One of the great benefits of the Alcoholics Anonymous program is that it provides a venue where members can go and talk about their recovery as well as any problems they experience along the way. This type of sharing can be highly therapeutic. If the individual who is doing the talking has built a successful recovery then can inspire other members. It is one of the main reasons why people continue going to the meetings even though they have been sober for many years.
The majority of time at AA meetings will be devoted to sharing. This is where members get an opportunity to speak. At most of these gatherings it is appropriate to discuss personal worries and concerns, but there can be some limitations on what the member should talk about such as:
* At Step Meetings the topic will be one of the steps. Members will be encouraged to share their experience of working that particular part of the program.
* At Big Book Meetings the theme will be a section of the text. Members will be encouraged to share on their understanding of that subject.
* At discussion groups a topic will be chosen beforehand and members will discuss this.
* During a general meeting there will be one member who talks about their life before and after AA. Once they have finished sharing the rest of the group will be allowed to share about anything related to what the speaker has said.
Sharing at Alcoholic Anonymous meetings can be beneficial in a number of ways including:
* When people talk about what is going on in their life it allows them to release some of their pent up stress and tension. It is not always possible or desirable to talk to friends and family about worries and concerns. A 12 Step meeting can be the ideal venue for people to unburden themselves.
* Other members can offer a different perspective on problems. They may suggest something that the individual might have never considered on their own.
* When people share they feel more a part of the meeting because they are contributing something.
* Sharing can be a type of service in recovery. This is particularly true when members share things that are inspiring or provide advice for other members who are struggling. 12 Step meetings could not exist if members were not willing to share their experience and hope. A member can make a comment that might mean little to themselves but could be life changing for one of the listeners.
* Sometimes people are unsure about exactly what it is that is bothering them. They just have a vague sense of unease. It is only when they start talking at a meeting that things become a bit clearer to them.
* One of the nice things about opening up at meetings is that afterwards the speaker will feel less alone. There will almost always be other people in the room who have shared similar experiences.
* Things become clearer when they are spoken out loud. If people keep their problems and concerns internalized it can make things seem much worse than what they actually are.
If people avoid sharing at AA meetings it can be detrimental in a number of ways:
* This will usually mean that the individual will feel like an outsider in the group. They will not get the full benefit of being part of a fellowship.
* When people keep their own counsel it can be easy to slip into delusion and denial. If they have taken a wrong path in recovery this will often be obvious when they share at meetings. Other members will be able to advise them about how to get back on track, but this can only happen if they talk.
* One of the things that AA members tend to do before they relapse is that they stop sharing at meetings. They just sit there feeling resentful and angry and such stinking thinking leads them back to alcohol and drugs. If people are more open about their difficulties they will reduce the amount of stinking thinking they experience.
* If people do not interact at meetings it will make it harder for them to build friendships. Those who have a network of sober friends are far more likely to find success in recovery.
One of the concerns that people have about sharing at meetings is confidentiality. At these 12 Step groups the members are frequently reminded that what you see here, what you hear here, when you leave here, let it stay here. Despite this expectation of anonymity there is no guarantee that it is going to happen. If a member is still drinking, or if they have relapsed, they may have no compunction about discussing everything they have heard at the meeting.
Despite the risk of someone breaking the confidentiality of the meeting it doesn’t seem to happen very often. People can protect their anonymity by only speaking in a general way. So if they are complaining about their boss they should avoid using his name or mentioning the name of the business. This way people can talk about the things that are bothering them without having to worry that it will later cause them embarrassment.
There are some subjects that are so personal in nature that the individual will feel uncomfortable talking about them in public. In such a situation it is always better to talk to a sponsor. This will need to be an individual that the sponsee fully respects and trusts. It is usually OK to make vague mention of such problems at meetings but only divulge the full details to a sponsor. For example, a member might share that they are having family problems that are causing them some concern without actually describing the problem.
There are no hard and fast rules about how people should share at these meetings. The individual is free to say almost anything that is on their mind. There are some guidelines for how people can share effectively and in a way that is more respectful to other members. Here are a few of these suggestions:
* The most important thing about sharing is that people are completely honest. There is no benefit to be had by lying or exaggerating. The aim of talking at meetings is to get things out in the open. It is beneficial for the listener to hear things that are going to inspire them but only if what is being said is completely heartfelt and honest.
* This type of communication is called sharing for a reason. It means giving other people the opportunity to speak. Some individuals may be really struggling and really feel the need to share. They might not get this opportunity if some members are using up too much time at the meetings. It is good to remember that one of the main overall objectives of AA is to help the suffering alcoholic.
* Members should always put their hand up when they want to share and wait to be selected by whoever is chairing the meeting. It is considered rude and unfair to begin sharing without being invited to.
* The member should talk about themselves and not use this time as an opportunity to criticize other members. They should also avoid divulging any information publicly that would embarrass other members.
* People need to talk about where they are at in recovery, but it can be hard for other listeners when a member is constantly negative about everything. It is helpful to discuss the positives in life as well as the negatives; even when these positives seem to be in short supply.
* If people do not feel that they have much to say they are under no obligation to say too much. It is probably best to keep the share short, and allow other people who do need to talk the opportunity to do so.
* Some meetings will be devoted to a particular topic. When sharing people are expected to stay close to this topic and not take the discussion in a completely different direction.
* Members need to avoid using the meetings as an opportunity to promote their beliefs or personal causes. Subjects such as politics should be avoided because this will alienate other members, and such topics have no place in an AA meeting.
* It is best to avoid crude language because this will make some listeners uncomfortable.