Friday, April 01, 2016

Some random thoughts on giving back in the Fellowship

One of my favorite ways to serve in the Fellowship is through Hospitals and Institutions, which takes meetings into places where those who may need to hear the message can't get to outside meetings. Last night at the last minute I agreed to share at a Hospitals and Institutions meeting at a local recovery house. I was tired and had no time to think about what I was going to share. Sometimes, that's the best way.

When I got there, I met the facilitator and we sat and chatted as the room filled up. Soon, about 20 addicts in various age ranges sat staring at us. One thing a long-term treatment program offers is the chance to build friendships with others who are struggling with addiction, so there was a lot of laughing and joking as they waited for the meeting to start.

When I speak at this type meeting, I focus on the unmanageability of my life during my active addiction. Looking at me (I often say, "I know, I look like a Girl Scout troop leader or someone's very hip grandmother"), you wouldn't think I ever smoked a joint, much less shot heroin for a decade or so. I want newcomers to relate in some way to the craziness, the sadness and the hopelessness. Next, we usually do a question-and-answer period.

I shared my story, which is pretty funny in parts, and the newcomers listened intently and had a few laughs. They asked some really good questions. Here are a few:
  • "How long did it take you to detox off methadone?" 
    • Answer: A long time. The detox lasted about a month, but the effects lingered on for years. I didn't want to depress them, I said, but I didn't sleep much for my first seven years! (Remember when your sponsor told you, "Lack of sleep never killed anyone!" and you thought, "Except now I'm going to kill you!"?)
  • "What are the first three things you do each day to stay clean?"
    1. Thank God for another safe night and an awakening, not a "wake-up."
    2. Roughly plan when I will go to my next meeting.
    3. Try to set out with the intention to be a nice person. 
  • "What is the hardest thing you've ever stayed clean through?"
    • My liver transplant. While the three deaths in my family -- my mom, my dad and my brother -- were incredibly difficult, the liver transplant and the chronic level 8 and 9 and 10 pain were so difficult it is beyond description. Unless you've been that sick or been an attendant to someone that sick, you can't understand.
I thought they asked very insightful questions. They made me think and it really helped me connect with these newcomers.

If you're not active in service, you're missing a tremendous opportunity. While I can't judge anyone else's recovery, I simply do not understand those who stay clean yet abandon the rooms. If this program saved your life, which it undoubtedly did mine, why would you not continue to go to meetings and fail to pay back what was so freely given you?

Have a great day.

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