Community

Community is far more valuable… no, make that essential, than I ever gave it credit for.

We are raising a couple of teens right now… my step kids.  One is becoming very challenging in her behaviour.  Very demanding and seemingly comparing our family life and home life to some unknown standard that we can never live up to.

One of the reasons we came up with that may be a contributing factor is the limitation of community our daughter has been experiencing lately.  Cousins that once were part of her life are now at a distance due to some changing family circumstances.

School has been out for the summer and there havent been as many friendship interactions with so many on holidays, including our daughter for a month with mainly adult family members.

So we flipped it around and decided to make the problem part of the solution.  We decided to re-engage some community for her.  By this we mean creating settings where she could spend time with healthy people she respects.  People who can influence her positively yet subtly.

This includes some younger adult friends, some friends her own age, and even younger kids.  Why?  Well, is participation in a community not how we learn so many things in life?

And not just things we are specifically taught.  But even knowing we are interwoven in the lives of others we like, value, and respect, nudges our thinking toward something other than just ourselves and what we want.

We also see how others behave, interact, and respond to challenges.  All of these things can drench our conscious and subconscious minds with healthy influences and examples.  If nothing else, if we value the communities we are in, we will adapt our behaviour to limit the danger of us losing our place in the communities.

By communities I simply mean family, friends, neighbourhoods, schools, teams, faith groups, or any other collection of people.  Again, the premise would be that these are healthy communities because the influence works both ways.

The value of communities also comes vividly to mind on the heels of my AA meeting tonight.  First off, in spite of challenges I have with my AA community, I value them a great deal for helping me stay sober.  It is a weird duality benefiting so much from something that I also struggle with.  None the less, I accept wholly that I can gain value from things that I don’t fully understand or agree with.  This is one of the gifts of recovery I have come to recognize.

In addition, I was asked to chair tonight’s meeting.  We are a solid group of approximately 18 members with a total meeting attendance of typically 50 to 70 on any Friday night.  We are an open meeting that welcome anyone to attend, but only alcoholics to share from the podium.

I took a chance and asked a couple of new faces in the crowd to share.  In their naivety or beligerance, not sure which, they disrupted the meeting and meandered outside of our traditions.  In particular, one woman, who we suspect was drunk, began addressing others in the meeting directly.  Basically cross-talk from the podium.  I asked her not to and she corrected herself.  She then asked if I would ask a particular individual in the room to share.  I replied, “No.  Please just share what is on your heart and mind only”.  She did with only a minimum of drama then sat down. 

There was an eerie cloud about the meeting on the heels of these two disruptions.  My mind, of course, immediately went into churning mode over what had just happened.  I would estimate that in 8 years in these rooms, I have only had to directly correct someone or shut someone down maybe 5 times in hundreds of meetings.

But why was it important to keep the meeting on track?  My answer is, “Community”.  We gather at our meeting to function for an hour as a community… well closer to 2 hours with setup and tear down.  But any danger to the functioning of that community means we lose some value of our involvement.  And so do the people whose life that night may depend on being in a positive community for an hour.

In AA, we have a set of 12 traditions that we as a community function by.  Our first tradition is:

Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity.

Sargeant Barnes in the 1980’s movie, Platoon, put it a different way.  “If the machine breaks down, we break down”.

It is counter-intuitive in our self-centred social climate to understand the value of community.  Yet I honestly see no other way for most people to function healthily.

Most of us need to sink our roots deep into the communities we are part of.  Or if we currently are not in a community, maybe we ought to seek one (or more) out.

Ciao.

Chaz

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About Chaz

Husband, father, brother, son, friend. Sober member of AA. Grateful for the life God gave me and for the happy struggle of recovery.
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9 Responses to Community

  1. Debbie says:

    I really appreciated all the benefits you showed to being in a healthy community situation, Chaz. Really good! Someone I love just recently wrote that she feels she is suffering right now because of not being around the right people. Your post helps me understand that better and pray for her community to shift or change. God bless you and thanks for always giving us something good to think about and act on!

    • Chaz says:

      Thanks Debbie! Happy to share the positive things that come my way. Freely they were given to me, freely I pass them along. I do hope your loved one finds positive community again soon. Whether her current ones become more positive or she finds new ones. It is so important, especially if we are dealing with some form of stronghold issue like alcoholism, emotional issues, health issues, life changes, etc. Our communities can keep us afloat as we learn to swim on our own. Thanks for stopping by and replying.

  2. Caddo Veil says:

    Hello, dear Nephew! The statement that jumped out for me is, “It is a weird duality benefiting so much from something that I also struggle with”. Isn’t that something!! I’m finding that to be so true for me, of late–and am now beginning to truly embrace and celebrate it. I don’t think I realized before that there’s something very life affirming in the process of struggle–assuming it’s toward a healthy goal/result. Though I certainly don’t always know whether the struggle is indeed for “good”, or if it will have been another episode of “spinning my wheels”–but that’s where my faith in God jumps in. There is no wasted time or effort, in His economy–sometimes I may feel like the struggle was “futile”, but I can trust Him to salvage something good from it! When I come here, I always celebrate your work, with great gratitude and joy, Chaz–God bless you BIG–love, your Auntie Caddo

    • Chaz says:

      Thanks Auntie Caddo! I too find that little can be wasted if we are honestly seeking and doing our best in each moment. God redeems time, effort, and resources that were spent less than ideally. This he has proven to me over and over.

