Cell Phone 12th Step Recovery?

My previous blog entry discussed my evening at a restaurant with friends that spent their time on a cell phone rather than engaging in communication with the others present at the table. It went on to discuss some of the negative things happening in society that I believe are a direct correlation to how communication is changing with all the advances in technology. This entry focuses more specifically on the use of cell phones during recovery meetings as that too has become a larger problem today.

I think it’s a pretty safe bet to say that every 12th step recovery meeting I’ve attended these days gives a reminder to shut off or place in silent mode any cell phones present before the meeting actually begins. It never fails though, 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 amount of people that spend their time during meetings texting or surfing the internet.

The first and most important thing I’ve learned today with my own recovery and God centered life is to admit my own guiltiness of this. For many years, I came to recovery meetings for the social aspect. I wasn’t interested in doing the steps. I wasn’t interested is listening to the speakers. And I definitely wasn’t interested in doing God’s will. As the pain got greater in my life, so did my willingness to do what was necessary to focus more on my recovery, on finding God, and on removing 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 my recovery in my own way. And there were many times that as the cell phones advanced into the smart phone generation, I would spend the meetings surfing the web, texting people, or randomly flipping through my digital photo albums. Meanwhile, in my self-centeredness, I never realized what this might look like or feel like to those who were speaking at the meetings I attended.

Imagine for a moment being at a podium, any podium, in any meeting, recovery related or not. Then imagine speaking in front of a group of people at that podium about something very personal to you. Finally, imagine during those moments of speaking, upon looking out at the audience, 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 it because I’ve been on that side of the coin 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, such as my journey of recovery and seeking God 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 alcohol, 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 offer the same. Many years ago, when cell phone technology didn’t exist, people sat through meetings with their cups of coffee and listened much more intently on what was being said. Regardless of whether a speaker is truly 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 the vast majority of people tapping away on cell phones instead of listening to the speaker.┬áThe 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 find myself steering clear of my self-centered behaviors, the more I see that using a cell phone during a meeting is self-centered in the first place. 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.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson