AA in the Woods

Often when people think about attending an AA meeting, they think of the classic tropes of some musty, windowless church basement with a huge urn of coffee in the background and a table full of donuts. 

Someone will stand at the podium in front of the room and tell their story, pass, and then the next person will do the same. This is how Hollywood and TV often portray AA life.

And sometimes this is true. But each meeting has its own flavor and feeling, after all, they are started by and attended by some unique individuals that are looking to create a community of support and healing that resembles them. 

I have spent 20+ years working with young men and women in early recovery in multiple treatment and non-treatment settings to address how usage and addiction have derailed them from living the lives they were always meant to live before the struggles and vagaries of addiction had derailed them. 

One of the most unique settings for addressing addiction and recovery issues happens when we move away from the brick-and-mortar and join in fellowship around nature.

We don’t often consider the power that settings can have on how a conversation is received and processed. 

Having a conversation about a higher power in that basement, or even indoors, can require greater leaps of faith and stretches of the imagination. But having the same conversation on a cliff edge or by a stream, some of the initial resistance that people have towards this difficult topic is often challenged by being in a space that has not been carved out by industry and man but has existed despite the industry. 

It allows people to enter primal space, and typically outside an individual’s known or comfort zones. Whenever we step outside of our comfort zones it can present the opportunity for us to experience a situation, thought process, or something that seems familiar to us in a new way or new manner. 

One of the intimidating factors of the traditional AA/NA meetings for a newcomer is sharing some of the most shaming and worst moments of our lives with others who we don’t really know, under fluorescent lighting. 

There can be a feeling of nowhere to hide and worry about the judgment of others. 

I have found that sitting in a meeting in a circle by firelight has the ability to strip away some of those inherent fears and roadblocks. That sitting in near or semi-dark and sharing those fears, concerns, and vulnerabilities seems much more of a possibility. 

Because one of the truisms about human nature is that almost as a whole, when a person is sharing from a truly vulnerable space, we have a tendency of scanning others intensely and intently to get a feel of how their share is being received by others. It is only natural. 

But in a circle by firelight, that natural inclination is reduced, because telling stories and sharing experiences by firelight is how we as a species have lived for the centuries prior to the fluorescent light.

Setting the stage for the harder and more intense conversations that come out of exploring Sobriety and Recovery can be highly productive in getting to these deeper conversations.