      Always glad to hear your comments. God bless. Chaz

  3. In my studies of faith and recovery, community is a major pillar that must be present in our lives. Whether that be faith communities, social communities or sober communities. I can’t speak to your girls. I guess there would be school, sports, or community groups she can be part of.
    The one area of my life that is not complete is my faith community. But I have been attending services with my mentor who is a deacon at our church he co-chairs a weekly event called “creative spirituality” that I find challenging. It break up my monotony of just meetings all the time.

    As for your group, that is why there is a “chair” to keep folks on the even keel and on topic. I’ve been at Tuesday Beginners for more than 10 years, and I can count on one hand the number of times I had to intervene with someone speaking during the meeting. Nowadays, we are a group of 40 to 50 on a Tuesday night, and keeping people within time limits to allow everyone to share is difficult. Most of our folks are respectful of the chair and the topic on the table.
    Communities teach us about ourselves. That’s why they are so important for our lives. We need community to mirror ourselves so that we learn about ourselves and others. And it forces us to talk to others, where we would not necessarily mix.

    That’s all from me right now.

    J.

    • Chaz says:

      Hi Jeremy…. as always… valuable feedback.

      The reflection part of it is indeed so critical. How can we possibly learn how we affect and interract with others than to be with others and allow them to communicate candidly back to us.

      Think about our 12-step communities for a minute. How many people in life have the opportunity to have similar people to ourselves, experienced in overcoming the same struggles we do, reflect lovingly (or doing their best to) and uneditedly back to us what they are seeing and experiencing in us? This painful process of receiving reflection is one of the most amazing and powerful practices of our community, isn’t it.

      For this reason, I am cautious of moving toward becoming a longtimer and losing the fire to want reflection. “The men (and women) at the top” often become islands to themselves and cease to receive reflection back. It is like they plateau or arrive. I hope not to do that.

      Glad to hear your meetings stay on track. Betting you have a core of members who are solid in the traditions of your meeting? That seems to be the guiding rudder of a meeting culture.

      Ciao.

      Chaz

  4. Heidi says:

    I was so fortunate to get sober in a solid AA community and to learn the ways of AA unity from their example, their correction and their sharing. Until that time, I’d never been in a setting with healthy unity, family, church or otherwise. I grew into His vision for me because of their solidarity and love.

    I find your solution to your daughter’s issues to be encouraging. You are so aware of her needs and that makes my mother’s heart glad. Love to hear that from a dad!

    I knew as a single mom that I needed to find the right environment outside the home in order to assist transferring my values to him. We got through those volatile hormonal periods together and I always credit his teachers, his employers and the psuedo-family situations that we developed. I didn’t call it community, I just would say, “He needs someone besides his mother telling him what to do.” The less I said, the better. I mostly let everyone else say it and he listened.

    Great parallels here. Thanks for highlighting the topic for me. In a way, it explains why I love the blogging adventure so much. Keep up the great work. Nice to read your stuff again.

    • Chaz says:

      Hi Heidi…

      Agreed that others saying things to our kids, by words or examples, can convey our same message extremely well.

      Kids tend to tune parents out and often invalidate our direction out of sheer familiarity. But we can still provide reinforcement to our guidance as it sounds like you did with your son.

      Kids don’t lip off to their peers, teachers, bosses, and friends quite as quickly/easily as they will to parents and siblings. Again, familiarity and absence of concern about loss as they have some sense we will not reject them even if they do act up and hurt us.

      My step daughter would however fear nothing greater than rejection by her peers, teachers, or other family members… and of course the potential loss of the fun and benefits they provide is looming over her thinking too. And the big-daddy-o of all teenage fears…. Not Looking Cool!

      Our teen is highly motivated by avoiding looking like a doofus! Especially in front of people who are important to her. So having to tell them they can’t go to an event because of being grounded for her behaviour is extremely motivating! An event with her friends was postponed one time because of behaviour. We asked her, “What if your friends knew why we are postponing”? Which of course we did not and would not disclose to them…. but the horror of even the thought of them finding out the event was postponed due to misbehaviour was one of the most shocking ever for her!

      And somewhat similarly in AA. We finally find acceptance by people who we respect and even like. The fear of disappointing them or even thought that we may be dis-fellowshipped (not an AA tradition at all 🙂 ) but that fear of loss of something/someone we value is another reason to keep listening and growing.

      Alone… what would we do? Flounder and have no bearing to be guided by other than our own sick thinking.

      Community is amazing! It is a privilege to be part of one. Including a healthy blog community so thanks for being part of that for me.

      Ciao.

      Chaz

  5. Chaz says:

    Sitting here watching my son at soccer practice… His team… One of his communities helping him learn to be a man. The passing, the chatter, the bumping and pushing. Relational dynamics swirling through the scrimage as they learn to ccoperate, compete and interract.

    If you want someone to pass to you, you better show you are willing to do your best with the ball.

    Messages are being heard and lessons are being learned by the 20 boys on the field.

    I love this. My boy is learning thing I could never teach him myself. He puts up with the weather and shakes off the sliding tackle he got hit with. His community is teaching him how to trust and be trusted. To be both aggressive and controlled. Determined yet courteous.

    He is growing up in front of me and all I did was sign him up and bring him here. This is a wonderful moment.

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