Do they still call them speaker tapes?
I have done a lot of different sorts of service in recovery. I started out by coming early and making the coffee. I talked to newcomers and called members of my cohort when I hadn’t seen them in a bit. I wrote a letter that kept my home group from getting kicked out of the church where we’d been housed for 25 years. I took ownership of my recovery and preserved those meetings which meant the most to me. I held positions in the AA service structure for five years. I did 12-step calls and sponsored (still sponsor) a few girls. For two years, I committed to chairing at least one meeting a month and I brought it. No gratitude meetings for me. No, whenever I chaired, we were talking FEAR & busting down egos.
My favorite kind of service, though, has always been sharing my story. I say this not because I enjoy doing it, but quite to the contrary, because I am scared shitless by it. Over the past eight and a half years, I’ve been called to tell my story at least a half dozen times. Sometimes these calls come from friends in the program, but sometimes they come from some overwhelming insistence inside of me. Every time I’ve told my story, it’s been from a completely different perspective, depending on where I am and what I’m working on. Only once have I ever scripted my talk & that was for ACTS, when I had to work in some scripture and a specific focus. Aside from that, my preparation is largely just breathing & getting out of my own way. Everything good that has come out of my recovery is a direct result of me admitting that I fuck shit up when I try to do things on my own. And so whenever I am called to tell my story, I try to get out of myself as much as possible and just let whatever needs to be said come through.
I got one of these calls recently – this time from a friend in the program who wanted me to speak for one of our recovery centers. Unfortunately, these meetings take place on the one day a week that I have school all day and so I had to put her off until the semester is over. This didn’t sit well with me. So, for the past few weeks, I’ve had this niggling at the back of my head saying I need to tell my story.
At the same time, I’ve also been digging through some old computer files, trying to find some old work I did, and I came across my “speaker tape” from when I spoke at Serendipity two years ago (It’s a wma file ripped from a CD, but “speaker wma file” just doesn’t have the same ring to it). I had never listened to it. I never wanted to, for fear that I sounded like an idiot. I had friends there that night who said I did great, but sometimes you never know if people are just trying to be nice. Others asked to hear the recording and I said I would share it with them. I ripped the file, intending to put it into Dropbox and share it that way. But then I got self-conscious. I decided that if I put it off long enough, everyone would forget and I could just pretend like it didn’t happen. And that’s what happened until I decided to finally listen to it last night – almost exactly two years later.
Wouldn’t you know, it’s not humilitatingly horrible. At the time this talk was given, I had recently begun attending ACoA meetings (and was still crying through every one of them). I was working on a project for my health disparities class which gave me a whole new insight into my childhood. I had utterly failed myself as well as a professor who had great faith in me (with whom I have finally reconnected – and he still has great faith in me). I had learned that my children had been experiencing some negative, borderline abusive behavior at their dad’s house and was working to adjust custody arrangements to keep them safe. It was a very trying, emotional time for me. I was not exactly feeling full of strength and hope when I stepped up to the podium to speak. What came out was something very raw and very true. And I am very glad I was able to be a part of it.
As far as the story goes, I’m happy to share it here. As for the fact that I say “and” way too often and that I apparently turn into a hick when I get emotional… well, I suppose there’s not a whole lot I can do about that now. It is interesting to me to hear my insecurity and uncertainty about my hopes for my future coming out in my language and my tone, betraying my words. This is something I hope I have worked to correct over this past two years. I think by now I speak more insecurity with more certainty.
Anyway, without further ado, here is my “speaker tape” from 28 Feb 2015: