The Meeting, The Machine, The Crepes

Watch for finger, ties and egos.
Watch for finger, ties and egos.

I have a little machine that I carry around with me.  It’s not noticeable, but it beeps and bips and boops inside of me, and feeds me wrong information on a constant basis.   I don’t like it now, but there was a time when I used to oil it, shine it up, tinker with it to see if I could make it work better and faster, and crank it up to full speed.

It’s my judgement machine.

I was at a meeting yesterday at lunch hour.  And as usual, my judgement machine was already huffing and puffing away.  When I sat down and realized that it was not a literature based meeting, but that it was a sort of a free-for-all open discussion meeting, my machine revved up even further.  I like literature based meetings – we talk about the Big Book or perhaps we read from the 12 & 12.  It keeps things on point.  It focuses on the solution, not the problem.  We all stay on topic.  A “whatever you want to talk about” meeting is not what gets me excited about recovery.  Nonetheless, I was there, and I was with my peeps, and that was fine enough for this alcoholic.

Now, here is how the machine worked in that meeting (and remember, the machine often spits out it’s information before anyone speaks, just to be clear on that) :

Member #1 (Daniel)

Machine says : “Drama queen.  Probably just likes to hear his own voice and will probably drone on for a while.”

Reality: Daniel is in pain.  His sister was murdered and is talking to the prosecutor for the first time to find the details of what happened.  Her body was left for two weeks before anyone had found it.  His 6 year relationship with his partner was ending as well.  He has major resentments he won’t let go of, to “honour” his sister.  He want to use, but he says he won’t.

Member #2 (Richard)

Machine says: “We see this guy all the time.  Walks around like he invented AA – see how he came late? (I know we were late 5 min, but that’s different.)  Like his message though. Likes to dominate meetings.  Loves the sound of his voice too.”

Reality: Richard says that we’re all “fucking nuts”, and so is he (laughs from the group).  He says that while his voice is big and booming, and so is his body, he is really a little boy who is hurting on the inside.  And he has a hard time telling people that, and that he likes getting hugs too.


Member #3 (Renaldo)

Machine: “He is a nutbar.  Heard him in other meetings – rants in a strange way.  Probably has mental issues – he needs a psychologist, not an AA meeting.  See how loud he was, coming in when he too was late?  No consideration.  You should leave when he shares.”

Reality: I left when he shared.  “Bathroom break”.  Not proud of that.

Member #4 (Alain)

Machine: “He looks put together.  Probably is calm and serene and is wondering why he’s here with so many wingnuts.”

Reality: Alain has been struggling and just traveled on the weekend to see his boyfriend, who used to be in the program and has since relapsed.  He had to leave after his boyfriend got stupid drunk and had to sleep somewhere else in that other city.  Doesn’t know what to do – is confused.

Member #5 (Lee)

Machine: “He looks a bit twitchy, but he looks like he’s got it going on.  He looks a little smug, actually now that I think about it- see how he nods in approval when others speak, as if he’s seen it all, like he knows life’s secrets?  Jerk.”

Reality: Lee is in trouble – he has only 14 days clean and sober and wants to use drugs and drink very badly.  He hasn’t spoken to his sponsor in a while, and this is the first time he has admitted aloud to a group that feels like using.  He doesn’t want to go back out.  He also later shakes my hand and thanks me for my own share.

Member #6 (Jessica)

Machine: “She looks well dressed, probably drives a nice car.  What is she doing here?  Looks like she has some sober time behind her, life is getting back on track for her, no doubt.”

Reality: “I don’t trust any of you guys.  I don’t trust my sponsor, I don’t trust my Higher Power.  I don’t know how to have anyone in my life that I care about.  I don’t know why I am telling you this.  Maybe I need to more of this.”

So after this, and listening to many more shares, I notice my machine started to lose steam.  Gears and belts and bolts fell off.  The machine started to dismantle on it’s own.  It’s was getting smashed more and more as I sat in that meeting.  The hesitation I had coming in was now replaced by love.  By compassion.  By the realization that once again, I am them and they are me, these broken, lovely people.  I was broken, and I still need repairs today and forever more.

