Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve step programs sometimes get a bad rap from people in recovery, so much so that many centers and organizations have come up with alternatives to the twelve steps. It isn’t so much that the steps are or the program of recovery is drastically different than when the original members created it back in the 1930’s, as much as how different the times are today as compared to that time. One of today’s truths is that we as a society need to improve upon things that may or may not need improvement. Another is the infinite availability of information through technology, allowing opinions to be construed as facts, as well as a created need to always search for something better than what we’re currently presented with. People find alternatives to twelve-step programs that really work for them, but there are perhaps some ways to dig deeper into twelve step work to see if you can bring new life to your recovery. Even if you don’t go to twelve-step meetings, these tips may be useful for you and your program!
Think of the Newcomer
Sure, sometimes the introduction in the beginning can seem unnecessary or drawn out. But, there might be somebody there for the first time who could hear something in the preamble, or the actual steps which changes their perspective on recovery, helping them to develop a desire to stay sober. Other times, we hear the same thing over and over and one day, something “clicks,” or we hear something differently than we might have in the past. Whatever the reason, thinking about the newcomer and remembering how you felt at your first meeting might make other areas of the meeting seem more important.
What Can You Contribute?
Sometimes sharing how unhappy you feel, or your frustrations with a meeting format is actually a positive experience. Other times, folding somebody else’s chair and putting it away after the meeting can make a difference in the amount of work the clean up volunteers have to do. Recovery is about selflessness, and the less you meet acts of generosity with resistance, the more fulfilling your recovery experience will become in the long run. Ask yourself what you can contribute to the meetings you attend, and you might start feeling as though you’re a part of something rather than reluctant to attend.
Could you imagine not having a place to go to meet other people in your position? What if you lived somewhere that had no meetings whatsoever, or you were the only alcoholic or addict in that town? For many alcoholics and drug addicts trying to maintain long term sobriety or abstinence, this is a sad reality. Some of us aren’t as fortunate to drive or get a ride to a meeting, or are even behind bars and wait for their weekly meeting. Remembering that meetings are actually a privilege might help you to appreciate being able to attend them. Once there, follow steps 1 and 2. Even if all you get from a meeting is a safe space and like-minded community, you can make this a practice of gratitude.
Don’t Pretend You Love It
When I was a child, I hated the taste of medicine. Whether antibiotics or anything else, the taste and feeling I got from taking medicine made me feel worse sometimes than whatever I was afflicted by. Just because I didn’t like it, it didn’t mean I wouldn’t take it. Groups like AA or NA are actually a form of medicine. Regardless of whether or not you like attending, until you’ve found an alternative that works for you, simply making the decision to commit an hour of your day towards acknowledging your recovery can be incredibly beneficial. You can always find something else like therapy, Refuge Recovery, SMART, or your own path! We all go through periods where we don’t like doing something we know is good for us, and it can be helpful to acknowledge that you’re feeling this way.
Find Your People
One of the greatest parts about 12 step groups is that they’re actually a haven to people just like you. Whether you’re a musician, or an athlete, or even a science enthusiast, the more meetings you attend, the more likely you are to meet other people with similar interests. The value of building a network with other recovering addicts and alcoholics is immense in therapeutic value, as well as strengthening your chances of staying clean and sober. Start your search for your tribe, and build it.
See the Bridge
In fact, it says something like this in the Big Book. It’s easy to get down on yourself or become frustrated imagining a life that revolves around meetings and recovery. If you’re new or getting burnt out by going to meetings, remind yourself that meetings are a tool to help you build a more fulfilling and full life. Once you are busy, the real skill becomes incorporating meetings into a busy schedule, which sometimes is drastically less in frequency than when you might have not had a job or school. Furthermore, the ultimate intention is to build a life on principles of honesty, accountability, and principles of recovery.
Let the Feet Do the Work
This step is fairly self explanatory. Sometimes in the back of meetings, you’ll notice people playing on their phone, reading, or even sleeping. This might seem disrespectful, but for whatever reason they’re doing this, this actually can be a tool to growing spiritually in the confines of a recovery program. For instance, through the distraction of a game of tetris, you might just hear the one thing that saves your life. Or, after the meeting, you might meet your future sponsor. Bring the body and eventually the mind will follow. There’s a saying in meetings that says “my feet are smarter than my mind.” Sometimes we can just go to a meeting and do our thing, and still find great benefit. At the very least, we’re cultivating the ability to show up when we don’t feel like it.
Make a Change
So you’ve done your “90 in 90” at the same meeting hall or circuit of meetings and you’re starting to feel stuck? Adding other programs like Refuge Recovery or Celebrate Recovery once or twice a week or simply choosing other meetings to explore can help you to feel a little less stuck. Many cities even have late night meetings, which are usually a little different in energy levels than an early morning or afternoon meeting. There are tons of meeting finder tools online if you search for them, and you can always ask a friend for a new meeting! We’ve found that if we go to meetings with different formats, energy levels, age groups, etc., we are able to spice our recovery up a little.
A lot of times, you’ll hear a lot of the same cliches in different meetings that a lot of old-timers like to say. Every so often, and much more frequently than you might suspect, there are new and truly insightful sayings or facts that are given in meetings that you might not remember once the meeting is over. Many times, bringing a notebook will actually help you listen more intently for interesting things you might hear. You can also use the notebook to get numbers from those people after the meeting.
When all else fails, acceptance is quite powerful. Accepting the feelings you might be having about going to a particular meeting, or meetings in general can actually help you to shed the feelings of resistance, and to start actively participating in your own recovery. By searching for ways to keep interested and stay involved in your recovery, you’re growing as a person, and strengthening your sobriety in ways you might not have earlier. Much like exercising, if we keep the same routine, we stop seeing as great of results as we might have seen early on. It’s okay to feel stuck, but when those feelings arise, accept them, and try to find ways to move on. If we don’t accept what is present, we cannot change it. We must see the difficulty and accept it if we are to make a change!
There are several different ways to keep from feeling bored in recovery. Switching meetings, talking to people you might not have spoken to ordinarily, and even finding other avenues of interest are all wonderful ways to help switch it up a bit. Sometimes, it’s less about the meeting or program and more about what we may or may not be lacking in our own lives. Challenge yourself to keep going regardless of these feelings. You might find a life you’ve never dreamt of on the other side!