Start A Meeting - A suggested format for your new meeting.
SUGGESTED MEETING FORMAT
We offer this as a suggested format. Every meeting finds what works for their particular group: what literature to read at each meeting, what topics to discuss (i.e., the Twelve Steps, the Tools of Chapter 9, Sick and Recovering Relationships, Suggested Guidelines for Communicating), and what format to use (speaker, discussion, meditation, etc.).
This suggested format can be used to get you started—a blueprint put together from the experiences of those who have gone before. Use it as you will.
Welcome to the (insert meeting name) meeting of Chapter 9 – Couples in Recovery Anonymous.
(Chair couple introduces themselves.)
In the spirit of friendship and anonymity, let’s go around the room so that all who care to may introduce themselves by first name only. If you’re a newcomer, please let us know so that we can welcome you.
(After introductions) Is there a couple who would like to welcome the newcomers after the meeting?
Chapter 9 – Couples in Recovery Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength, and hope as couples that they may solve their common problems and help bring harmony to relationships in recovery from addiction and substance abuse.
Our group name comes from chapter nine of the A.A. Big Book, which suggests that couples “meet upon the common ground of tolerance, understanding and love.” Ours is a Twelve Step program that partners work together. This is not group therapy, nor is it a place for crosstalk, speaking for your partner, or taking your partner’s inventory. We provide a supportive atmosphere for sharing, listening, and identifying with others who are dealing with relationship problems similar to our own.
Our meetings are led by a chair couple—partners in Twelve Step recovery. Couples, as well as individuals in relationships, are welcome. The only requirements for membership are that the partners are in a committed relationship and that at least one partner is in another Twelve Step fellowship.
Chapter 9 – Couples in Recovery Anonymous is an anonymous fellowship. Everything that is said here, in the meeting and member-to-member, must be held in confidence. Only in this way can we feel free to say what is in our hearts and minds.
We are now going to read the Twelve Steps of Chapter 9. Please read two and pass them on. (pass around the Steps)
And now the Twelve Tools of Chapter 9. Again, please read two and pass them on. (pass around the Tools)
(You may want to read other Chapter 9 literature as well.)
We will now read the Inventory-Taking Statement.
In Chapter 9 we share about things that are challenging for us as couples: money, sex, fighting, parenting, and more. These are sensitive topics to speak about one-on-one, let alone in front of others. Learning to communicate in a direct and loving manner takes willingness, an open mind, and practice. In order to keep the meeting a safe place for everyone, we’ve found it helpful to follow some general guidelines for sharing.
First, we practice keeping the focus on ourselves—on our own behavior, our feelings, and our experience. We relate facts or events that impact our relationship and how we feel about them. But one day at a time, we surrender the compulsion to blame our partner, to shame them, or list their defects, no matter how well we think we know them and how sure we are that they are the problem. We’re not here to fix our partner or to get our partner to change. We practice sharing vulnerably about ourselves, and abstain as best we can from lashing out and pushing our partner away.
Many of us have found it helpful to begin sharing about our experiences by using the phrase “I feel,” and we try to make sure we’re really talking about our feelings and not finding a way to criticize our partner. Saying, “I feel like my partner was being stupid” is not sharing a feeling even though we say, “I feel.” Saying “I feel mad, sad, afraid, or frustrated,” are all ways we communicate how we’re feeling.
We also practice speaking only for ourselves by starting our sentences with “I” instead of “we.” This way we don’t assume we know what our partner is thinking or feeling. Saying, “I have a hard time talking about sex” takes our own inventory; saying, “we have a hard time talking about sex” takes our partner’s inventory too.
If things are too hot to talk about without blaming or shaming our partner, we talk with fellow Chapter 9 members until we can keep the focus on our part and our feelings in the situation.
Learning to recognize when we’re taking our partner’s inventory may be hard at first, especially in times of difficulty when emotions run high. But focusing on our partner is a form of acting out that undermines our reason for being here—to recover and maintain a loving relationship. Even if we aren’t yet able to refrain from inventory-taking outside the rooms, for the duration of the meeting we’re asked not to do it here.
[Suggested final paragraph] If inventory-taking occurs, [someone designated by the group*] may gently interrupt to remind us to keep the focus on ourselves. This is not meant to shame or embarrass anyone. Many of us have needed help to become aware of when we’re taking our partner’s inventory. By practicing this gentle correction, we learn to communicate in a healthy, direct, loving manner—and keep the meeting a safe place for all.
[*Each group may decide who that person or couple is and insert the group conscience decision into this statement.]
