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 Table
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.
- 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)
- 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,
*A2WG is not affiliated with AA or any other organization