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Heard At Meetings

Audio Version

Heard At Meetings

Reading my copy of Roundabout I liked the new interview article and the question about a favourite slogan or phrase in AA got me thinking about the phrases I hear repeated at meetings and what they mean to me - both what they meant at the beginning of my sober journey and what they mean today. One of the first I remember hearing was when I was leaving the Anniesland Wednesday night meeting. An old-timer said to me “Many meetings make it easier, few make it hard and none make it nigh on impossible”. He might have missed out the words ‘nigh on’ but I paid little attention to whatever version he used, faded away from what few meetings I was doing and drank again. Today, I know the importance of meetings for me and I hope I always remember. If I don’t do meetings I can forget that I am an alcoholic and what that means. I can lose my gratitude and I won’t hear alcoholics sharing about how they stopped going to meetings, drank again and what happened to them, including very nearly not getting back. It was one of the many times I physically heard what was said to me but didn’t listen. I certainly wasn’t putting into practice the phrase ‘learn to listen and listen to learn’. I wasn’t hearing the AA message; it was being said but I wasn’t really hearing it. What was going on with me was a phrase I only heard for the first time at a meeting about a year ago ‘self-will makes you deaf’. I didn’t realise at the time that my self-will meant that I took no notice of what was being said because I knew better; I was going to do it my way, regardless of what anyone else suggested so I was deaf to all the good stuff that was being shared at meetings.

When I first saw on the wall of a meeting place ‘seven days away from AA makes one weak’, I loved it because I thought it was clever. However, I didn’t pay much attention to it until after a lovely week’s holiday abroad. I came home to the phone ringing (I knew from the ID caller display it was my sponsor) and screamed out loud a four-lettered word thinking “I’m just in the door, can’t she give me a minute’s peace!”  Seven days away from AA can make me not just weak but quite unwell.

When I came back to AA it dawned on me the importance of the phrase ‘keep sober company’ and in my early days it meant to stay away from people who were drinking. I would either see them getting away with it and believe the lie that I could too or get jealous and resentful about how unfair it was that I couldn’t drink with safety. Either way I would end up drinking; perhaps not that actual day but very soon. Today most, though not all, the friends that I spend time with are in AA so it’s easy for me to keep sober company. The ones that aren’t in AA don’t need to be as they are part of that strange breed who can have a can of beer or a glass of wine and not need the second or third or tenth. I have one close relative who drinks heavily so I make sure when I visit him that I can leave anytime if I start feeling restless, irritable and discontent. These days I like to be around people who are not just physically sober but who also have emotional sobriety. If I spend a lot of time with someone who is critical and judgemental of others, who gossips, puts people down, is full of the poor me’s, all that negative stuff, I join in and become sicker.

I heard at meetings “Don’t let anyone live in your head rent-free”. I didn’t do that when I was drinking – I was too busy being a practising alcoholic – but sober and not drinking in AA, all of a sudden what people did and said and what they shouldn’t be doing or saying was an incessant noise in my head. I was taking resentments against lots of people and when I did that they got to live rent-free in my head. That can still happen today, but with the help of AA’s 12 Step Programme of Recovery it’s not nearly so bad and I can pack their bags and get them out a lot quicker.

I also heard “Your head’s out to get you”.  Yes, my head can do a number on me. It can convince me of all sorts of things: that I’m not good enough; that I’m better than everyone else; that I don’t deserve to be sober; that I’m hard done by; that I don’t need to share what’s in my head with another alcoholic; that I can do it all myself; that missing meetings is okay and that a drink is a good idea. Thanks to AA, since I came back, the thought that a drink is a good idea has not had enough strength nor lingered long enough to override the Power greater than me that is in my life, one day at a time. Thanks to AA and a Power greater than me that I found in AA, I have something I never had before – a mental defence against the first drink, just for today.

That brings me to my personal favourite phrases in AA which are ‘one day at a time’ and ‘just for today’. I was told at the beginning “Don’t drink, just for today” and “In AA we don’t drink, one day at a time.” Not lifting the first drink one day at a time was the start of something wonderful for me – a sober life. Trying to live my whole life one day at a time is something I have to work at. When I manage to do it, I have peace of mind. It’s back to my head being out to get me. If my head is in the past, reliving and fretting over things I can’t do anything about, I have no peace. Likewise if my head is in the future, worrying about how things may or may not pan out, projecting about an outcome over which I am powerless and have no control, I have no peace. Just for today I won’t drink and just for today I’ll leave the past and the future alone.

Grateful Member of AA
Glasgow