I'll never judge a crepe...unless I am the judge at a crepe contest
I’ll never judge a crepe…unless I am the judge at a crepe contest

Now at this same meeting was a dear friend and overall lovely man, John.  He’s like a blanket of serenity and loving humanity that I love to just wrap myself up in sometimes.  And this was one of those times.  We went down the street for lunch.  He had crepes.  I had coffee.  John got sober in the 70’s.  He is not old – he looks great for his age.  John is the guy I go to after talking to my sponsor when things are on my mind.  Sometimes I just go to John alone.

We conversed a bit and then after he heard my thoughts on the judgement machine, I spoke about some of the things that were on my mind.  Some of those things I had written about here in this space. The one thing that came up for me was the feeling that I wasn’t doing enough for my recovery.  I mean, all I do is attend meetings, sponsor guys, do service work, write a recovery blog, am active on two recovery sites, read spiritual books, watch docs on alcoholism and recovery, write for my old treatment center newsletter, participate in alumni nights at that treatment center, speak to newcomers as a contact from that center, and am volunteering at the upcoming AA convention this month.  I need to do more, don’t I?  Doesn’t everyone in AA do this? I know I don’t have any hobbies or do much else than housework or go to work, but I should be doing more, yes?

He looked at me, finished the last bite of his crepe and neatly placed his knife and fork down on the now folded paper napkin.  He chewed and swallowed his food.  He said “You’re scrupulous.”  And that was it.  I digested that as slowly as he digested his lunch.  I said “That’s not a word that you say in positive terms usually, is it?”  He shook his head in his old school principal ways.  “I don’t mean it as a criticism, but you’re so afraid of doing things wrong that it’s going to eat you up.  You feel that you have to be running fast all the time.  You don’t have to, Mr. AA.

fear of not being good enough


I then blathered on about something else and said at one point, “I don’t want to have all these character defects with me all the time”.  John practically jumped out of his seat, “Did you just hear yourself?”  I knew what he was going to say before he said it. I was busted.  But I let him continue. “Did you hear that?  “I don’t want these things?” Who is in charge, Paul?  You or your Higher Power?  Did you ever think that perhaps you are suffering through all this because your Higher Power wants and needs you to suffer through all this?”
I felt a wave of sadness and hurt come over me – not because of what he said (he was right), but I because I felt some unresolved pain wash over me.  I was about to burst out into tears at the crepe shop.  He had touched something in me that hasn’t been seen or touched before – not  by me, not by anyone.  He could see that my wanting to be perfect and good was still there, even though I thought it was gone.  That was the stuff that fed my judgement machine – they are broken, not me. I won’t be like them.  My hunt to be good and perfect was hurting me.
And then I thought about what I said a few days ago about my blog, about trying to open up more and seem less composed….perhaps I already knew what he was saying, what he was pointing out.  I don’t know. I am not sure where this will take me, this crepe chat.  But as we stood outside, he hugged me and told me that he enjoyed talking to me, that I didn’t seem like a bullshitter.  I told him that I used up all my bullshit when I was drinking.
He laughed at that, in his wise and world-weary way, and said “Oh don’t you worry, you still have a lot more left.  We all do.”

12 Comments Add yours

  1. Paul, obviously you read my most recent post (thanks, as always for your insightful feedback), and, now that I have read yours, I will say your honesty is, as always, inspiring! I should go back and add my additional thoughts into the story, so as to match your candor. Having read this post, I see that I really held back, and, in so doing, I feel like I lost out a bit. You show me how to do better… I want what you have!

    1. Your posts have a warm amount of honesty and candor to them as they are – they’re perfect – don’t you dare change them! I push for honesty in myself because I lived a life of dishonesty for so long. It is liberating, to be sure of, to be free from lies and a double life. Our truths are our truths as we unveil them, and there is something to be said about not having an emotional hangover – oversharing (which I am guilty of at times too!)

