Monday, June 11, 2007

Can Significant Others Attend LifeRing Meetings?

This email came in to the Service Center. I've edited it down to the essentials:

I have been clean and sober for 9 months tomorrow, and attend the meeting in __________.
There was a moment of friction in the meeting this morning which I may have perpetrated. I didn't mean to, and have apologized to the person to whom I had responded, according to some of the member presents, possibly inappropriately.
A woman who had never attended the meeting before, when her turn came, introduced herself and commenced to talk about her dysfunctional family--parents, sister, etc--including her mother who had used marijuana and alcohol, and her abusive yet needy father. She had recently taken a trip back to the Midwest to visit them. During the course of her talking, she never mentioned using drugs or alcohol, or them having been a problem, or her being in recovery.
I was unclear from her speaking whether she was in recovery or not, because she didn't really speak in the first person, or about herself much, but about other people she knew. Instead of asking about her recovery, I asked what her drug of addiction had been and how long she had been not using. She replied she would rather not answer that question if it were all right with me. I had been bubbling a bit with impatience about her speaking in generalities and not speaking about her own experience, and I said "no, not really", pretty civilly, I think. At that point, several members of the group pretty much jumped me verbally and said she wasn't obliged to say whatever she didn't feel like saying. I honor that. I was wrong. One of the members, whom I like a lot, said the forum (LifeRing) was for anybody who wanted to come, whether it be for addicted family members (like Alanon) or for, as I took it, for anyone who was experiencing any life issues at all relating to anyone using.
I apologized to the lady, saying that I had not understood the intent or the structure of LifeRing.
It is my understanding that LifeRing is for people in recovery and aspire to total abstinence.
If I am incorrect in my understanding, I would be interested to know, so I may shift my thinking about the role LifeRing plays in my recovery. I would prefer to participate in a group only of people in recovery, since I am feeling pretty vulnerable and wouldn't feel as safe or as free to share thoughts and feelings about my recovery experience with those present who were not in similar situations.
-- G.

I replied:

Dear G:

LifeRing meetings have always been open to any interested person, and we get occasional visits from students, treatment counselors, journalists ... and friends or relatives of people with alcohol/drug issues. Our charter and bylaws permit sober Significant Others to attend meetings, although you must be a person in recovery yourself in order to be elected to the LifeRing Board of Directors. My experience has been that SO's tend to learn and become more educated by attending, and that I, as a person in recovery, also learn and become more educated by their participation. That being said, few SO's attend meetings, and 99 44/100 per cent of meeting participants are themselves persons in recovery from a substance addiction. It sounds to me as if the incident at the meeting on Saturday was a small misunderstanding and should be forgotten. I hope that works for you and that you will continue to participate so long as you derive benefit from the meeting process.
With best regards,
- M.

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