Take a second, close your eyes, and think about what I am describing. You walk up to a large room, the only thing more energizing than the hot coffee, is the welcoming committee. In the background you hear the low roar of many groups of friends catching up and laughing. Everyone seems to be well acquainted except for a few people, but even they are being accepted and introduced as if they were the guest of honor. You later find out they were the guest of honor, even though they were not personally invited nor expected. Where are you? You are at one of the thousands of AA meetings being conducted that day.
Hands down, the most inviting rooms that I have seen have been AA meetings. I have several thoughts on why I believe members of this group are so approachable, one of which is the absence of the need to wear masks.
I say this with no bias, as I am not personally a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. I am, however, a member of a church who does a better than normal job of welcoming visitors and helping them get acclimated quickly. I have to say as good as my church is it still has a way to go in order to meet the bar set by many AA fellowships. I do not want to bash the church or AA but I do want to encourage people like me -opinionated, prideful, and standoffish, to open their minds and follow the lead of our brothers and sisters in the next room or the indiscriminate office front across the street.
I have had the opportunity to talk with several religious leaders about the power of AA meetings, especially for those brand new in their recovery. The accountability and structure found in the fellowship is hard to match. I do want to be clear that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven, and He can work through whatever means He chooses in order to ransom lost souls. That being said, people from all walks of life have found sobriety through many different means.
My hope in writing this article is to help bridge a gap that seems to exist between two very well intentioned groups that may or may not have some preconceived notions and ideas about one another that keep them more separate than need be.
I think one of the best ways to partner up and fight together is to invite one another to meetings/church. So, if you are in AA and go to church, invite some of your church friends to an open AA meeting. This will help demystify as well as enlighten people whom otherwise, would more than likely never step foot in a meeting. Also, invite some of your friends from the program to a church event. Let them see that Westboro Baptist is an exception, not the rule.
Furthermore, I think if more people in the church would speak up and either share their personal struggle with alcoholism or their experience of how alcoholism has affected their families, it would become less taboo and shameful. Shame is such a vicious liar. Shame tells us “no one understands me”, “if people really knew me they would not accept me”, and “just keep it a secret, it will be ok.” Out of all of the things I have seen in meetings, shameful people are very hard to recall. Shame keeps people sick and stuck in the cycle of addiction. It is so refreshing to be in a place where you can truly come as you are and be accepted.
Working at a Christ-centered residential treatment facility rooted in the traditional twelve steps, I get a unique opportunity to see two worlds collide. The average population can be broken up to about 50% who prefer AA/NA fellowships and the other 50% leaning more towards a CR(celebrate recovery)/church route. What I have seen, as we take all of our clients to both meetings, is that guys who stay closed off seem to struggle harder and longer. After much complaining, and long lists of why their preferred meeting is far superior to anything else out there, those who open up and embrace both styles of support groups, not only see relief quicker, they are able to help many more people. Ultimately, that is what it is all about, helping others. I think once the perspective changes from what can you do for me to what can I do for you, real recovery begins.
Community is essential not just to recovery, but to life in general. No one can argue that. In 1 Peter 5, Peter is encouraging the readers to be on alert that their adversary is prowling like a lion looking for someone to devour. He goes onto to tell the readers to have courage because their brothers around the world are fighting too. I love this passage because being an outdoorsman; my mind makes sense of anything related to animals. I think back to National Geographic episodes and watching the lions stalk their pray. The one thing that all of the victims had in common was that they were isolated. Never once have I seen a lion take off full speed into a herd of animals, whether water buffalos or antelope. My point is we have to stick together and bring those isolated individuals into the fold. Let us stop condemning one another because of our differences but embrace each other based on our commonality. We are all broken individuals in need of God’s saving grace.
Next time you have some time, step out of your comfort zone and head into a new meeting. If you are very daring, go to a new fellowship and see if there is somebody there to help. I guarantee you, if you ask God to put someone in your path that needs help, He will, 100% of the time.
William Stoy was born in Dallas, and has lived in east Texas most of his life. After graduating from Texas A&M University in 2008 with his B. S. in Psychology, he continued his education at Dallas Theological Seminary, where he earned his M. A. in Biblical Counseling. Will is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Executive Director of Stonegate Center, a Christ centered, 90 day, traditional 12 step based, residential treatment center for men. He has worked in the field of addiction/recovery for the past five years. Will’s passion is to help boys become the men God created them to be.