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anxiety about sharing in meetings

Old 03-20-2010, 06:25 PM
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anxiety about sharing in meetings

Hi

I'm an alcoholic in AA and new on this site. I'm nearly 3.5 months sober now and have been working the steps with my sponsor, and things have been great up till now. I have been following suggestions and feelings really well. Last Saturday I did my Step 5 with my sponsor and that felt really great and freeing. But the thing is that I have always suffered from extreme social anxiety about sharing in groups. I have managed to share a few times so far but only when I was put on the spot, and the anxiety was acute, although I did feel much better when it was over. Now I have just done Step 5 my sponsor is on my case to share in every mtg. She says I have to get over my selfcentred fears so I can share something that may help a newcomer still suffering. She said the social anxiety will go if I just put in the action. I desperately want to share, but I feel under so much pressure that I feel paralysed with anxiety in the meeting. Today I told my sponsor that I had shared in the mtg. I was dishonest with her and I feel terrible about it. I am thinking now about telling her I'm not ready, and finding a new sponsor that will understand and let me share at my own pace. I know I will get over this eventually through working the steps, but after 3.5 months, I still have a lot of fear. I would feel like I'm copping out though if I decide to leave her after all this progress.Any advice would be received gratefully. I'm glad to have found this website. thanks
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Old 03-20-2010, 06:36 PM
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Hi,

Welcome, Rika and I'm glad you are seeking support.

My suggestion is that maybe talking to a professional about your social anxiety would be a good idea. Have you talked to your dr about this issue or tried to find a therapist or counsellor?

I wish you well.
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Old 03-20-2010, 06:48 PM
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Welcome Rika,

This was discussed a few weeks ago here on the boards, so you're not alone.

I've gone through this myself and know exactly how you feel. Fortunately, my sponsor said it was fine for me to wait until I was ready.

No amount of "time" (ie, 90 days) qualifies you as speaker bait in my opinion.

I saw people literally crumble while sharing/speaking before they were ready and then stopped going to meetings - I don't see how that helps a newcomer (or yourself).

If it were me and my sponsor was pressuring me to the point where I'd lie to get her off my case, I'd find another sponsor. You're dealing with enough change in early sobriety that this kind of stress shouldn't be forced on you (again, my opinion).

You're not alone, rika. Don't be afraid to say no thank you.

Hbee
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Old 03-20-2010, 06:49 PM
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I do not agree with 'forcing' you to share. That's not sharing, that's having something taken from you unwillingly. And that's not what sharing is about, in my opinion....

I agree with Anna about seeing a counselor. I see mine once a week and look forward to it. A chance to tell her about anything, something I can't do with family. And she has insight into my issues that is new to me, and it helps. Do see about counseling, if you can. It can be very helpful.
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Old 03-20-2010, 07:21 PM
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Rika, I echo what Humblebee said above, I noticed at least one conversation about this about 2 weeks ago here. If your sponsor will not be open about your fears, then I guess you can look for a different one. It would be too bad if you really get a lot out of this one. If you misrepresented what really happened though, then maybe that is a sign you are not at your best with this person (I don't know) - since honesty would be important. I am not going to meetings, so I can't "talk like I know what it feels like," but I understand your fears. A long time ago, I was allowed to read from a narrative I put together at a meeting. I don't assume that would be legit for every group. But I was happy when I did it.

I don't know if your issue with speaking in front of people is related to a social anxiety in medical terms or if you are just very uncomfortable with it the way many people are. Public speaking of any kind is way up there on the list of fears human beings have, according to studies that have been done. That fear is nothing to be ashamed of.

I hope you will either do a good job at adapting to ways to defy the fear and keep gaining progress through AA or the method that works for you. And that is great that you have 3.5 months of sobriety, I am in that ballpark too.
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Old 03-20-2010, 07:21 PM
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There maybe things you can do to help with that.
maybe do the reading?

do you read out the promises at the end of the meeting?......could you do that?
how about make the tea/coffee?........puts you in front of people alot..
It will get easier with time......in 6 months you probably feel different.

you would need to get honest with your sponsor....tell her what you wrote here...?
pressure dont work with drunks in my experience.
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Old 03-20-2010, 07:23 PM
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HI-

I see two things here.

