Etiquette of the Old School – Republished from NA Today June 2010

I was sitting in my Home Group just before the meeting started the other night quietly observing the passing parade. I was reminiscing over what it was like when I first came to NA all those years ago. It was a big meeting this particular night with over eighty members in attendance.

Throughout the meeting there was amazing pearls of recovery wisdom shared, many a warm cascade of laughter – all of which was lightly spiced with plenty of distractions. Depending on where I‘m at, at the time, depends on how I react to these distractions or whether indeed I am the cause of them!

As I was pondering, the booming voice of my first sponsor burst into my conscience (as it often does!). You see he was probably the most profound teacher I’ve ever had the privilege of being taught by. I was as ready as the dying are to learn what I needed to stay clean and I believe that he did a splendid job! He was from the Old School and that‘s why I chose him. He was as steady as a rock and would often
share about the message handed down to him from his sponsor, who at the time was twenty years clean. They both in turn talked about my sponsor‘s sponsor with an almost reverent tone and regularly referred to the grandfather of all their sponsors who had departed many years ago – clean!

My memory was recalling his tales of meeting etiquette. These are things which I try my best to stick by today as did back then, although today I do it because I want to and know it works, in the beginning mainly because I was terrified of getting in trouble! The truth is that I would break at least one of them nearly every meeting – there is always something to work on in recovery!

  • Always with a focus on the newcomer, and in line with unity and respect for our common welfare,
    this is what they said:
  • Always be seated in the meeting with your coffee before the meeting starts
  • Don‘t leave the meeting until the end unless you really have too – and if you do, never get up while
    someone is sharing (especially a newcomer as they may personalise it!). Always wait until they have finished – nothing is that important!
  • When coming back into a meeting or if you arrive late (naughty!), always stand at the back until the speaker has finished and then take your seat
  • Always share if you get asked – even if you feel like you‘re gonna die and can only say a sentence – doing that gives others freaking out the courage to do it too! Imagine everyone said “No I‘ll just ID thanks”
  • If you really feel the need to talk to your neighbour during the meeting then whisper really quiet
    (remember how you felt when you were new and people were whispering? Did you ever think it was about you!?) They would say “Save it until the second half of the meeting!”
  • The newest one, texting and playing games on the mobile – not the most respectful thing to do while someone is sharing…

And then there was the old “If you’re in the Chair” spiel which went:

  • Always get a strong, positive speaker to open the sharing part of the meeting,
  • ask if there is anyone there for their first NA meeting and whether they‘d like to say their first name (most people at their first meeting don‘t know what it means to “ID”),
  • ask if there are any visitors from out of town and ask them to share during the course of the meeting – visitors generally have something new to offer an NA community and being away from home it helps them connect,
  • where possible always alternate between male and female,
  • always ask someone you don‘t know if they‘d like to share,
  • always ask the person you have the biggest resentment with to share – builds character!
  • Remember principals before personalities – don‘t ask only your friends to share,

and the big one –

  • always get the cleanest member in the room to close the meeting – this is how we keep them coming back!

Sounds pretty full on hey! This is their (and now my) experience with caring and sharing the NA way and it works. They were always clear that these are suggestions – take them or leave them. They would always remind me however that when jumping out of a plane, it is suggested that you pull the parachute chord – suggestions are usually on the money!

I now have sponsees that sponsor members who sponsor still others. We know it as the Sponsorship Chain and often refer to the members in that chain with family names such as ‘my grand-sponsor’ (my sponsors sponsor) or my ‘recovery brother’ meaning we both have the same sponsor and so on.

This is an incredible resource – nearly all recovery challenges have been met with this gang – there is nothing together that we can‘t get through clean. We are still passing on the suggestions that were given to us and just for today, we are staying clean and living productive lives within our fellowship and within our society. Awesome Stuff!!

Nathanael M – Gold Coast

A holiday state of mind… Republished from NA Today March 2013

By which I mean, a relaxed, positive state of mind. One I did not have when I went away on holiday recently. Instead what I had was grumpy, complaining, pain-in-the-ass state of mind. Not exactly a fabulous place to start. And I had my reasons. Mostly to do with stress and being a stress-head and being stressed out. And with the way my work’s been lately goddamn it – it’s valid enough! Sure, yes it was valid and real and all that shit but not where I wanted to be… although it took me a little while to figure that out.

My friend and I arrived at the hotel we were staying at, hot and tired and me with a splitting headache, and my first thought was that the photos on their website were quite creative/deceptive. Ten minutes after that I decided the travel agents had made a mistake. 5 minutes after that I was on the phone to the aforementioned travel agent. Not much longer after that I started to wonder if we were in some kind of old people’s home. The Pacific arm of the great exotic Marigold Hotel perhaps…

It wasn’t until I was floating in the wondrously tepid waters of the Pacific Ocean having taken something for my headache, sorted out the room and my friend said “isn’t this amazing?” that I started to realise that “yes it was amazing” and I was being EXTRAORDINARILY negative.

