Meetings, Meetings, Meetings

A woman in AA told me after she spoke in a meeting, quoting Chapter 5 in Alcoholics Anonymous, that “God could and would, if He were sought.” And that’s how I did it. By letting God do it. Because I couldn’t. But God could and would – and did. But I had to go to meetings to learn things like that. “Meetings, meetings, meetings, meetings, meetings … ” That’s what they told me. “Just keep bringing the body.” (SA 158)

1. My first meeting – May 2012

At the age of 51, sometime after my wife discovered my double life, she gave me the SA White Book. When I read the title, I was inwardly outraged. How could she think that I was a sex addict? I was “only” having an affair and so I put the book aside.

Months later, during a visit to our couples’ therapist, I agreed to read the book and attend an SA meeting. When I called the number for the Munich meetings, a man asked me questions about my motivation and I answered honestly. He said that there were three meetings per week. I said that I only wanted one meeting a week, at least initially. He replied then that I was probably not ready yet. That’s how it used to be then in Munich and in the German-speaking region.

I believed him and thought I had done my part. SA meetings were probably not for me. Our therapist disagreed. She explained to me that my willingness to stop lusting was my ticket into SA; that I should just go without a preliminary talk – they couldn’t kick me out.

After a few weeks, I took the plunge and attended my first SA meeting. I entered the group room excitedly and without invitation; I explained my concerns, and was met for just a moment, with incredulous perplexity. After some discussion, the group agreed to hold a Newcomer Meeting for me. I told them my story and told them of my desire to stop lusting, that I could not do it alone. After a vote, I was allowed to stay. What I remembered most after the meeting was that there was hardly anyone who had long term recovery.

2. Relapses in meetings

After a few meetings, phone contacts, and reading the white book, I recognized that I belonged in SA. I could identify especially with Roy’s description of lust and was willing to begin my recovery. I attended phone meetings and asked one person about sponsorship. So far so good. However, the many relapses within my group were irritating. Even my sponsor relapsed after a few weeks. Why was recovery apparently not working, or only for a very few? I too had a relapse after a few months. I realized my powerlessness and that I needed more than meetings.

3. Recovery begins – Meetings with an old-timer and his wife – Spring 2013

A few months later, an American old-timer and his wife visited our community and shared their experience, strength and hope with us in a 12 Step Workshop. That weekend changed everything for me. I had never encountered recovery like this man before. He lived and spoke a life in recovery. With simple, clear words he showed how to make recovery work. “Learn to give instead of take,” it says in the White Book, page 162. He emphasized again and again the importance of the AA Big Book, as being the foundation of our White Book.

His basic message was: I am not a bad person getting good, but a sick person getting well. To me, his recovery seemed full of ease and joy. I felt an urge to explore more and was inspired to begin serious work on the Steps. That weekend changed everything for me.

4. New York and Nashville – January 2014

On my way to an International Convention in Nashville, I made a three-day visit to New York to get a taste of the city. I decided to base my sightseeing tours around meeting times and places and was surprised to find how accessible this information was; in our region, the fellowship at the time was quite rigid in its approach to open meetings.

I was even more surprised when no one at the meeting asked me who I was, even though I was obviously a stranger. At the end of the meeting, I asked how they would have reacted if I had been a newcomer or journalist? “Then we would have held a newcomer meeting,” was the reply. Other meetings were just as open and friendly. Three days later in Nashville, I recognized some New Yorkers at the airport and they invited me to travel with them in their cab to the convention hotel. And then, at the convention itself, I encountered that very spirit that I had read about in the White Book where everything was simpler, bigger, (spiritually) wider, inviting. I felt that I had “come home.”

Back in Munich, I told the local members about it all and challenged them to re-think our closed, rigid way of taking in newcomers. The groups accepted the challenge and opened up. Since then, every newcomer in Munich can simply walk into a meeting. We offer him a preliminary talk if he wants it. Anyone who wants to stop lusting, is welcome here.

5. German Convention – Autumn 2014

In the fall of 2014, I heard a member from another European country speak at a German Convention. Five years before, when his recovery was not progressing, he decided to go for six months to Nashville, attending meetings and immersing himself as fully as possible in recovery life there. When he returned home, he continued with many of the practices he learned in Nashville. I was impressed by his determination.

When I got to speak to him, he recommended that, if I really wanted to develop my recovery, I should go to Nashville for a time. A few months later, I did go and am very grateful for his advice. For the 14 days I was there I fully lived the lifestyle of recovery, morning to night. An SA friend there arranged a temporary sponsor for me. He and an old-timer were very generous with their time; they called me and accompanied me to meetings (there are over 50 meetings/week in Nashville). He explained the Steps to me and gave me assignments which I fulfilled. Between meetings we would talk on the phone or meet up for lunch. I was reminded, most importantly, that it is perfectly acceptable to be joyful in recovery. I was told that if I wanted to continue to develop my recovery, I should start a new group in Munich, working with at least one other SA member who also wants to develop his recovery. This was going to be a painful challenge; it filled me with dread because, after all, I had a strong sense of belonging to the existing Munich meetings. It took me some time before I could carry it out.

From my experience at the International Convention, I got to see how speaker meetings work; how women and men share their experience, strength and hope, and afterwards take questions and hear shares from the floor. So, with an SA buddy, we organized telephone speaker meetings and these have now been running every week, for years, in Germany.

The 2015 German-speaking convention in Zavelstein was hosted by the Munich group. It adopted this concept of speaker meetings. Three meetings took place in parallel: one German-speaking, one English-speaking, and one open meeting. This type of meetings had already been introduced at the 2013 Düsseldorf Convention and are well established in the German-speaking region today.

6. Foundation of a new group

All these developments led then, in 2017, to the foundation of a new group in Munich founded together with another SA friend, where, starting at 7:00am, we would make time to write and study literature in the meeting before sharing. This led on then to our having breakfast together, before heading off into our daily lives, really nourished. We founded a second meeting then where the focus was on bringing SA closer to newcomers.

7. Retrospect and Outlook

Looking back, I am grateful to every SA person I met—especially to all those oldtimers who started up these meetings in the first place. I am a very different person today after learning so much from my SA friends and sponsors. The most important phrase I learned is that it’s not what’s on the outside that pollutes me; pollution is an inside job, and so is recovery.

I am not overwhelmed today by resentment or other character defects. They reappear in my life, certainly, especially when I mistake what is going to make me happy. Chasing people, places and things has always made me miserable. My awareness of this is so much sharper today after so many, many meetings and lots of step work. I have learned a healthy self-esteem and have experienced the joy of being accepted by others as I really am. I know it is only one day at a time; that there is always the trap of going back to seeking approval and fulfillment by the world’s standards. When I fall into this trap, I change, darken; become unkind and controlling—controlling even of my recovery and that of others. This is when I need meetings and my sponsor where they act as a kind of “mirror.”

Since the Covid lockdown, attendance at meetings in Munich has at least doubled. Today, our recovery and our fellowship have really grown. Meetings teach me how God transforms us all if we let Him—how interest in our fellows, service, Step work and honest sharing have replaced old sick, selfish thinking and behaviors. Every person’s honesty inspires honesty in others. And the more meetings there are, the more God can get around doing His work, keeping us safe from our old, ingrained addictive patterns. And as we experience the happiness, joy and freedom of recovery, the less we want to go back to the old life; we see the truth of the words, “God could and would if we sought Him.” I did seek Him and am so glad, letting Him do it because I couldn’t. “But God could and would – and He did.”

Bernd S., Munich, Germany

Total Views: 54|Daily Views: 1

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!