Connecting Women in Recovery

Identification is Vital in Recovery
Imagine this scenario… You are a woman, in your 40’s, married, mother of two and you are an alcoholic. You start drinking when the kids are at school, you hide mini wine bottles in the laundry room, linen closet, in your purse, anywhere the husband and children won’t look. You realize your drinking is out of control and you try to taper down and/or stop but you can’t. You realize you need help so you decide to go to your first recovery meeting. You let people know you are new and the members of the group have a “1st step table” for you.

1st Step TableCan words kill?

At the 1st step table people start to share their experiences with overdosing, being brought back to life, jail, DUI’s, homelessness and any other horror story they can think to scare you into recovery. If you were this woman would you identify? Probably not. In fact if I were that woman, I would start comparing my experiences to the stories I just heard and convince myself that I was not really an alcoholic. I would not darken the door of another recovery meeting again. I may even eventually drink myself to death.

Talking the Talk

What did a New York stock speculator and a proctologist have in common (this sounds like the beginning of a bad joke)? The speculator lived in the big city and went to night school and the proctologist lived in a small town and went to an Ivy League college, yet they had one thing in common. Alcoholism. The New Yorker was able to talk about his experiences and the identification was immediate. I’m talking about Bill W. and Dr. Bob, the co-founders of *Alcoholics Anonymous.

Why was Bill W.’s talk so successful and our housewife’s 1st step table experience such a disaster? Mostly because Bill found out as much as he could about Dr. Bob’s past and his drinking before he met with him. He was able to tailor his talk to match a man of Dr. Bob’s standing. We know NOTHING about the housewife that walked into the meeting.

The Power of Words

So how then are we supposed to deliver a proper 1st step message to a newcomer at a meeting if we don’t know anything about them? Our words hold the power to help or to harm that person. The answer is in “How it Works.” We share IN A GENERAL WAY what we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like now. “In a general way” doesn’t mean disclosing the worst possible consequences that have happened to you. The whole purpose of a 1st step table isn’t to scare someone, it’s to help them identify with your drinking so that they will seek recovery.
This is a disease that wants to tell you you don’t have it. The average person is looking for any excuse not to be an alcoholic. Let’s not give it to them. By the end of their first few meetings, the newcomer should have an idea whether they are one of us (addicts) or not.

The only thing we can guarantee that we all have in common is our thinking that precedes the drink/drug and our physical reaction to alcohol and drugs.

How We Are the Same

Since we all have different histories and different circumstances that eventually brought us into recovery, how exactly do we carry a 1st step message to a stranger? Easy! What do we ALL have in common? The effect alcohol/drugs have on our bodies and minds.

  1. Lack of Control- Long before we even darken the doorstep of our first recovery meeting most of us realized we had a problem. So what was our first solution? We were going to show restraint. We’d drink/drug only a certain amount and then we were going to stop for the evening. FAILURE! Once we realized we couldn’t control it, then we tried using willpower to stop drinking and drugging. DOUBLE FAILURE! (Powerless)
  2. Irrational thoughts that lead us back to drinking- it doesn’t matter how badly our drinking or drugging burned our lives to the ground, if we are using willpower as a solution to stay sober, one day the thought will enter our minds that taking a drink is a good idea. It will make no sense in the light of the damage that our drinking has caused but we will believe the lie we tell ourselves and pick up a drink/drug. (Insanity)
Identification is Key

Up above I used only a few words to describe addiction and if you are a real alcoholic or addict you should have identified a little. I can give example after example of how I have a body that can’t control drinking/drugs and how I have a mind that insures that I will drink and drug again unless I have some form of recovery. I don’t even need to talk about any of my war stories or crazy antics. What happens to my body when I drink and my mind when I try to get sober is what we can all identify with.

Why don’t we let the newcomer’s sponsor and sober friends, who get to know that person, tell more detailed stories. We should talk about our similarities. The only thing we can guarantee that we all have in common is our thinking that precedes the drink/drug and our physical reaction to alcohol and drugs.

Want to Do More?

Connect with the newcomer after the meeting. Chat a little and find out more about them. Get them a meeting list book and a Big Book (if you can afford it). Exchange numbers with them (note I didn’t say give them your number. They won’t use it. Get theirs too!). Invite them to an Ann Arbor Women’s Group Event so they can make sober connections. There is so much you can do, even if it’s as simple as being a good listener to someone who’s having a bad day.

Why do you think we try to tell our worst possible experiences? Do you think this is helpful?

Peace, Love, & Sobriety,

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*A2WG is not affiliated with AA or any other organization

2 Responses to Do Our Words Hold the Power to Kill?

  • I never knew we could invite newcomers to A2WG events. This is good news and i wonder why i hadn’t heard it before. One A2WG board member told me I should not try to invite or bring newcomers to A2WG events, nor should I tell them about A2WG. The message was made quite clearly, on two occasions.

    The only question I have is that there are members out there who will rush in and pull newcomers away from the person who brought them, implying that they are “fitter than others” to help a newcomer become comfortable new friends and a new way of life. Next thing you know, you’re not giving that person a lift back home and stopping for coffee on the way, because you aren’t “fit”. Perhaps they are “fitter than thou”, but it begs the questions, “What place does egocentric and judgmental behavior have in the A2WG?” and “Who are we to gauge the fitness or unfitness of others?”

    The other thing I occasionally see is an A2WG member acting as if they are best suited to gauge which new people are fit to be at an event. At times, that strikes me as less than welcoming.

    In any event, it is a great article/musing and is good news. Thank you so much.

    P.S. Do you reealllly have to publish my name? I’d prefer that you didn’t, so if it means you do not post this comment, so be it.

    • I didn’t have to post your name. No worries. We respect everyone’s personal right to be (or not be) Anonymous. So, unfortunately there may have been some miscommunication or misunderstanding about newcomers not being a part of A2WG. As you know in recovery, newcomers are our life blood.

      This is A2WG’s mission statement:

      A2WG is a 501(c)(3) non-profit group that creates opportunities for women recovering from alcohol and drug addiction to develop and sustain a healthy, sober lifestyle.

      A2WG is not affiliated with Alcoholics Anonymous or any other organization.

      Our focus is to help recovering women, especially in early sobriety to:

      -develop a network of recovering friends
      -have fun in healthy ways
      -learn tools for sober living

      As far as people being judgmental about another person’s spiritual fitness… This article was meant for us to reflect personally about our own message, not judge anyone else’s.