Thursday, February 19, 2009


As has happened at other times in my life, and in other places, I've recently found myself in the company of folks who go to a lot of AA or Al-Anon or other 12-step recovery meetings. Even over here in Iraq!


It's been great to be reminded by these people who go to a lot of those meetings what an appropriate response to the various (myriad, in my case!) powerlessnesses of our lives can look like. One might think that after hearing this stuff from so many people over the course of so many years, I might actually remember it.

But one would be wrong.

Circumstances of late have conspired to keep me from being able to get done what needs doing, and what I really want to be doing over here. Dust particles (of which I wrote not long after my arrival Down Range) tend to be mighty tiny, but mighty powerful, as it turns out. What with second- and third-order effects being what they are, teeny tiny dust particles can at times even keep resupply convoys from running.

So I suppose it's not that big a stretch to imagine that those nefarious little things would prevent me from doing what I long to be doing over here, as well.

The only good aspect of being tied down to 'home' here is that I've found myself in the company of quite a number of meeting-attending folks on a semi-regular basis. What a kick!

One of the delights of spending time with them has been meeting and getting to know the newcomers.

I've heard for years from my friends who go to a lot of those meetings (of whatever 12-Step flavor happens to be their preference) that newcomers are the most important people in the room. Listening to the newcomers who go to those meetings here Down Range consistently lifts my sprits. Hearing their excitement at discovering a program for living which literally saves their lives helps put the rest of my experiences over here into perspective.

The newcomers are not necessarily young, though a couple of them are. One guy is nineteen years old. A female Soldier who goes to those meetings is 22. (Both of them are younger than I was when I stopped drinking in 1979.) One of the newcomers to Al-Anon is almost as old as I am. One of the other newcomers actually helped start those meetings on this post Down Range during his last deployment here, and though he hasn't had a drink in more than eight years, he's never really 'worked' the program (as he puts it) before.

Spending time with them, listening to them share their experience, strength, and hope with one another, watching heads nodding as someone tells a story about "what it was like, what happened, and what it's like now" brings me a lot of peace.

I'm not sure *how* that works, but I am here to tell you *that* it works!

Fortunately for me this week, I had spent some time with those folks the night before I got some bad news, and then I found myself back in their company two nights later. I guess there's something about being in the midst of people who have met adversity with serenity and had the serenity prevail that empowers me better to be able to connect with serenity myself.

It's what happens for some people who go to church on a regular basis, too.

The key to those encounters with others, I suspect, is being able to come together from a place of common need, of shared suffering, rather than from the place of "what will they be thinking if I wear this versus that."

Given my job, I've spent a lot of time around people who go to church, and given other aspects of my life, I've spent a lot of time around people who go to a lot of 12-Step recovery meetings. Irrespective of which group we're talking about, I'd rather surround myself with others who know deeply -- even painfully -- their need.

When I'm aware of my own brokenness, of my own not-having-it-all-together, I'm much better able to acknowledge my need of a God in my life (Good Order and Discipline; Gift Of Desperation; Good Orderly Direction; Group Of Drunks, etc., if that's what it takes!) and in so doing, my need for these other people around me.

The Eucharistic Prayer for Masses of Reconciliation (No. 2) which I use so often over here in this war zone puts it this way: "You gave him up to death so that we might turn again to you and find our way to one another."

That's certainly been my experience. The more I recognize my need for a God in my life, the more I realize my need for others to journey with me along this path. When I'm aware of the depth and breadth of the unmanageability of my life, I'm much better disposed toward allowing a Higher Power to be the one who has all power.

(As a Christian, I have in Jesus a Higher Power who's also a Higher Powerlessness, and I like that a lot!)

The more I'm like one of those newcomers -- filled with wonder and awe and joy and enthusiasm in sharing an acceptance of powerlessness in a spirit of gratitude which issues forth into selfless service -- the better my life becomes, no matter what else is going on.

Perhaps that's why my friends who go to a lot of meetings keep telling me that the newcomer is the most important person in the room....

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ

View My Profile

No comments:

Powered By Ringsurf