by Chris Raymer, Vice President of Recovery Services, Origins Behavioral HealthCare
My twin brother Myers and I just got back from one of the best conferences ever. The Southern Maryland Round Up in Solomans, Maryland. Six hundred recovered alcoholics and Al-Anons gathered at a big ol’ Holiday Inn where we spent a couple days talking about the Steps and laughing our butts off. Got to bed about midnight, grateful to have been included in this event.
Sitting in the airport Sunday morning, I started thinking about how many folks I know in various 12-Step Fellowships that never attend events like the one I just left. I felt compelled to write a bit about that point. (Our flight being delayed an hour helped!)
I was in and out of a 12-Step Fellowship for a bunch of years back in the early 80s. Went to a bunch of meetings but never stayed sober long. Y’all have heard me talking about it before. I never heard of recovery conferences. I’m sure I wouldn’t have gone if I had. In 1987, after trying to “off myself,” I landed in a different meeting up in Lewisville, Texas. Bunch of Big Book folks as it turned out. I always went to the 6 p.m. meetings after work.
After a few weeks, checking out the club bulletin board, when one of the members pointed over my shoulder to a flyer about a big recovery conference in Dallas scheduled in a few months.
He said, “everyone was going.” I nodded my head and went in for the meeting. A few weeks later the same guy mentioned we needed to buy tickets to that conference soon. I remembered telling him I probably couldn’t go; I had to work. I didn’t have to work, but the thought of sitting in a big ballroom with a bunch of sober drunks really didn’t sound like much fun. (Those of you that REALLY know me know I’m about as shy as you can get. Crowds freak me out.)
After the meeting, a few of my new friends in the group cornered me outside. Basically, they told me they were going to this conference and so was I.
Some of these people had watched me isolate for years. (One reason I couldn’t stay sober.) They knew I was going to be uncomfortable doing this, but they also knew it was time to quit “hiding out.” Sitting here with tears in my eyes thinking about how these folks read me like a book. They weren’t going to take “no” for an answer. On that given Saturday, they picked me up at 9 a.m. I braced for a LONG day. Workshop, speakers, dinner, and a dance. Not a happy camper.
There were over 2,000 folks at this deal. Every walk of life represented. Any idea I had about being alone or being different got smashed.
By dinner time, I finally started to relax a little. Listening to a guy named Scott R. from California speak that night, I realized how blessed we all were to be in that room. Yep, I laughed a lot! Scott passed away years ago, but I still have an old cassette of that talk. (Most of these events have “tapers” that record and sell talks.) Still look forward to buying new speaker talks… got a recording of William James “Varieties of Religious Experience” this weekend. (Can’t wait to listen!)
The guys I went with made me go up and thank the speaker afterward; a thing I still do 30 years later. What an honor to have met this guy.
Went to the dance. Nope, didn’t dance but I had a good time watching my friends dance.
There are hundreds of different types of these functions. Anniversaries, workshops, mens or womens, singles, young adults, old timers, Area, Regional, State, even International. You get the idea. There are some conferences which I try to attend every year. Wonderful to see my old friends. Some of us getting kind of old. (Laughing!)
I hope this will encourage some of you to check out these events. You’ll be as blessed as I have been. New acquaintances, new ways to think about our Spiritual path, new ways to help others. I’m including some Fellowship websites you can check out for conferences in your area. Hope to see some of y’all out there!
Al-Anon: www.alanon.org / 757-563-1600
AA World Services: www.aa.org / 212-870-3400
CA World Services: www.ca.org / 310-559-5833
HA: www.herionanonymous.org / 888-699-7556
NA World Services: www.na.org / 818-773-9999
We’d love to help you, a friend, a loved one. Call (844) 843-8935