortable (and yes - I am well aware that meetings can be uncomfortable but this was out of line IMO) and I was left thinking that he might not come back...and in spite of the content of his share, it was clear that he really needed to come back.

Learning #2 - Reminders
So T shared his experience and talked about how he was a binger and not an everyday drinker and so he didn't really consider himself an alcoholic but knew he had a problem and blah...blah...blah.  He was struggling and it was likely a conversation that was more appropriate to be had with his sponsor but once again the leader called him out in front of everyone and said that she would like to remind him that "we" try to focus on what is the same about us rather than the differences.  Again - she was right on the money...especially in a beginners' meeting but man...it was really uncomfortable.  And what if he doesn't have a sponsor or someone else who will listen?

Learning #3 - Honesty is not, necessarily real honesty
All of this makes me question whether or not you can really be honest in these meetings.  What if this guy doesn't have a sponsor yet and is left with out anyone to discuss these issues?  I know when I first got sober I had a very hard time accepting the fact that I was really an alcoholic because no one knew the extent of my drinking.  On the outside I was a high functioning individual in a demanding job raising three teenage boys and taking care of my ailing mother.  On the outside it looked as if I had it all together but at the end of the day a drunk is a drunk no matter how they got there.  If I hadn't had my husband and my "drunk books" to work through this issue, I would have probably never set foot in an AA meeting and I would have stayed a dry drunk forever.  I hope that one of the "old-timers" in the meeting reached out to this guy to offer an ear and some support.  I really do.

Learning #4 - Being the leader of a beginners' meeting is hard
After T shared and was reprimanded, a woman came in very late and sat down to listen.  Within about 2 minutes she had begun to share and was totally off topic, rambling (which is common and okay by me - sometimes it takes a while to get your thoughts together) and then began to cry.  Actually I think she was drunk but I can't be sure.  Anyway, the leader had to gently steer her to a close (the end of the meeting had arrived) without being insulting or condenscending.  I watched because she treated this woman much differently than she had treated T.  I'm still pondering that one.

I learn something new everytime I attend a meeting.  This time it was about human behavior and the rules of the road.  I know I'll learn something at my next meeting as well since I'll be going with a group to take a meeting to a detox center.  I've never been in a detox center so I hope I can add value in some way (other than just being a girl - they needed women to attend and so I volunteered).  I know I will not cross talk, double dip or show up intoxicated and ramble on however. 


  1. Very interesting, thanks for sharing this experience. I understand the need for rules, but also the need for grace and sensitivity. I feel bad for T and also hope someone talked to him after or he may never show up again (I would be too embarrassed/hurt/pissed off to go back if that happened to me).

  2. Yes, very interesting. Thanks for writing about this. I'm not in AA but I don't consider myself a Dry Drunk because I am accepting I am an alcoholic and am going to the root causes of my drinking and really working deeply to retrain my brain away from alcohol use. I hope I'm right. xxx

  3. P.S. to answer your question over on my blog. For me: A jacket, two skirts, a dress, two pairs of boots, a pair of trainers, a bracelet and a handbag. For Mr D: cufflinks, a sweatshirt and a shirt. For the boys each: a T-shirt and a pair of shoes and a couple of small toys. Phew. The credit card is groaning....!

  4. Learning #5- The meeting should never be all about one person and their problem :)

  5. I have been attending meetings about once a week for a month now. I wasnt aware of the RULES, no wonder the speaker always suggests that I attend the beginners meeting on Friday nights.


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