My husband and I are often out of town on Friday nights, but when we are home there’s an open AA meeting I like to attend.
Early in our work together, my sponsor suggested two Al-Anon meetings and one open AA meeting each week. Sound advice. I’ve found that when I can make only one Al-Anon meeting a week, I regress. Attending open AA meetings gives me an extra shot. More importantly, these meetings help me understand the disease from the flip side and learn compassion.
This Friday night AA meeting fills an auditorium. It’s intended for newcomers, but when the chairperson asks for a show of hands for various lengths of sobriety, at least one hand at every meeting waves in the 45 to 49 year category.
I like this meeting because the speakers come from all over and always have at least 10 years of sobriety. Also, it’s a speaker meeting. As Al-Anons, we don’t share in open AA meetings, so in a speaker meeting there is no awkward passing in the more common format of breaking into small groups where everyone shares in turn.
I’ve been fortunate to attend for the last two weeks with my first sponsee. For me, it has become a way for us to bond. These stories are now part of our shared history, part of the road we’re traveling together.
Last Friday, the speaker was from a Canadian First Nation, what we would call a Native American in the U.S., and his background gave him a particular perspective on the program. Not long into his talk, I found myself fishing around in my purse for a pen and paper so I could take notes.
He contrasted the perceptions of Native cultures with Western values. His culture, he said, did not have our Seven Deadly Sins (wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony). Instead, it had what he considered to be their opposite: Seven Sacred Truths. They are wisdom, love, respect, courage, honesty, humility and truth, which sounded to me an awful lot like the principles of the program.
But the main difference between the cultures, he thought, was one of perception. His native culture, he said thought in terms of verbs rather than nouns.
He talked about an assignment he was given in grade school to write about what he wanted to be. His mind swam with possibilities: policeman, fireman, truck driver. Not sure how to decide, he went home and asked a relative what they thought he should be. Responsible and generous, came the reply. Verbs, not nouns.
That was also the lessons he was taught in AA, he said. That it’s not what we can get out of the program (nouns), but what we can give (verbs). It’s all about taking action.
He mentioned that he once asked his grandson if he had written his Christmas list for Santa. His grandson said no, he hadn’t. “Why not?” He wanted to know. “Because I don’t need anything,” his grandson replied. He was amazed that a boy so young could have grasped such a profound truth. That’s the essence of faith. Knowing that what you have--what God has given you--is enough.
“I always believed there was a God,” he said. “I just had a resentment.” His program in AA was essentially a healing of that resentment. I thought that was an extraordinary perspective.
Asked about how he practiced his 10th step, he said it was very simple. Every day he thought about his day, whether it was good or bad, and what his role was in it. Not the nouns but the verbs.
February has been a month filled with verbs for my husband and me. In the last five days alone, we’ve entertained houseguests, hosted two dinner parties and attended two others. I’ve attended two meetings and helped find a new location for my home group. I took on a new sponsee. We’ve both worked every day. So the verb I’m most thinking about right now is rest.
This afternoon, my husband and I will head two hours north to a piece of land where we’re slowly building what may be our retirement home. We’re paying for it as we go and doing most of the work ourselves. It’s four and a half miles off the highway on a dirt road. Our closest neighbor is two miles away. At night, we listen to coyotes carol.
This will be the first chance we’ve had to get up there for three weeks. We’ll spend the weekend. It’s a good place to ponder sacred truths. There is no TV or radio or Internet. So I will not be posting. But I will be thinking about my blogging friends and all the other people amazing people I’ve encountered on this amazing road of recovery. And about the most important verb of all which, to me, is love.