Places come with their own personalities, then they’re further altered by the group of people who fill the space. Al-Anon rooms are no exception. I’ve been trying out different meetings recently to see where else I might fit. If you haven’t been to a meeting, here are things you might notice:
(1) Some groups are largely composed of a particular age group. This has happened to me a few times. I step in, and I’m the only one under the age of 50, sometimes 60. If you are not elderly and are not sure how you’d fit, stick it out–some of the old timers have the best wisdom to share, especially the ones who have been working the program forever. They’ve got the Serenity deal DOWN. Also, it’s amazing to watch people accept their coins for their 30+ years in the program. I personally feel strange about taking an Al-Anon coin, but I enjoy watching others do it.
(2) Some groups rely heavily on the Al-Anon literature. If you don’t have your own books yet, you can sometimes borrow them at the meeting or share with someone sitting next to you. If you’re tight on money, look for them at your local second hand stores. I found three of the main books that way for a quarter of the cost. The groups that focus on the literature inevitably take turns reading. If you don’t want to read, you can say “Pass”.
(3) Certain groups feature different things. One I visited allotted 5 minutes for group meditation. Another group has hug time in the middle of the meeting. Regardless of the smaller features, all of the groups I’ve visited stick to a familiar structure. Serenity Prayer, the welcome, self introductions by first name only, Al-Anon announcements, then possibly a topic or a literature reading, followed by sharing. Sharing takes up the majority of the time. At midpoint, the collection basket is passed around: Al-Anon is a self-supported organization. At the end, you’re reminded of the importance of anonymity and encouraged to take what you like of the talks and leave the rest. You end as you began, with the Serenity Prayer or perhaps the Lord’s Prayer.
(4) During sharing, there are people who keep talking, regardless of how many people are in the room. Some groups use an actual timer with beeper to give more people a chance to share. Other groups just remind people to keep shares under x minutes. There are people who keep going and going, even after the timer goes off. I am thankful to the ones who tie it up quickly and allow for others who haven’t shared yet to have a turn. Oy. Still, the shares to me are invaluable. The raw honesty keeps me honest with myself. The openness allows for us to see our commonalities and we support each other, not caring about the differences.
I also led a meeting for the first time this past week. It was very impromptu, as no one was scheduled to lead, so at the beginning of the meeting, I said why not. Decided to go with the topic of detachment and someone else thankfully had a handy reading regarding just that. I helped shepherd the meeting along and it really wasn’t that nerve-wracking! Afterwards, it was really nice that people came up and thanked me for leading. I feel very humbled and so grateful to be part of my home group.
Are there things that have stood out to you as you explore the different rooms? I’d love to hear your experiences.