The Message of Silence

As a guy who has been going to meetings for years I often give a lot of thought to what exactly is my message. Granted, different days will have different messages. One day I might talk about honesty another about the first step and another about accountability. Usually I try to be pretty clear about the point I am trying to get across and I make sure to drive home the point pretty clearly that is if I’ve had enough coffee to string together several well thought sentences. But what if being silent is the point? You can’t be at a meeting and talk 5 minutes about the virtues of silence right? That sounds self defeating. It’s kind of like the old timer who says that the newcomer is the most important person in the room and then the whole hour all you hear is old-timers and they don’t allow time for the hesitant unsure newcomer to share.

So as odd it sounds I am now going to talk about the virtues of not talking. At a meeting you have 1 hour for everybody to chime in and either talk about the topic of the day or just share about whatever is on their mind. At the one I go to we have what I call the formalities. There are several things we read everyday as well the announcements that we make at each meeting. When it is all said and done I would say we have about 35 minutes for everybody to share. Time is of the essence. We consistently have two guys at the meeting who will likely take up about 15-20 minutes daily leaving everybody else with precious little time. Newcomers have a tendency to be very quiet and need to be encouraged to speak more. It is very easy for them to give deference to the old-timers and kind of shrink and let those guys take center stage. I believe they are the ones who need to speak the most.

The way I see it is this. If you’ve been coming to meetings for 20 years the way to show that the whole program is working for you is to show that your higher power has taken away this urgency to have to make everything so urgent that you must talk about it.  If your program is working for you then you’ve learned not to make everything about yourself and not to micromanage every little problem to the point that you have to spill your guts at every meeting or for that matter point the finger at yourself and draw attention to how great your life is. It all just seems so self-absorbed to me. It seems like the exact opposite of the message we are trying to send.

Here in lies my problem. I will often  go to a meeting with the intent of not saying a word. My intent is to show people that the program works. And the way I am showing them is by selflessly giving up my time to speak and thus leaving more time for others to speak. I wish to show them the example of going to a meeting and simply allowing yourself to not be caught up in yourself but to just give others the space to talk. The less we think of ourselves and the more we try to do for others the more likely we are to stay sober. If you are always caught up in your problems and you consistently make such a big deal of your own life that you become self-absorbed you will drink. This is at the core of relapse, always trying to focus on us and worrying about fixing our problems rather than just plain learning the art of acceptance. What I worry about is whether or not my message is lost on my fellowship.

3 thoughts on “The Message of Silence

  1. I agree with you. I hate AA meetings and have only went to handful. Every time, I sat there in silence, listening to someone else drone on and on, and thinking to myself how stupid the meetings were. I mean, how is one supposed to receive encouragement if you’re not able to talk about your problem? Good post.

    Like

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