Despite being a teetotaler, today I joined a buddy at his AA meeting. We were talking about my friend's history with addiction, and he invited me to attend his Sunday meeting. My immediate reaction was to say "no", but I quickly realized that I was rapidly trying to find an excuse even though I didn't have a real one. Once I realized that, I agreed to go.
I really had no idea what to expect going in to this and was worried what the other people were going think of a "normie". Only now as I'm writing this do I realize how wonderfully ironic that thought was because of how egocentric it is (see the humility section below). After a little while, I learned that this meeting was specifically about the 11th step, which is:
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
Everyone was seated in a circle and the meeting kicked off with the Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
This was a great way to start off for me. I've always loved this saying because it encompasses so much of being a happy person and gives you something to always strive for. The humility of this statement set the tone for the rest of the meeting. We then went around in a circle and introduced ourselves in the typical AA fashion of: "My name is so-and-so and I'm an alcoholic/adict." I started freaking out about what to say about myself since I am not an alcoholic. Thankfully, someone else was there that wasn't either so I took a cue from her and simply said "I'm Matthew, and I'm here to support."
After this, people would speak about their relationship with God. Instead of going into all of the details, I'll just touch on some of the themes that I picked up on.
- Welcoming and warm - Every time someone would choose to speak, they would introduce themselves in the AA fashion, and then the whole group would respond with "Hi, so-and-so". Everyone would then respectfully listen to what the other person had to say. After that person was done speaking, everyone would say "Thanks, so-and-so." It's a simple thing, but it really shows that everyone is welcome and it helps everyone learn each others' names.
- Humility - Almost everything about this meeting (and from what I can tell, the rest of AA) is about humility. I know I certainly can use a solid reminder in humility, and it's something I'm practicing every day. People would talk about how they thought they knew best, thought AA wasn't for them, knew how to get a handle on their lives, etc, even though all signs outside of themselves showed that they didn't. This is definitely a topic that you needed to be there to really pick up on, and I can't give it justice in textual form, but suffice it to say this was the best part of the meeting, and a lesson that I think most people can use.
- Everyone has their own view of God - As I've mentioned before, I don't think any religion has all of the "right" answers. This seems to be the view of AA as well. They're not part of any one denomination and simply believe that there is a higher power. This ties nicely to the humility topic. If they were part of one religion, that's very egotistical and says that you know everything about God and other people are wrong about it. In this respect (and other parts of the meeting), this actually felt a LOT like the Quaker meeting I've attended.
- Relationships are what's important - Several people mentioned that they used to have a group of people that they hung around with that they would call their "friends". But looking back, they realize that those people were just a group of people looking for the same thing (getting drunk/high). They now realize that the relationships they've built since getting sober are the most important thing in the world to them. In today's consumerist society, it's important to remember, that a 60" TV won't actually bring you happiness; a strong set of relationships with family and friends will.
- Genuine - After an hour of saying "Hi, so-and-so", you would think people would have gotten tired of saying it. There was just as much enthusiasm at the end as there was at the beginning. When a couple people mentioned that they had AA birthdays recently, there was an outpouring of happiness. All of the smiles just felt truly genuine and heartfelt.
Overall, I simply can't believe that people are so open and honest with strangers. I know I'm not that open with even my closest friends.
When I hear their stories, I can't help but think, "There but for the grace of God, go I." I know I have an addictive personality, and I easily could have gone down the path of substance abuse. Hearing the hell that other people have gone through makes me grateful for everything I have in my life. It is also wonderful to hear that no matter how far you fall, there are people in this world that will support you. AA is humanity at its best helping humans at their worst.
I likely won't be going back again because I definitely was out of place, but I think that's okay. It was a great experience and I'm glad I was invited to be a part of it.