• Why Meetings Aren't Working For You
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    Why Meetings Aren't Working For You

    When the judge ordered me to attend mandatory AA meetings after my DUI, I almost begged him to just send me to jail instead. I had multiple friends who were forced to attend meetings while on probation. They ranted and raved about how awful, boring and long the meetings were. I went for months, dreading every meeting and refusing to share when my turn rolled around. It wasn’t until about halfway through my probation that I met a few people from the club that helped me realize why I was so miserable. Whether you’re at the point of admitting you have a problem or not, you have to be there, so why not get something out of it? Here are five ways to get the most out of AA meetings, even if you’re there not by choice.

    1. Evaluate the Reasons You’re There

    I often looked around the meetings and found reasons why I was nothing like the people I sat amongst. I never walked into a meeting wondering what I could learn for the day because I didn’t want to be there—I had to. When I really thought about it though, I wondered why none of my “normal” friends ever had to go to Alcoholics Anonymous. If I didn’t have a problem drinking or drugging, why did I end up there?

    2. Stay Open-minded

    When members of the club finally convinced me to remain open-minded, it made the meetings more tolerable all around. I stopped going in to meetings thinking that I was going to hear whining and crying about “how alcohol ruined my life.” Instead I heard stories, experiences, feelings and things people said that they would never share with anyone else in the world. The room is almost like a sacred place that one should ever be so lucky to share with another person who has a message to spread. It almost became an honor for me to sit alongside people who were so brave to speak and help others in any way that they could.

    3. Get Comfortable

    It may take you longer to feel comfortable at a meeting as it certainly did for me. Even after I started regularly attending meetings and hanging out at the club to make friends, I was still uncomfortable sharing my story. For the first time in my life I actually felt content listening rather than blabbing about myself. Once I did begin sharing though, I didn’t stop. I had newcomers approaching me, asking me questions, asking me to be their sponsor; it was a bit overwhelming, in the best way possible of course. Knowing that my message somehow may have touched the life of another was extremely humbling.

    4. Pay Attention

    Don’t you hate when you’re having dinner with a friend or relative and they are texting or using their cell phone the entire time? I know I do. Using your phone, looking around the room, fidgeting or closing your eyes during a meeting is extremely disrespectful. There is no possible way you can learn anything or receive the message from someone if you are texting under the table or sleeping to pass the time. I can gratefully say that even the times I did not want to be in a meeting, I still quietly sat and listened. There were times that that I’d only hear one sentence that I really liked after someone finished talking, even if I didn’t take anything else away from the entire meeting.

    5. Share Your Story

    There is nothing wrong with sharing your particular story, even if it isn’t as sad or inspiring as another person’s may seem. I sometimes felt like my using days were never as disheartening as others or my story could never change the life of a stranger, but that is not the case. The fact that you are there listening, learning and speaking can be just enough to help someone else along the way. Your story may not compare to others but it does not make it any less important. Do not compare yourself to another addict. We may all have a similar story but we’re also all unique. There are no “wrong” stories being shared—unless you’re glorifying drugs or alcohol. That is obviously frowned upon and counterproductive for everybody.

    Alcoholics Anonymous, as said in the beginning of the meeting, is intended for people to share their strengths, experiences and hope. It’s not only a great way to make friends in the program but also share your story or get something off of your chest that may be bothering you. If you currently attend or are looking to, just be open-minded. My particular club had a coffee shop that I volunteered at during the holidays which helped me not only attend meetings but make friends and spend quality time there. Meetings can be entirely beneficial if you just give them a chance to be.

    Cassandra Huerta is a freelance writer who lives in an extremely small Michigan town and lives life one day at a time. She enjoys regularly entertaining her six-month-old daughter and can thank her wonderful fiance and coffee for all of her work.

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