It’s ridiculously easy to hide out at meetings and cut down the benefits of a 12-step program by at least 50%. All you have to do is get there right on time (or, if you don’t mind being rude, a couple of minutes late). Then you sit in the back, don’t raise your hand to introduce yourself, and if anyone approaches you just give your name and keep conversation to a minimum. Walk straight out after the meeting is over, avoid speaking to anyone, and leave the area.
Simple, right? And just the kind of thing we’re good at, us alcoholics and addicts. Hey, aren’t we the people who felt alone in a crowd? The ones who never felt that we belonged — unless we had a few in us — and who made a career of isolating so that we wouldn’t have to explain our behavior to anyone?
Hell, if we’re not experts in avoiding entanglements, who is?
But hey — what’s recovery about, anyway? It’s not about quitting; we already did. It’s not about closed minds; we already know how to do that. It’s not about isolating from others; that’s our stock in trade. It’s not about being judgmental — heck, we know The Way Things Ought To Be already.
Recovery is about spirituality, and I’m not talking religion here. I’m talking about opening up for the human spirit: letting ours out to play, and letting other folks’ in. You don’t do that by isolating. It’s about learning to live life in the real world, clean and sober, and you don’t do that by deciding on short exposure that an effective way of accomplishing that “isn’t for you.”
Many of us have found, over the years, that the “meeting-after-the-meeting” was nearly as important as the main deal. I’m talking about the gathering in (or for smokers, in front of) the meeting hall afterward; the trips out for coffee and conversation; the chance to take a look at our fellows under conditions where we can consider things like sponsors, study groups, recommendations about other meetings to go to, and invitations to sober fun outside of the rooms.
These are the things that move us toward sobriety in the real world, not just for an hour a day. We learn to interact socially again, with people who know how to treat us while we’re learning. We learn to identify with something besides our common disease. We learn that being clean and in recovery is about learning to live out in the world, not inside our own heads — and we learn all these things in safe places, with safe people who have our best interests at heart.
I don’t mean to imply that everyone in the rooms is someone we would want to hang around with, nor should anyone get the idea that they ought not to use common sense in choosing their companions, whatever the source. But there’s safety in numbers, and people’s true colors shine through when they’re not in a meeting with their meeting faces on. And let me ask you this: where else are you going to look for compatible companions? Down at the local bar? In the alley behind the pawn shop?
So, open up a little and see what’s happening in the Real World of Recovery. Let a few of us old-timers be your guides. Maybe you’ll find someone who has what you want. Maybe you’ll open the door a bit, and let that spirit get some fresh air. Maybe…just maybe…you’ll find a new way of life.
What have you got to lose? It’s not like you have anything better to do.