I was nervous but prepared to chair a meeting for the first time at my home group. As I drove to the meeting last night, I listened to Hozier’s “Take Me To Church,” (one of the many tracks in my “Sobriety is for Bad-Asses” Spotify mix). I grabbed the new jacket I bought earlier that day and walked toward the church, feeling like an actual grown-up. I wasn’t wearing ratty shorts and a Rush or Star Wars t-shirt. Lately, I’ve had the desire to dress like an adult, and so I bought the snazzy jacket, put on some jeans and a nice button-up shirt, and wore decent shoes. I’m not abandoning my concert t-shirts or anything like that, but I’m 41, for cripe’s sake. I want to look like one on occasion.
Anyway, I walked past some folks smoking and saw my sponsor. I told him I was chairing the meeting. We chatted for a bit and I walked into the church, ready to get into the big room, help set up chairs, and get the giant suitcase that contains meeting stuff.
That’s when I saw the whiteboard sign that said the AA meeting was being held in the sanctuary because of a church function in the social hall.
“The kids are doing something in there over -night,” said Julie.
“A lock-in?” I replied.
Julie shrugged. “Beats me. We can’t have coffee in the sanctuary, which sucks. We also can’t make any since the kids are in there.”
Since AA coffee, in my experience, is disgusting beyond measure, I was fine with this. Others were not, and grumbled and went back outside to smoke. I walked into the sanctuary and saw a chair set up in front of the stairs that led up to the altar.
We meet in an Episcopal church, a denomination I’m familiar with, though not as familiar as I am with Catholicism. I was raised Methodist and converted to the Catholic faith when I was in college. During that time, I went to Mass often, hit confession once a week, and felt part of church community and family for the first time. It was certainly better than the Methodist church where I grew up, for a variety of reasons, but that’s another kettle of fish.
As I took my seat and looked through the meeting material–the hand bell to start the meeting, the laminated script I’d read, the 7th Tradition collection baskets–I felt a stir of unease. The stir intensified as people filed into the sanctuary, sat in the pews, and trained their eyes on me. They kept chatting with each other, but years and years of conditioning through school and church attendance for many continued to draw their eyes toward the front of the sanctuary. I felt like I was doing more than just leading a meeting. Part of me wanted to grab a Bible and start reading from Matthew or some other Gospel.
When I rang the bell to start the meeting, everyone grew immediately quiet, and it was a different quiet than the kind that settles in the social hall. When I led the Serenity Prayer, I felt like I was actually praying; I united myself with the voices and prayers of the people in front of me.
My nerves settled a bit until it was time to divide into three groups (literature and new-comer groups meet upstairs, and the general discussion meeting stays downstairs). I wanted to share on the topic of hope, so I launched into my story of how I was quite against AA at the beginning, but I saw the hope in other people. I recalled one night when I said, “I have twelve days of sobriety, and I’m hanging on by a thread,” and how afterward, people gathered around me to offer support. I finished my share by saying, “I wanted to offer the same hope to any new-comers here tonight. I’m only ten months in, and I wake up with more hope that I’ve had since I was a kid.”
Silence followed, and I worried that my topic hadn’t been “good” enough. After a minute or so, people began sharing, and their words moved me. I always get something unique and helpful from each meeting, but this one was different. It was different because of the location, to be sure, but because this is first kind of service work I’ve ever done. My brother and sister alcoholics took a topic I was unsure of and met me–and all of us–where I was. And then they exceeded that, and the ones who’d been in the program a while talked about hope and how much better their lives are now compared to when they were drinking and using.
At the end of the meeting, we had one fellow pick up a clear marble (rather than a white chip),which was great. When we formed a ring in the sanctuary and held hands to pray the Serenity Prayer, I felt the power of connection. I felt part of the group, and I knew there was a reason that this had been my meeting to chair.
I’m still processing the evening and pondering what I heard. I’ve already signed up to chair another meeting, and I plan to do some service work at the Clubhouse in the next week or so. It’s funny; last week, I was prepared to switch home groups, but now I don’t want to.
I wish everyone a safe, sober weekend. Thanks for taking time to read.