Eight a.m. of a Sunday morning isn’t all that early, but allowing for the preliminaries of the AA Preamble, How It Works, newcomer and visitor introductions and anniversary coins, Change or Die (Change and Live) is infamous for stretching the limits of “you’re never late for a meeting”. By its end, as many as eighty will hold hands to chant, “Keep coming back…” but, as Kristen opened the meeting, she faced a sparse gathering. Kristen is settled in long-term sobriety and flourishes in the Big Book’s promises. Her talk was not crafted or rehearsed, but a sincere, impromptu display of the “Language of the Heart.”
She spoke so spontaneously, I almost missed her take-away line: “I’m Kristin, my sobriety date is this date on that year, and my sponsor is the delightful Marielle. We talk.” For the next twelve minutes, Kristen described minor and major miracles that comprise her days and frame her life, but for much of the meeting, I savored, then waded and plunged into her pithy, powerful declaration: “We talk.”
“We talk” animates every aspect of all our recoveries as we navigate the bridge back to life.
From the beginning, “we talk” – speak and listen – at meetings. We hear our own stories as others tell theirs; we see ourselves in their descent, collapse and rising. We hear our anguish, identify our defeats, and recognize our healing in one another’s words. And when we do talk, we attempt our new, now true voices. Talking with our sponsor, we try, test and gain a capacity for trust. Grudgingly at first, but over time our need for self-honesty wins out. In the 5th step, we talk and gateways open to transparency and intimacy within ourselves, and toward others and God.
“We talk.” Colloquy, dialogue with the divine, is a tradition in every faith. Mother Theresa, whose spirituality spanned every creed and culture, was asked what she said in her prayers, “Nothing, I just listen to God.” And what does God say? “Nothing, he just listens to me.” Our listening speaks volumes and invites our outpourings. Present in the Presence, we talk.
We talk and we grow in understanding, sympathy, empathy and compassion, so that by the 9th step, we are ready for authentic amends. We talk with – not to or at, but nakedly address the trifling or tragic ruptures with those who have been bruised by our attitudes and behaviors. We face the “damaging emotional conflicts, violent twists which have discolored our personalities and altered our lives for the worse.1 We find the words, the gestures, and reparations tailored to both our offense and the vulnerability of those we have wounded.
As we continue in our recovery, we talk to sustain relationships, no longer imposing “unreasonable demands upon ourselves, upon others, and upon God.”2 We are capable of forming “true partnership with another human being”3. As we “move out from ourselves, toward others, and toward God”4, we talk… to help, to heal, to hope… “we talk.”
1 Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, AA World Services, 1952, Step Eight, pp 79-80
2 Ibid, Step Seven, p 76; 3 Ibid, Step Four, p 53; 4 Ibid, Step Seven, p 76