By Cheryl Steinberg
The saying goes, “never say no to service,” so, when someone asks you to speak in a meeting, whether you want to or not, you should say “yes.” And, for those of who have answered this call to service, there are several thoughts we’ve all had when we’re up there, speaking to a bunch of fellow addicts and alcoholics.
#1. “I don’t want to do this; I’m so nervous”
Public speaking is a common fear so, it’s normal to feel this way. Take comfort in knowing that it’s not like you have to remember statistics or information; just tell your story.
#2. “Man, my throat is dry; I should have taken that bottle of water they offered me”
Again, the anxiety you might feel often leads to dry mouth and throat so, prepare ahead by having some water by your side.
#3. “Don’t forget to say that thing that happened that one time”
If you’re like me, I usually think about the specific experiences I want to share ahead of time; I want to make sure to mention the parts of my story that I think people will be able to relate to as well as the aspects of my solution. And, after I speak, I often realize that I forgot to say the specific thing(s) that I wanted to. D’oh!
#4. “Everyone’s bored”
Aaaahhh! This is possibly the worst thought/feeling to have while you’re in the middle of speaking at a meeting. It can totally throw you off your game and cause you to start to stumble over your words. Relax. Breathe. Remind yourself that at least one person will hear something that they need to hear in that moment and, for that, your job is done.
#5. “My story is boring”
Again, even if this is true (which it probably isn’t), someone will take away an important message from your story.
#6. “No one’s relating to me”
I’ll say it again, there will be one person – and probably more – that hear something they really needed to hear. Also, take comfort in knowing that people go to meetings in order to find a helpful nugget – piece of the recovery puzzle. That said, people at meetings are actively listening to gear something they can relate to.
#7. “I have to speak for how long?”
It seems like a daunting task when you’re told to speak for 30 minutes. But, getting to talk to a captive audience about your favorite subject – you – actually goes by pretty fast. That’s been my experience, at least.
#8. “Have I spoken long enough?”
Since it tends to go by pretty quickly, sometimes it’s hard to know if you’ve actually used your time wisely and filled up the whole 30-ish minutes. Especially if you think you were talking too fast (something that I do)…
#9. “Am I talking too fast”
Exactly. When people are nervous, they tend to talk too fast. So again, make sure to breathe and stay present while you’re speaking.
#10. “My jokes are lame”
I might be the only one who thinks this but, so what? Lame jokes can still be funny – for their lameness. Nothing wrong with trying to keep it lively, even if people don’t get your humor.
#11. “Oh sh!t, I just said f*ck”
A lot of the time, the group conscience calls for refraining from profanity. But, we all slip up some time and usually no one cares if/when you do. Don’t sweat it. As long as you’re making the effort to be respectful.
#12. “Am I glorifying my drug use?”
When speaking at a meeting, you want to tell what it was like, what happened, and what it’s like now/ Another way to put it is that you are sharing your experience, strength, and hope. Be sure to share just enough about your time in active addiction so that people know you’re the real deal but, don’t spend too much time telling war stories – especially if it’s an H&I meeting. It’s really early on for those folks and it could trigger them.
#13. “This is going to get me so many sponsees”
It’s true, speaking at meetings can lead to people asking you to sponsor them. In this way, this one act of service – speaking – leads to more acts of service – sponsoring.
#14. “Man, I hope no one asks me to sponsor them – I already of 3”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, you might be dreading that people will come up to you and ask you to sponsor them. But, don’t fret, you can always offer to be a sober support and to pass their number on to someone you know who is looking for sponsees.
#15. “Why did they even ask me to speak? I don’t know what the hell I’m doing”
I’ll let you in on a little secret: no one really knows what they’re doing. Let go and let God, amirite? Also, you were asked to speak for some good reason; the person asking you must think highly of you or else was referred to you by someone who thinks you have a great message to share.
#16. “This…this actually feels great. I’m glad I agreed to do this”
You will probably think this after you finish speaking but, it’s true. Many people talk about a sort of high feeling they get once they’ve spoken at a meeting. Enjoy it, you did a good thing.
#17. “Ah, sweet relief. It’s over. It feels good to give back”
Phew! It’s over. You can breathe now. And, you can feel good about giving back.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a substance abuse disorder or drug addiction and you don’t know where to turn or how to start the process of recovery, we are here to help. Call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 to speak with an Addiction Specialist today.