      Thanks for YOUR candor here 🙂


  2. Well, Paul, once again I can sooo relate! I used to find myself in “those” meetings many times, I finally complained to my sponsor about it, and she said, that I was there for a reason; there was something that my HP wanted me to learn! Ha! Dag it! Lol! And that fear of not being good enough! Lol! I was just thinking the other day that I am soo average, nothing great here, just a drunk! Lol! Crazy! Who I am trying to measure myself against anyways?! I don’t even know! Some comparison it is… Once again my sponsor came to the rescue. She said that I already have all the “great” in me, I just need to move that ego over and let it thru. No need to look further or try harder! – Ha! … hate it when she’s right! 😉

    1. Your sponsor is bang on – we are where we need to be, whether we like it or not, or whether we want to or not! As for comparing ourselves…oi vey, don’t get me started! I have struggled with that for a long time…I probably wrote about it some time ago here. But the only one we can compare ourselves to is ourselves…how are we doing in that department? How can I stretch and take in more and give out more? There’s a lot there, let alone comparing to others…and in the end, it’s unfair to me and to that other person.

      Yeah, don’t you hate when the sponsor is right??? lol

      Thanks for the comments – awesome 🙂


  3. good2begone says:

    I think we were at the same meeting….and even though those meetings are painful to sit through I almost always hear something amongst the tornado that non topic related rants that slaps me in the face and makes me glad I went.

    1. I’m with you on this one. And I don’t want anyone to get me wrong – I do need to hit these meetings now and then to remind me of where I am at, and to build my compassion and realize that I am no different than anyone in the rooms. I was talking to that guy about that meeting at our lunch, and he said that same thing. We both agreed that we couldn’t go to those meetings *all* the time, but they are just part of the tapestry of recovery.

      Thanks for being here…muchly appreciated 🙂


  4. Lisa Neumann says:

    I love how we all see what we need to see to heal. The process of healing self … so utterly personal. Even with all our “sharing” on each others’ blogs or at meetings, we each walk a path that is meant for our individual soul.

    The line that resonated for me was in the closing. “Oh don’t you worry, you still have a lot more left. We all do.” I simply adore this type of humility in a person. I am so drawn to the admission of humanness. I think it not character defect as much as I see it as me recognizing (for now) I am here in a body. If I choose to live beyond this idea, to be better, I must do inquiry with self, for self, for humanity.

    Paul, You always write so beautifully … on EVERYONE’S blog. You bring so much healing to those whose life you touch. Your ability to articulate is beautiful. Truly beautiful, Lisa

    1. Oh yes, my friend is utterly ripe with humility…ha ha. I think that is why I seek his counsel often. I need his wispy, honey-drenched voice to let me know what it is I need to know sometimes.

      Your comments gives me pause to think about the journey we all take. And it truly is so personal, even though we are all of the same ilk and share the common solution. My path is mine and I will grab onto the branches of support from everyone here, in my meetings, sponsor, etc. but in the end, I walk one foot in front of the other, the breath of the Creator near me, gently nudging me where it is I need to go.

      You kind words are very much appreciated…and it’s always a pleasure to see you on other people’s blogs as well – I get as much from your responses as I do the original posts and comments. We constantly learn from one another, and that is what I really enjoy about this little universe we have here.

      Love and light, my friend.


  5. Al K Hall says:

    Thanks for your honesty and opening up in this post, Paul. It’s good to know that we all struggle with something!

    While i, ironically, get more out of the share meetings than i do book meetings (i think they seem a little too church-like for me), i have a hard time not judging (do some people think the time limit is a goal to shoot for and not a reminder to shut up!?), i look at it as a lesson in self acceptance, because the people spilling their guts either reflect my defaults or potential (there but for the grace of Gd go i). And it’s a much needed lesson in humility, because these people and i suffer from the same disease, which means i’m just like each and every one of them.

    Thanks for the reminder, brother!

    1. Hey Al – groovy comments. What you say is spot on about the lesson in self-acceptance and about those in the meetings showing us a lesson in humility. I am them and they are me. We are the same, and sometimes I find myself dipping or rising above the level. We have all been guilty of judging in meetings – I mean, if there isn’t a place to have that tested, I don’t know where else it could be other than a room full of drunks! For this alcoholic, I like having a mix of meetings, and like I said, I don’t mind the full on open discussions, but I need the format and structure of the lit-based ones to temper the rawness that comes from those other ones.

      It’s a journey, and I certainly need to take my lumps!

      Thanks for the thought provoking words.


Whatcha Thinkin' ?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s