As is often the case when I newly meet others in recovery, a recent conversation with a new friend I got to know through professional circles turned to topics like the Recovery 2.0 Conference, Tommy Rosen, Nikki Myers and Yoga of 12 Step Recovery. Eventually InTheRooms (ITR) came up because Tommy and Nikki’s work is featured regularly on ITR.
“Have you done any meetings on ITR?,” I asked joyfully?
“Oh no,” he answered with an air of smugness and superiority, “I still do my meetings live.”
Something about his tone and the curtness of his response elicited quite a visceral reaction within me. In fairness to my new friend, his response may not have intended to carry any judgment; it could have just been his sharing of experience, strength, and hope. I know that my reaction was so strong because his response is representative of something about old guard recovery that bothers the hell out of me: The attitude of this is the way we’ve always done it.
My way is the better way because it’s more tried and true.
Nothing beats the power of one alcoholic helping another…in person…in the same context with which it was done in 1935.
I cry foul.
Although people in recovery have a right to their opinions and sharing of their own experience, I get concerned when I encounter such judgmental attitudes which suggest that traditional recovery structures can’t evolve with the times. I get further concerned when these condemnations carry ridicule—whether actual or implied—that just because an approach worked one way for me means it will have to work the same way for you. The worst judgments, however, are those attempting to warn me that relying too much on the “new stuff” I’ve found—whether it be ITR, non-traditional psychotherapies, or yoga may lead me astray in my recovery because I am no longer keeping it simple. And yes—I’ve been hit with all of the judgments, concerns, and quips from other people in recovery at various points in my journey.
Such condemnation simply has to stop if we truly want the messages and gifts of recovery to grow and to blossom during this time when this world so desperately needs them. We must take the phrase this is the way we’ve always done it out of our lexicon. As I tried to explain to my new friend in recovery, the presence of ITR in my life has revitalized and rejuvenated my recovery in many ways. ITR allows me to attend meetings and share fellowship with some of my best recovery friends who do not live in my immediate geographic vicinity. My world is large due to the traveling nature of my work and so is my network of recovery support. Technology allows me to stay tapped into this richness of support, composed of people who inspire growth in me instead of stagnation.
Growth in my recovery is imperative to my survival. One of my favorite recovery folk slogans is that if you don’t grow…you’ll go. A client of my first sponsor once shared her insight that if a flower stops growing, it wilts and then eventually dies. St. Gregory of Nyssa, a 4th century Bishop, actually defined sin as the refusal to grow. I reached a point several years ago at around 10 years of sobriety where I was no longer feeling fully nourished at my local meetings. I tried switching them up. I called myself out to my sponsor. Yet I found that more often than not I left meetings feeling depleted. I was feeling worse leaving a meeting than I did going in, a first for me in my recovery journey. After a decade of sitting through some terrible meetings, I always managed to draw something; even one nugget, one kernel of nourishment. During my season of drought, I went to meetings more out of obligation, almost like going to church had been at other points in my life. I got concerned that the gods of sobriety would somehow strike me down. I still loved the steps themselves, yet old, religiously charged fears that asking too many questions would put my sobriety at risk started to consume me.
I used the discomfort to explore, to ask myself what needed to change. I began expanding my yoga practice, changed sponsors, and tried out meetings when I traveled (in my primary fellowship and in several others). I eventually dove further into ITR meetings, particularly ones that worked with recovery yoga principles. I do not consider it an overstatement of enthusiasm to declare that attending and becoming involved in such meetings restored my faith in the healing capacity of meetings. Perhaps it was the power of gathering with like-minded people who saw the value in the 12-step path but also knew they needed something more. Maybe I experience tremendous power, as a globe trotter full of wanderlust, in sharing meeting space simultaneously with recovering folks around the world. Another factor is the comfort I experience being able to turn off my other electronics and curl up with my morning coffee, my dog, and the grounding support of my home as I take in a meeting.
Yes, I still attend live meetings and not with the sense of dread I once did because I am no longer doing them out of obligation. If ITR or other alternative paths for accessing recovery wisdom and fellowship do not work for you, it’s not a problem. I request that, as a principle adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous advises, you do not engage in contempt prior to investigation. I ask that you consider how others may need to step outside of a box different than your own to truly be helped.