I’m currently on the road (or in the air, as the case may be) back home from a business trip. One of the many great things about my job is the opportunity to travel. And on my travels, I largely enjoy visiting other groups to see what sobriety looks like elsewhere. It’s interesting to see how different regions hold meetings differently. The oddest I’ve seen is in Boston where their meetings were an hour and a half long with a smoke break followed by a secretary’s report halfway through before continuing on to the second half of the meeting. I found the whole setup very distracting and was saddened to see only half as many people attending the second half.
While taking note of these regional differences does help to increase my open-mindedness in other areas of my life, what I look for primarily at new meetings is how I am greeted as a stranger. I am blessed to have a very friendly and welcoming home group (if you’re ever in the San Antonio area, check out the Freedom group – often touted by one of our old-timers as the best meeting in Texas). We aren’t perfect, of course, but we are generally pretty good about welcoming strange faces. We seem to have a pretty solid understanding that we perpetuate the sickness when we remain self-involved and “[p]ractical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics” (pg. 89). To me, the first and most obvious example of working step 3 is whether or not we are paying attention to the newcomers.
In step 3, we must make the decision to either continue to live by self-will or shrink the ego and look outside ourselves in search of God’s Will. The first two steps showed us just what self-will gave us – a life of powerlessness, unmanageability and insanity. If we wish to recovery from this hopeless state of mind and body, we must decide that our ways are not the wisest ways. We are toddlers, determined to be independent, yet incapable of seeing the big picture and lacking the strength and knowledge necessary to function properly. Do we continue to beat our heads against the wall, frustrated at people, places and things which we cannot manipulate to our self-centered ends, or do we raise our eyes away from our troubles in order to see something new?
Sadly, the group I visited last night largely ignored me when I arrived. And their sickness was proven as a large number of folks introduced themselves as returning from relapses. Though there were old-timers in attendance, they were not reaching out to those who needed guidance. How easy it is for us to forget that third step. At what point does the program say, “Congratulations, you have now become God and you can spend the rest of your life contemplating your belly button!”? How often do I find myself ignoring the newbie because I’ve got something on my mind? Do I honestly think that just because I need a meeting, I am the only one with something weighing on me? Am I so self-involved that I don’t recognize the opportunities that God places before me?
“Then why do these people stay on their self-destructive path? Why do the people of Jerusalem refuse to turn back? They cling tightly to their lies and will not turn around. I listen to their conversations and don’t hear a word of truth. Is anyone sorry for doing wrong? Does anyone say, “What a terrible thing I have done”? No! All are running down the path of sin as swiftly as a horse galloping into battle! Even the stork that flies across the sky knows the time of her migration, as do the turtledove, the swallow, and the crane. They all return at the proper time each year. But not my people! They do not know the Lord’s laws. How can you say, “We are wise because we have the word of the Lord,” when your teachers have twisted it by writing lies? These wise teachers will fall into the trap of their own foolishness, for they have rejected the word of the Lord. Are they so wise after all?” Jeremiah 8:5-9.