Tuesday, March 13, 2018


The NA meeting was large for our rural area, 20 to 25 recovering addicts on an average Saturday. Those who attended regularly took the number for granted, as did I. About a dozen or so of the attendees came from a rehab about forty minutes away by car, and they were driven to the meeting by a volunteer. Then the rehab residents stopped coming. We heard that it was because the volunteer driver was no longer available. A couple others dropped away without word, another who had to work, another who had to do some  prison time, another who was ill, and another who went out to research some aspect of the nightmare he must have missed his first time through it. It seemed as though, all of a sudden, we were down to three persons or six on a good day.

It seemed wrong, somehow, we waited for more to show, but eventually we accepted the meetings would be small, and struggled on. Funny thing about small meetings, though:  The sharing was deeper, more honest, and much more useful. Folks I had known for so long I almost had their usual meeting qualification stories memorized revealed depths about their using and recovery that were entirely new to me. And I did the same. It hadn't occurred to me before, but the larger a meeting is, the less sharing time there is available per person.  Besides that, there are many who are intimidated by very large meetings and often remain silent. If there are only four or five at a meeting, it is difficult to hide, stay mum, and thereby opt out of that session's recovery.

It has gotten such that I find small meetings more useful to my recovery than large ones. It shouldn't have surprised me, but it did. When I looked at why I had been surprised, I found a character defect of mine staring back. I was one of the ones who founded that meeting, making it in my head, my meeting. Hence, as in Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites, increased numbers stroked my ego, decreased numbers felt like personal rejection. A large number of "friends" on Facebook don't mean that you have many friends, that is, humans who know the worst about you, love you anyway, refuse to enable you in your efforts at self-destruction, and who tell you what you need to hear. One real friend is worth more than all the numbers that exist. When I attend a meeting, my purpose is to maintain and progress in my own recovery, and to be of help when asked. I am not there to be flattered by my own imagination (And, yeah, that's why I removed the page-view counter from the blog).

There are smaller meetings that are of even more value. There are meetings with my sponsor, or a sponsee, or simply another addict, and not just to wrestle down the dragon or get through a white-knuckle day. When we are clean, we can be a real friend and can make and keep real friends. In early recovery, still raw and suspicious of others and their motives, it may seem as though being alone is the safest place. At such times, remember that an addict inside his or her own head is behind enemy lines. It was discovered a long time ago by the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill W. and Doctor Bob. They were two hopeless fall-down drunks who found that when they leaned on each other they were both still on their own feet. There are also the small meetings on Twelve Step calls, and with your Higher Power that can be both the most rewarding and most frustrating in recovery. Both meetings have the potential to underline your powerlessness like nothing else.

The smallest meeting, of course, is your meeting with yourself through doing  Step work, personal inventories, and self-improvement. Working on yourself is much different than isolation in which the addict sits alone wallowing in self-pity, reviewing shameful and humiliating episodes of the past and seeing nothing but pain and wreckage in the future, greasing up those skids in preparation for that approaching "slip" back into the nightmare.

For those who do not know what I mean by "sponsor, "sponsee," "Step work," "Twelve Step calls," and "Higher Power," don't Google them; go to a meeting and listen to those who know and to those others who are learning. If you are an addict in need of recovery, moving your own ass to a meeting is your job. Doing nothing, waiting for someone or something else to "fix it," is, in its mild form, called "riding a pogo stick through a minefield." In  its more extreme form, it is called "suicide" by some other name.

Take care of yourself today.




Martin L. Shoemaker said...

What is the etiquette for non-addicts attending meetings? I would like to attend for research, but I want to respect the attendees.

Barry Longyear said...

If you are not an addict (or haven't yet clued into the fact that you are) go to meetings that list themselves as "Open." Once there, and the introductions go around, as in, "I'm an addict and my name is Barry," When it gets to be your turn, just say "My name is Martin," and that's it. You could say you're doing research as the rehab students at the local university do, but I find that it chills the meeting slightly and steers it toward what the attendees think the researcher ought to know. If I was to do it, I'd simply say my name and listen like a sonofabitch. DO NOT TAKE NOTES until you are well away from those who went to the meeting, and make no voice recordings of the meeting at all. Should you make such a recording it would violate the meeting's terms of attendance. DO listen to the sharing, DO collect the Information Pamphlets (IPs) and buy the books. DO talk with addicts before and after the meeting. And good luck.

Martin L. Shoemaker said...

Thank you! I'm about 30% through Saint Mary Blue. It's grimly engrossing.

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