Jan 12: Rapt Attention

Rapt Attention

I am still an alcoholic, one who celebrated 26 years (9,497 days) of sobriety on January 9, 2014. I had to drink every day for 23 years so it is astonishing to be able to NOT drink for an even longer time.

I attended a meeting yesterday morning specifically to be able to announce my anniversary and demonstrate to newcomers that this program really does work. While there, I heard enough good stuff to generate topics for a whole week.

That meeting uses the “24 Hour a Day” book as the basis for the discussion and the top paragraph was about the transformation we go through in sobriety from the selfish, where’s-my-next-drink person, to the I-must-give-it-to-others-in-order-to-keep-my-sobriety person of today.

One person shared that often he finds that the best thing he can do for another alcoholic is to listen. He remarked that he knows he is not the sponsee’s banker or mechanic, and he doesn’t know the solution to the present difficulty for the other person. But the program has taught him to listen, really listen to another person. He has found that is the only thing really needed to allow the other person to figure out his own best solution.

It reminded me of my first couple of years in sobriety where I had to learn HOW to listen. There was such a roar in my head in the early days that any noise from outside had a hard time penetrating. I went to a meeting every day for months and begged TWIMC (To Whom It May Concern) to “Help me hear what I need to hear in order to stay sober today.”

It obviously worked. But the learning part of it was such exhausting work that I would come home and go to bed immediately.

One of the readings in a meditation book used by my home group specifically mentions “rapt attention” to one another at meetings. Especially at women’s meetings the thoughtfulness we give each other in listening to what each woman shares is a gift we give each other. The whole rest of the world, bosses, co-workers, spouses, partners, and kids may talk over us during all the other hours of the day, but the blessed quiet listening of others at a meeting demonstrates that we are important and worthy of being heard.

Had I not trained myself to listen in those early years, I would have missed valuable insights gained from careful attendance to what others say at meetings. The training has been invaluable for caring and guiding others coming up the path of sobriety behind me. Mostly, I listen to them. And mostly, each one uses that accepting attention as the platform for finding the solutions that will work for them. They use it as a safe place to gain insight into their own thought patterns and behaviors invisible all the years they drank.

Friends of much longer sobriety assure me that I can continue to learn and grow, that life will become better for me because “more will be revealed” if I am open to seeing its relevance to my life.

How well (and 360 degree embracing) is the fact that it is by giving others “rapt attention” that I have heard exactly what I needed to hear to improve my sobriety for a day. It is the primary method by which I “give it away in order to keep” my sobriety. Listening is an exercise in humility by demonstrating that I know you are capable of finding your solutions instead of advising or pontificating them to you.

Each time I thoughtfully listen to another women, my action tells her that she is important and worthy of being heard, that what she says is valuable. What a wondrous gift we give each other at every meeting we attend, or every online post we read! Somehow, lurking or sharing, we put goodness into the Universe each time we attend to another’s existence.

So I thank you for attending to mine. I thank Serendipity for bringing me to online AA because it has been a life-changing event for me.

Please feel free to share on whatever affects your sobriety today, whether or not it is on topic.