There’s been a lot of…well, drama at the recent AA meetings I’ve attended. One fellow brought a holstered gun to my home group meeting, and so the group had an emergency conscience meeting and decided that guns were definitely not allowed in our meetings (for his part, the fellow with the gun apparently felt bad and didn’t mean to upset anyone, and he had no problem leaving the gun in his vehicle).
In another meeting at my home group, there was some really uncomfortable cross-talk, one instance of which was pointed at me. I’ve cross-talked from time to time, but only briefly and to add support or to say something like, “As someone in the group said, early sobriety can be hard, and in my experience….”
However, it’s decidedly wrong and potentially harmful for someone to engage in negative cross-talk. Last Friday evening, after I shared about the topic the speaker presented, I added that I often drank out of shame and guilt. The fellow who shared next, after making a few remarks, said, “What is this drinking over guilt shit? Or guilt and shame in general? Guilt isn’t useful.” He went on to talk for a little longer, and the upshot is (as I’ve gathered from him before) that this fellow drank and used drugs because he’s a self-described “hedonist” and just likes feeling good. Okay, fine. I like feeling good, too, and I often used alcohol to change my mood, but I also drank to numb out and I drank because I felt inadequate and I drank because I felt shame and guilt over things I couldn’t control and events in my past.
I’d hoped the cross-talk was over, but then a woman shared her experience which included her dismissal due to drinking from a branch of the armed forces. She’s just starting to deal with this fact, pick up the pieces, and re-enter AA. After she finished, yet another guy began to share and jumped on the cross-talk bandwagon. “First,” he said after he made some opening comments, “you weren’t kicked out. You kicked yourself out. You knew the risks and you took the chance. Now you have to accept it.” He finished with some half-assed line like, “I just have to be honest. And sometimes, the truth hurts.” A few minutes after he finished, the woman he’d responded to left the room in tears. Of course she knew the entire thing was her fault; she wasn’t accusing the military of pulling a sucker-punch. Like all of us, she made terrible decisions as a direct result of alcohol and has to live with the consequences. There’s no need to point that out so bluntly, especially in the safety of a meeting.
I haven’t been to the group conscience meeting at my home group yet, but I’m attending the next one, and I’m raising the issue of cross-talk. I like and respect both men who spoke so casually and seemingly without regard to feelings in the meeting, and I don’t want to belittle them anymore than (I hope) they wanted to belittle me or the woman. I’m sure that, in their own way, both men thought they were helping. Both men have many years of sobriety, and they’re a good deal older than myself and the woman; maybe they’re of the generation that’s less introspective and more of the”get over your own shit” mentality. There’s a place for that, but not in a meeting. Such a dash of cold water might be appropriate between a sponsor and sponsee, depending on the situation, but not in an open, supportive meeting where we’re all seeking help and understanding.
Other odd things happened in meetings that I’ll go into in another post, but this is enough for now. Have you all have negative experiences with cross-talk?
Music listened to while writing this post:
William Fitzsimmons’ Gold in the Shadow (http://williamfitzsimmons.com/)