My first year in recovery, I went to twenty or more meetings a week. Granted, a lot of that first year was a matter of detoxing and clearing my mind of years of screwed up thinking. I was a sponge. I would put my butt in a chair and soak up everything that I heard. On the one hand, it was great to hear these "old timers" sharing because they had soooo much clean time but it also got annoying at times because they had the same stories time after time.
I was a mess in those early days of sobriety. I was coming down from so many drugs that I had a hard time just figuring out who I was supposed to be. I wanted to use drugs with every breath I took but at the same time, I wanted to stay clean more than anything else in the world. I just didn't know how so I put my butt in a chair as often as possible.
It was towards the end of that first year that my sponsor and grand-sponsor started giving me these assignments to do. They wanted me to come to the meetings an hour early and make coffee for everyone...... every day!!! Then, they wanted me to go to meetings every day for a month and not share. I could answer short responses to asked questions but I was not allowed to actually share how I felt...... just listen to others and how they felt.
"Go to meetings and find someone that has what you want in recovery". I had heard this over and over and always thought they were just talking about getting a sponsor. I already had a sponsor, a great sponsor actually. Then, I started noticing a rift in the rooms with a large number of people believing one thing and a very small number of people believing another thing. What caught me off guard was that the large group was believing in something that required them to not take action and the small group was "going into hell" to take action. They were called twelve steppers.
There is a debate in most of "the rooms" that I have been in and I've been to meetings in many different states. One side of the debate is that a person in recovery never goes anywhere that drugs and alcohol might be used for any reason. The idea is that the temptation is too great for someone in recovery and that if one does absolutely have to go then they are to take another person in recovery with them. My sponsor's view on this was "ask yourself if going is worth dying because that's the cost if you're wrong". The other side of the debate is that in recovery we are supposed to be dealing with what makes us addicts and alcoholics to begin with and why we feel the NEED to use and drink. That if we deal with those things proactively then we can go anywhere that "Earth People" go. BUT, what these Twelve Steppers were doing was insane. They would get a call in the middle of the night and go into houses where drugs were being made, sold and used and they were coming out with people that wanted to recover but couldn't take that first step themselves. Sometimes a family member of an addict would call one of them to go retrieve an addict that had "slipped" and needed to be steered back in the right direction. INSANE!!!!
Again, I went to my sponsor. "Yes, it's dangerous. No, not everyone can do it. But, what would have happened if nobody had twelve stepped Bill W." I have learned since then exactly what my sponsor was talking about. Doing that kind of twelve step work is dangerous and is not for everyone. Let me make this clear: there are tons of ways to do twelve step work without putting anyone's recovery in jeopardy. I did twelve step work every time I made that coffee before the meeting. I did twelve step work every time I shared my story with a newcomer. There is nothing wrong with the belief that addicts should under no circumstances go where drugs and alcohol are.
About three and a half years ago, I went on my first twelve step call. The man's wife called me in the middle of the night and said that I was the only person the she knew of that he trusted. He had been sober almost a year and was experiencing some stressful stuff at home and was now locked up in a room drinking himself to death. I went there and talked to him. I had a lot of respect for this person because he had served in the military, worked in law enforcement, was a father and a great friend. He came back to meetings for a short time. When the "Twelve Steppers" found out what I had done they sat me down and gave me a good lecturing.
"Never go alone!" It seems that I had made the same mistake that a lot of people make. They told me that when addicts and alcoholics get clean they want to put on their sobriety cape and go around saving everyone. This is an illusion because I cannot save anyone else from addiction. I can only share my story and provide others with blueprints to save themselves. "What if he had answered the door with a gun?" "What if he had offered you your favorite drug?" Yes I made some mistakes on that first call but I was a sponge so I sat there and soaked up what they were telling me and the most important thing they said was "we don't make twelve step calls to save anyone!!! We do it to keep ourselves sober because the best way to ensure our sobriety is by sharing our story with the other person."
I've been on a lot of twelve step calls since then and some of them have been in some very dark places. I've brought people with me that have turned and run for the door. I had someone throw up when we walked in the room. I've been to countless hospital rooms. It never gets easier but one thing is for sure; every twelve step call I have been on since that first has strengthened my resolve and my recovery. A couple of them were successful. Most were not. Some of them are deceased now. I don't go on them so much anymore but that is mainly because I have become so busy with family and work but I would not turn one down if asked.
A few months ago I got a call from the daughter of my first twelve step call. He had locked himself away in a hotel in another city and drank until he died there. He died alone in a room with no family and no friends around, just him and his addiction. I was talking about it with some friends in recovery that don't do twelve step calls and one of them asked me why I continue to do them. I replied "because when I was less than a week sober, I was sitting in a hotel room and I wanted to use so I picked up the phone and called someone on that phone list. Him and two other men came to that hotel room and picked me up. They took me to a coffee shop and we talked until the next meeting started and then we all went to the meeting together. I have been sober since and they remain to be my best friends."