Start A Meeting - A suggested format for your new meeting.
Suggested Meeting Format
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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, couples’ problems and solutions), and what format to use (speaker, discussion, meditation, etc.).
The things included in the suggested format will 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. Are there any newcomers? Would you like to give us your first names so that we can welcome you? Who would like to volunteer 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 pass around the Twelve Steps and Twelve Tools of Chapter 9. Please read one and pass it on.
(You may choose to include any other Chapter 9 literature at this point.)
The format of this meeting is that we will have a qualifying couple speak for _______ minutes, 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?
We will now read the Inventory-Taking Statement.
We have found that the best way to make the meeting a safe place for both members of the couple is to keep the focus on ourselves, on our own experience, and on our own feelings. We take our own inventory—not our partners’. This means we don’t use our share as a weapon: no shaming, no blaming, and no listing our partners’ defects, no matter how well we think we know them and how sure we are that they are the problem. It’s OK to say what happened and how we felt about it, but not to shame, punish, or judge our partners. We are not here to fix our partners or to get our partners to change.
Learning to recognize when we are taking our partners’ inventory may be hard at first, especially in times of difficulty when emotions run high. Many of us find it useful to begin by talking about what we are feeling, rather than what we are thinking. This is an important distinction. For example, saying “I feel that my partner was being stupid” is not expressing a feeling, even though we say “I feel.” It’s actually a thought. And it’s not honest or truthful, because it masks feelings we may have about our partner’s behavior but are not expressing directly. It states an opinion, and a judgmental one at that.
It’s also important to talk about our own feelings, and not what we imagine our partners are feeling. If we say, “I feel that my partner was angry with me,” not only are we are expressing a thought rather than a feeling, we are also assuming we know what our partner is feeling. We are speaking for them instead of for ourselves. On the other hand, to say “I feel angry and scared about how my partner spoke to me” is a genuine expression of our own feelings. We are keeping the focus on ourselves and taking our own inventory, not our partner’s.
Taking our partners’ inventory undermines our reason for being here—to recover a loving relationship. We don’t want to use language that provokes our partners or pushes them away. Even if we have not yet learned to refrain from inventory-taking outside the rooms, for the duration of the meeting we are asked not to do it here.
[Suggested final paragraph] If inventory-taking occurs, our group conscience has decided that [insert your group decision about how to handle the situation here – see "Note to Group" at the end of this format]. When we do this, we do not mean to shame or embarrass anyone. Many of us have needed others to help us become aware of when we’re taking our partners’ 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.
Now please help me welcome our qualifying couple, _______ and _______ , who will share their experience, strength, and hope.
(After the qualification ask the qualifying 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
At this time, we will have a treasurer’s break. We have no dues or fees but there are expenses. Please give what you can, but if you can’t, please keep coming back.
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.
The opinions expressed here are strictly those of the persons who gave them. Take what you need and leave the rest. The things you’ve heard were spoken in confidence and should be kept confidential. Whatever your problems, there are those among us who have had them too. Talk to each other, reason things out, but let there be no gossip or criticism of one another. Instead, 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.
[NOTE TO GROUP: Some Chapter 9 groups include at the above 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 where indicated.) 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.]