The mere thought of speaking at a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous can strike fear into the hearts of the most stable of AA's. You may never have had a negative public speaking experience but I'll bet you can imagine exactly what it's like.
Muscles tense up. Heart pounds. Mouth goes dry. Thoughts race as you search for the words you're going to say. Why did I agree to do this!? I'm going to be completely embarrassed! I'm a fraud! People will finally see what an idiot I am!
Ok, maybe it's not that bad for you — or, maybe it is. Read on. This article will give you some tips to help you relax and enjoy this powerful opportunity.
First, calm down. I believe this is one of, if not the most important parts of the AA program. You're going to do, and be fine and more importantly, you're most likely going to share something that someone is thinking, is feeling or more importantly feels like they're the only one that's ever thought or felt.
Here's a quick list of things to do immediately.
You don't have to be religious to pray. If you've completed the 12 Steps of AA, then you're familiar with the idea of finding your own conception of a higher power. Ask your Higher Power to help you.
The third-step prayer is immensely powerful when I'm in fear.
God, I offer myself to Thee – to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of Life.
I was told that pray is when I speak to my Higher Power (HP) and Meditation is when I listen. As you begin to accept that your HP has got you, you'll start to accept that "Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in [God]'s world by mistake" and there acknowledge that there is a plan for your life. Through prayer and meditation, you will raise your consciousness of that power and draw on it to continue your personal journey of recovery.
Talk to your sponsor
There's a reason the program is structured with sponsors. Your sponsor has told their story. They can help you understand exactly what to expect and how to prepare. If nothing else, they're going to tell you that you're going to be fine and calm you down. If you haven't called your sponsor yet - pause this article and go call them.
Don't overthink it
Probably too late on this... if you're like me, you've launched already embarked on a journey of thoughts that's carried you into the meeting (in your mind) and has you visualizing every possible negative scenario. Stop (easier said, than done, right?)
This can be a very simple process. You're only going to talk about YOUR experience. Keep it simple. You're going to tell your story, nobody else's so you shouldn't even have to prepare much, if at all.
I used to get drunk. I couldn't stop drinking. I found the program, a sponsor... I worked the steps. My life is better today in these ways... You can do it, too.
The power of breath to affect your mental state simply cannot be overstated. Try for three in-and-out breath cycles per second. This produces a quick movement of the diaphragm. On your first try, do it for 15 seconds. Do not do it for more than 15 seconds on your first try. Each time you practice the Stimulating Breath, you can increase your time by five seconds or so, until you reach a full minute.
You will feel invigorated, comparable to the heightened awareness you feel after a good workout. You should feel the effort at the back of the neck, the diaphragm, the chest, and the abdomen.
Try this breathing exercise when you're getting ready to go on. It will boost your energy level and you will feel a great presence in the moment.
Call another AA
Calling another AA will accomplish at least two things:
- You'll get out of your own head. You'll be distracted thinking about the conversation.
- You'll be helping the other person. You can't imagine the number of times, I've picked up the phone thinking I was helping myself only to hear the person on the other end of the line tell me how much they needed to hear from me in that very moment.
Write it down
I find it helpful to put my thoughts on paper... or at least in a document. This accomplishes several things. First, it helps me understand the structure of what I will say. Second, writing things down is a form of practice. After having written something down, you're more likely to remember it.
A word of caution, however. Don't write a book. You'll most likely have 30 to 60 minutes to tell your story, and we alcoholics have been known to blather on. Keep it short. Don't go on too long with your qualification. Make sure you leave time to tell the most important parts of your story... how you got sober and how you stay sober.
I hope you found this helpful as you prepare to tell your story. Remember, you're in your high power's hands and you are performing their work now. Embrace this amazing opportunity. I want to hear how it went for you. I'd love to have you on the podcast so that you can share your experience with others. Complete this form and we'll see about getting you on an upcoming episode.