No one has ever accused me of being an optimist. Even though I am generally happy enough I still retain the last bits of what I like to think is pragmatism but possibly I am kidding myself. I have a tendency to negativity that I have to guard against. And mostly these days I manage to do that. But in my weakened state (stress overload) I hadn’t guarded against shit. Instead I was in full blown negativity lock-down. I had forgotten that ‘feelings aren’t facts’ and other assorted relevant clichés. Mainly the one about misery being optional…

Thank god I have done enough recovery that in that moment I realised I could wreck my own holiday if I didn’t snap out of it and adjust my head. And what’s amazing is that I can do that these days – because I have learned those skills in recovery. And so I decided to stop the pity party, get a grip and have a good time.

And I cannot tell you how hard it was to get on the plane home! Turns out I had a great time, totally relaxed, did lots of cool things, ate great food and had a blast. Me at the end of the week’s holiday thought that me at the beginning of the week was a complete lunatic but really I am just grateful that
recovery has shown me that I don’t have to sit in a crap state of mind.

Recovery has given me choices in so many areas of my life. I choose not to use on a daily basis and then I get to choose all other kinds of cool things in my life. It’s a trip.

Jenny, Canberra

If Pain persists-don’t bother seeing a doctor, they can’t help!

The following article is a reprint from the earliest digitised NA Today we have from 2005. Back issues of NA Today are available for download on this website!

I will be four years clean tomorrow and a couple weeks ago I was sure I wasn’t going to make it. For the first time in my recovery, I had to deal with intense emotional pain. I started to believe I was going to have to use to make it go away.

I have been known to share that I never had a honeymoon period in my recovery. That I always knew that it was going to be hard and painful getting clean, doing life on life’s terms. Now I see that my whole recovery up until two months ago was one long honeymoon and I had no idea how pain the human heart is capable of feeling.

Besides being naturally a bit disconnected or something, I have always able to anaesthetise myself when I’ve gone through any kind of change or pain in my life – until now. I hadn’t actually realized how much I had depended on drugs to get me through life’s yucky bits.

So there I was cruising through recovery, having a fine old time. I was content. I had a few close friends, a great family, a nice caring partner, a job I don’t hate too much, nice place to live, not enough money but that’s normal… and suddenly my life spontaneously turned to shit.

In the space of a few weeks my support network moved interstate, my family was decimated by death and injury, my workplace became a reminder of that loss and my nice caring partner turned out to be a cheating immature prick. And to top it all off, I couldn’t put my feeling back in their box anymore.

Never in my life have I felt so bad. Pain in recovery is special. At least when you’re using you have the option of a nice pink drug cloud between you and reality and when it gets too bad you just have more. And although I know that the cloud doesn’t last forever and that when it wears off you are left in the same terrible mess, often worse, I wanted it anyway, that oblivion that belongs to the using addict.

All the platitudes and clichés that were meant to help only made me want to punch the people saying them, meetings drove me to distraction because no one could possibly understand how I was feeling. I just wanted it all to go away, to be numb again. And I kept waiting for it to go away and it didn’t. Eventually I found myself with a bottle in my hand trying to decide whether or not to drink it or tip it down the sink.

It sounds melodramatic in hindsight, but we all know those are the moments that count. Somehow at that moment I was able to choose to be clean and stay in recovery and see if all the shit would really pass like everyone kept telling me.

It hasn’t passed yet and probably won’t for a bit longer. I am still having trouble letting go of certain things in my life. The relationship break up has a life of its own and I cannot believe the lengths I have been willing to go to and the pain I have put myself through just trying to hold on in the face of incredible betrayal and hurt.

But I am slowly starting to value myself again, set boundaries to protect my sanity and trying to remember that that change happens all the time in life and we can’t control it. We just deal with it the best we can, and like everything else, it will pass. Usually “in 2 to 3 years you’ll look back…” is mentioned there as well but I try and ignore that, it’s too depressing.

I have done some of my “yets” in recovery. I have got down on my knees and prayed, I have cried in front of my sponsor, I’ve meditated, I wrote copiously till it started to make things worse and I have let myself babble on to people I don’t really know but who care about me anyway.

I think the first time you experience great pain in recovery it’s like being hit over the head with a brick from behind and there’s not really much you can do to prepare for it. The shock and impact are just so overwhelming after feeling nothing for so long. But this is where all the past effort of recovery pays off.

Sure you may go a bit crazy, do some wild and whacky stuff and not sleep for a couple of months but I have also had moments of great friendship, of connecting with others and being part of that I have never had before. Now that the box has been opened, I don’t think I will ever be able to stuff my feeling back in the same way.

It’s a bugger of a thing but it’s been worth it so far to not pick up, to share my life with others and accept their support and finally believe, two months down the track, that I will live and (as much as I hate to say it because it drives me nuts) it will make me stronger for next time I get blindsided by life at 6 o’clock some Tuesday afternoon.

Caroline M Canberra