The format of this meeting is as follows: (examples of additional formats can be found at the end of this document)
For Lead Share / Qualification Meeting
Tonight we will have a qualifying couple speak for _________minutes apiece, after which there will be a show of hands for shares. Shares will also be timed at _______ minutes each, with a one-minute warning. Members will be called on either by the qualifying couple or by pitch (the first couple is called on by one of the speakers, then the last person of the couple to share will call on the next person). When one partner is called on to share, the other partner has the opportunity to share or to pass.
Can we have a volunteer to be timekeeper for the meeting?
Now please help me welcome our qualifying couple, _______ and _______ , who will share their experience, strength, and hope.
(After the qualification, ask the couple if they want to call on couples or make it a pitch.)
It is now time to open the meeting for sharing. In order to keep the meeting a safe place for all to share, we ask that you keep the focus on yourself and remember not to take your partner’s inventory or to speak for them. If inventory-taking occurs, (insert here what your group conscience has decided).
Seventh Tradition Break
It’s time for the 7th Tradition. We have no dues or fees but there are expenses. Please give what you can, but if you can’t, please keep coming back. We need you more than we need your money.
Are there any Chapter 9-related announcements?
Sharing will continue until _______________. (Some meetings reserve the last 10-15 minutes for newcomers to share, for affirming their partners, etc.)
That’s all the time we have for sharing. Let’s thank our speakers and all those who gave service at this meeting.
We will now read The Promises of Chapter 9.
We live as allies, nurturing, supporting, and caring for one another and our relationship.
Courtesy and respect define our interactions.
We communicate with honesty and compassion, without judgment or fear.
We listen to our partners with an open heart and mind, honoring that we are separate individuals.
Our relationship is no longer at the mercy of the past.
Isolation and despair give way to cooperation and hope.
We let go of unmanageable expectations and find contentment in each other and our relationship.
We are both trusting and trustworthy.
We honor and love our partner as we honor and love ourselves.
We enjoy laughter and affection, celebrating each other and our relationship.
We instinctively turn to our Higher Power and the tools of recovery for help.
We rediscover the love that brought us together and are amazed to see it grow beyond anything we could have imagined.
The opinions expressed here are strictly those of the persons who gave them. Take what is helpful to you, leave the rest, and keep all of it confidential to preserve the safety of this room.
Whatever your struggles, some of us here have had them too. Talk to other fellows but refrain from gossip or criticism of one another, and from taking your partner’s inventory. Remember: we’re couples supporting couples, and we want what’s best for you and your relationship. Keep coming back and let the understanding, peace, and love of Chapter 9– Couples in Recovery grow in you one day at a time.
We end with the Serenity Prayer, using “we” instead of “I” and “us” instead of “me.”
God grant us the serenity
to accept the things we cannot change,
courage to change the things we can,
and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.
ADDITIONAL SUGGESTED MEETING FORMATS
The format of this meeting is that we’ll have a qualifying couple read a Chapter 9 Tool and then speak for 10 minutes apiece on the Tool, after which we’ll go on to sharing.
This is a Step meeting. We’ll read the Step that corresponds to the month, including the questions that follow, and then go on to open sharing.
The format of this meeting is that we’ll have a qualifying couple read and speak on a designated paragraph from "Suggested Guidelines for Communicating" (10 minutes each).
The format of this meeting is that we’ll have a qualifying couple speak on the topic of “Money & Intimacy” or “Sex & Intimacy” (12 minutes each).
[NOTE TO GROUP REGARDING THE INVENTORY-TAKING STATEMENT]: Some Chapter 9 groups include the paragraph at the end of the statement that provides a brief explanation about how the group has decided to handle situations when inventory-taking occurs. There are no hard and fast rules for what to do, but below are a few ideas from other Chapter 9 groups that you may want to try. (You can lift these and insert them into the paragraph above.) Your group may decide to use one of these options, a combination, come up with one of its own, or not include an explanatory paragraph at all, depending on what suits the group’s particular members and format.
a designated member or couple, or any member (depending on your group conscience) may raise a hand as a gentle reminder that we keep the focus on ourselves.
a member of the chair couple may gently interrupt the sharing to remind the group to keep the focus on themselves and not on their partners.
a member of the chair couple may gently interrupt the sharing to re-read the first paragraph of the Inventory-Taking Statement or a statement of the group’s creation, to remind the group to keep the focus on themselves and not on their partners.
a designated member or couple, or any member (depending on your group conscience) may take the couple aside after the meeting to talk more about what inventory-taking is and the consequences it has for the Chapter 9 meeting and for our relationships. They may direct the couple to Chapter 9’s Suggested Guidelines for Communicating pamphlet and gently suggest that they read the section on inventory-taking to learn more about what it is and how it happens.
The group can also decide to make inventory-taking a topic for an upcoming meeting. This option helps the entire group focus on inventory-taking and the consequences it has for the Chapter 9 meeting and for our relationships.