Saturday, May 12, 2007

Seven Reasons to Be a Convenor

People who become LifeRing convenors do it for a variety of good reasons. The following seven are the ones I hear most often. One: it helps their recovery. Two: it expresses gratitude. Three: it's a moral obligation. Four: it gives a higher meaning to their life. Five: somebody has to do it. Six: it feels good. Seven: for love.

It Helps My Recovery

Being a convenor can be helpful to one's personal sobriety in several obvious ways. For example, the convenor is expected to appear at the meeting on a regular basis, and any kind of regular sobriety practice is usually an effective recovery tool. (For examples, see Recovery By Choice, Ch. 3, Sec. 11, My 'Daily Do.') The convenor has a higher profile as a person in recovery than the average participant, and is therefore likely to have a larger and more active support network. Acting as convenor involves a deeper emotional commitment to recovery than the average person. Relapsing while in the convenor role would be a serious setback not only for the convenor (it would end their current usefulness as convenor) but also for others in the meeting who may have come to look to the convenor as a role model. For these and similar reasons, many persons who already have their personal recovery programs well launched choose to take up the convenor role for its ongoing supportive benefits. There is more discussion of this issue in the final chapter.

To Give Something Back

A second reason to become a convenor is gratitude. When I decided I had to do something about my drinking, I found a support group already functioning and available to me. A handful of convenors had arranged for the room, put out literature, and got the meeting up and running. I derived an enormous lifetime personal benefit from their effort. Most newcomers are in a similar situation. After one accumulates some sobriety time one begins to feel grateful to the group. The dollar or two that the average member puts into the basket falls far short of compensation either for the benefit one has received or for the effort that others expend to keep the group running. Donating one's time as convenor is one way to show gratitude and give something back.

Because of the Golden Rule

A third reason to become a convenor is similar to gratitude, but on a different level. It is based on the golden rule of ethics: what goes around, comes around. When I sowed addiction, I reaped addiction and fed on despair. Becoming a convenor is an ethical affirmation of one's individual responsibility for the messages circulating in the social network. The convenor sows a message of sobriety and prepares a harvest of hope and positive transformation.

For More Meaning in Life

A fourth reason to become a convenor is to reach a higher sense of meaningfulness in one's life. Meaning in life arises from connectedness with others. Drugs and alcohol led many people into social isolation, or into a set of phantom relationships with drinking/­drugging partners or codependents. Participating in a self-help recovery group over time means re-connecting with people (or connecting for the first time) and establishing authentic relationships. This is a great improvement, and it is enough for many people. However, some people seek a meaning in life beyond self-repair and self-transformation. Becoming a convenor is a way of dedicating oneself to a mission of service to others, and this can yield a deeper sense of purpose and direction in one's life.

Because Someone Has To Do It

A fifth reason why people become Life­Ring convenors is because they feel that something has to be done. Despite more than 50 years of nearly everyone being funneled into recovery on the twelve-step pattern, the drug and alcohol problem shows no signs of abatement. There is a great deal of room for improvement in the way we as a society approach the issue. Someone has to step in and help build another road. The Life­Ring convenor is the agent of an unspoken social consensus that it is time to give people a meaningful choice of recovery paths.

Because It Feels Good

A sixth reason why people become Life­Ring convenors is for the emotional rewards. The convenor's efforts frequently result in profound changes for the better in others' lives. To be a witness to so much transformation is already a privilege. To be a catalyst in such a process can stir one's feelings with indescribable force, bringing up tears of gladness. When I leave a meeting at which things have gone well, I feel a sense of warmth in my gut, unlike any other satisfaction I have experienced. Being a convenor not only does good, it feels good.

Because Convening is Love

A seventh and final reason why people become convenors is love. When people have been clean and sober for some time, they sometimes feel an upwelling of love pent up inside during the long winter of their addiction. Now it surges out of them and seeks an object. No flesh-and-blood person has sufficient magnitude to absorb this force. It requires a transcendent object. The role of convenor affords such overflowing love a worthy channel. Love the good in bad people. Nurture the health in people who are ill. Take people whose instinct is to hide and isolate, and bring them together. Connect them, protect them as they recover their self-respect and exercise their sober legs. Bringing people together in recovery is a transcendent embrace. To convene is to love.

In Appreciation of Convenors

The whole Life­Ring network exists so that people in recovery can come to the meetings, talk about their current recovery issues, get their sobriety charged up, help strengthen others’ sobriety, put a couple of dollars in the basket, applaud, feel good, and leave. This meeting process keeps people clean and sober, week after week. Thanks to their sobriety, people develop new lives, new relationships, new interests, new everything. They become transformed in diverse and wonderful ways that no one, not even they themselves, could have anticipated.

People can have perfectly satisfactory recoveries without becoming missionaries. We are a pragmatic organization, not an evangelical one. But there will always be some among our members who get inspired by what they see happening and leap up to get involved. Whatever their mix of motivations, when they see the need for a meeting, they step in and start one. When they see a lack of literature they get it or make it. When they see anything that needs to be done, they get down and do it. They are both talkers and doers, but above all doers. They not only dream, they convert their visions into nuts and bolts and make them work. They are producers, makers, shakers, people who move mountains. They are Life­Ring convenors.

Convenors are the core of our organization, and the bridge to its future. Those comfortable meetings with their friendly process, the week-to-week recharge of people’s sobriety energies, all the benefits that spin off from sobriety – none of that would have started, and none of it would keep going very long, without someone to found the meeting, set up the room, establish the meeting format, keep the conversation rolling, provide the literature, connect the meetings together, and perform scores of other services in and outside the meeting context. People emerging from the cave of alcohol and drugs need people who can bring them together. Recovery requires convenors and members who do convenor work. The convenors of yesterday and today need to pass on their accumulated experience and knowledge to the convenors of tomorrow, so that our network of hope, choice, and transformation may have continuity and growth.

-- From "How Was Your Week?" Ch. 2.

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