March 23, 2011

In My Own Words: Health Boundaries in Meetings

Our twelve step meetings often attract people who have been brought to the place of despair. It may seem to them that we are their last resort. Under the weight of so much unhappiness, their whole purpose in attending a meeting may be to talk it all out.  

A newcomer is very fortunate if her first meeting permits her to express in such a way.  When she is encouraged to share her story, everyone in the room gains; the newcomer's story reminds them of what they were like, and provides a measure of progress. Those of us with experience, have the chance  to feel and express compassion and to share our hope and encouragement.  The newcomer leaves the meeting knowing she is not alone.  But after offering a balance of support, and sharing a bit about the tools of the program that work for us, the newcomer will need us to be the most excellent group.  This kind of group does not allow the newcomer to unburden meeting after meeting. 

"There is work to be done, new ideas to be learned, and for that the problems of yesterday and the fears for tomorrow mush be put out of the way."

As a long timer to the 12 steps, I encourage newcomers to learn to set their own boundaries, sharing tough story when necessary but also sharing their successes no matter how small. This helps to build confidence in a new way of life. As they say, "Al-anon is not a sounding board for continuing to review our miseries, but a way to detach from them. " I learn by listening, by reading our literature, and by trying to live the Twelve Steps.  

As for me, when I am not focused on a Step, I take each day as a new day, and set my intention. I might use a Slogan, like Look for the Good,  or adapt one of the Just For Todays.   I encourage newcomers to do the same, when they share, when I make a sort of sandwich from each share....  with something nourishing and sustaining between the challenges my life has given me. 

Glad for the inspiration that resulted in this post:  March 21st's reading in One Day at a Time in Al-anon


  1. I like to hear newcomers share. I feel such compassion for them. Some get it and for some it takes time.

  2. The newcomers have a newer mind than I and offer me things I may have forgotten... thinking I am "beyond all that..."


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