Grapevine Online Exclusive

Be Here Now

He saw that using his phone during a meeting wasn't just impolite, it was bad for his recovery

Every Twelfth Step recovery meeting I attend these days gives a reminder to shut off or silence cell phones before the meeting begins.

However, there always seems to be at least one phone, if not more, that goes off in the meeting. But an even more disturbing trend lately is the number of people who spend their time during meetings texting or surfing the Internet.

The first and most important thing I've learned in my own recovery and God-centered life, is to admit my own guilt.

For many years, I came to meetings for the social aspect. I wasn't interested in doing the Steps. I wasn't interested in listening to the speakers. And I definitely wasn't interested in doing God's will.

As the pain became greater in my life, so did my willingness to do what was necessary in my recovery. I became willing to find god and to change my self-centeredness.

For a time, there was a great tug-of-war game going on between God and me. I kept trying to do things my way. And there were many times I would spend the meetings surfing the web, texting people, or randomly flipping through my digital photo albums.

Meanwhile, I never realized what this might look like or feel like to those who were speaking. Imagine for a moment being at a podium in a meeting. Then imagine speaking in front of a group of people about something very personal to you. Finally, imagine looking out at the audience and seeing that the majority are looking down at their phones busily tapping away on the screens and not listening to you.

How does it feel? I can answer because I've been on that side of the podium as well.

It doesn't feel that great. In fact it feels like what I'm saying doesn't really matter.

To speak publicly about something so personal to me is hard enough. But to have most people not even pay attention and instead spend the meeting time on their cell phones is even harder. I compare it to the feeling I had as a child when I would bring something important to my parents and they were either too busy watching one of their shows, drinking or caught up in one of their own dramas.

Meetings are supposed to be for either speaking about one's experience, strength, and hope, or listening to someone offering the same. Many years ago, when cell phones didn't exist, people sat through meetings with their cups of coffee and listened much more intently to what was said.

Regardless of whether a speaker is charismatic or not, isn't it important to give them our fullest attention? Wouldn't each of us want the same if our feet were planted in front of the podium telling our story?

I know the answer for me is yes and I have made the corrections necessary in my life to start showing more respect for all speakers. I think back to the time when Bill and Bob attended meetings and have wondered what they might feel like today if they were to attend a meeting and see so many people tapping away on cell phones instead of listening to the speaker.

The most important thing that has helped me to change my meeting etiquette is to place myself in every speaker's shoes, to remember my own journey to recovery and salvation, and to know that their testimony is equally important to listen to as to when I'm speaking about mine.

The more that I place God at the center of my life, the more that I find myself steering clear of my self-centered behaviors. The more that I see that using a cell phone during a meeting is self-centered in the first place, the more that I have turned it off or left it in the car before entering any meeting. The more that I have turned my cell phone off or left it in the car before entering meetings, the more that I have gotten out of meetings. The more that I have gotten out of meetings, the more that I have placed God even deeper at the center of my life.

—Andrew D., South Weymouth, Mass.

Related Items:

Back on Track
She admitted to her sponsor that she had been secretly drinking

Why I Don't Vote
An AA questions the use of Robert's Rules of Order in business meetings

Unexpected Blessings
Losing his job while he was counting days turned out to not be so terrible

With Complete Abandon
After many relapses and false starts she heard something in a meeting that changed everything