Why do I have to go to meetings?! I usually hear this question asked by those recently introduced to a program of recovery. It's either by a nudge from the judge or those with "back" problems that express this complaint. Back problems meaning that a wife, husband, family or job are on your back about your drinking and/or drugging so they demand you to do something about it. Most people who have accepted the 12 steps as a way of life understand the importance of regular meeting attendance. For those on the outside looking in I offer my experience and value that I secure from meetings.
I've taken several new people to meetings throughout my sobriety. I always ask them the same question after the meeting. "Well, what did you think?". The answer is characteristically the same. "Listening to them made me want to drink!". My reply is, "If listening to someone tell you how they wound up in prison, lost their family and eventually lost their mind makes you want to drink, then just maybe, you're in the right place! In my opinion, "normal" drinkers don't experience situations that make them want to drink. They drink with impunity." I remember watching the old cowboy movies when the cowboy rides into town after being on a cattle drive or some other daunting task. He rolls up into the saloon, shakes the dirt and dust off and says, "Give me a whiskey!" And, may even order one for his horse. The message being sent to me was that after a strenuous day of cattle rustling or any difficult day in general, I owe it to my self to take the edge off by having a drink to forget and "feel" good. Or, the gangster movie when someone just witnessed a murder and they say "I need a drink!". In other words, a drink solves everything. I conditioned myself with the belief that as long as I "feel good" everything's o.k. I've later learned that everything's o.k. even if I don't feel good.
For me, a meeting is a classroom where I continue to identify with alcoholism and addiction. When we take the substance out of our systems for awhile we start to feel better and more in control as a result. We may acquire some things (car, job, girlfriend, boyfriend) that make us question whether we really had a substance abuse problem to begin with. Going to meetings keeps my disease fresh in my mind and reminds me that the only reason I have these things of value to me is because I'm clean and sober! Going to meetings also affords me the comaraderie and compassion displayed by other addicts and alcoholics that are dealing with life on life's terms just as I am. What we can't get through individually we can always get through together. A meeting is an oasis to me, a safe place where I can go and be with people like me. A place where we're are not judged by "normal" drinkers and non drinkers. The one's that tell us that all it takes is willpower to stop drinking and using. I won't get into that discussion now! The elder members in recovery told me " Even if your butt falls off, pick it up and take it to a meeting!". A meeting is my safe haven from a hard, long day of cattle rustling and psychological homicide. A meeting is a tool in my toolbox which I use to build and maintain a life of contented sobriety. I'm no longer alone.