ONE:
there's a pamphlet called 'On Sponsorship" that's probably in the rack at your meeting place. Grab it. Smack your sponsor over the head with it if you need to.
You'll see that NOWHERE does it say your sponsor tells you what to do in a meeting.

your sponsor's job is to take you through the steps of Alcoholics Anonymous so you feel safe enough to do so. And they shoudlbe established enough in their own sobriety to set an example for you and BE THERE IF YOU NEED THEM.
They do NOT impose.

geyah. that gets me every time, man.



SECOND:
Maybe your sobriety has reached a place
that you're being shown how to start taking up for yourself.
If you don't FEEL ready to share -
it's up to you to tell this sponsor that you aren't ready.

"Thanks but no thanks."
'"I'll take it under advisement - leave me alone."
"Could you point that out to me in the book?"
"Back off bozo - this dog bites"
:rotfxko

They won't find it.
It's not there.

THIRD:
I know a man who went to AA for over a YEAR before he could share.
When he DID share - I tell ya I wanted to throw a party!
When you are ready -
you will not be afraid.
It will be as natural as breathing.


NO ONE in AA or anywhere else in recovery
has the right to force you to do anything you're not ready to do.


Print that out and stick it on the fridge if you want. hon.

HOW WONDERFUL for you you're already at the fifth and sixth steps!!!
Do you KNOW how many can't get that far????
How many bla and blah but have NEVER done the steps?!?!?!

THAT ALONE is HUGE!!!!!!



Best Wishes,
Deb

Last edited by barb dwyer; 03-20-2010 at 07:28 PM. Reason: sticking keys on keyboard
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Old 03-20-2010, 07:25 PM
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Okay. maybe three things.
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Old 03-20-2010, 07:30 PM
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Hi Rika: I completely identify with you--have huge social anxiety about speaking in front of groups, whether in AA or out. And there was no way that I could have spoken in a big meeting for months after I first got sober (and frankly, what I really needed to do, for me, was listen to other people, something I was never good at while drinking). So I agree with the other posts-do it when you're ready, take small steps, maybe start in a small focused group (I started in women's groups). I love the NA saying that we deal with our problemsaddictions in the order that they're killing us, and not speaking won't kill ya. You are already so far along and doing so great, you should be gentle with yourself and be so proud of what you've accomplished. You are an inspiration.
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Old 03-20-2010, 07:35 PM
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Okay, I have been calling you Barb, Deb.
:ghug3

Once again, this post is awesome.

Rika,

You share when you are ready to share. It took me awhile too. No need to force it.
Like trucker said
pressure dont work with drunks in my experience.
Do what you need to do in meetings. You will know when you are ready.
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Old 03-20-2010, 07:37 PM
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Originally Posted by barb dwyer View Post
ONE:
there's a pamphlet called 'On Sponsorship" that's probably in the rack at your meeting place. Grab it. Smack your sponsor over the head with it if you need to.
:rotfxko I am laughing about this comment as I'm replying. Thank you, Deb. I needed that.

Wanted to say congrats to rika and toronto on their sober time as well. Way to go!

I think going through the steps in and of itself is amazing too and shouldn't be distracted by fears that may very well be overcome on their own when you finish the steps. What's that saying? Oh yeah, first things first. I'm sure there's plenty of other sponsors can take you through the steps without the added pressures.

OK, ok... (just kidding. not angry at all, just gettin' off the soapbox). lol.
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Old 03-20-2010, 07:39 PM
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The whole point being - when YOU are ready -
there will be no fear.

That's how you'll know!
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Old 03-20-2010, 07:51 PM
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Welcome to our recovery community rika...
Congratulations on your solid recovery progress!

Perhaps you could make a point ...in each meeting
to simply say........
"I'm rika....an alcoholic working hard on my recovery"

Maybe this would make you relax and be more comfortable?

You could also sit next to a newer member and talk
with her before or after the meeting. Or both....

Forward we go....siide by side
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Old 03-20-2010, 11:52 PM
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My experience: I'll be sober 3 years in july, and I have never been good at sharing at meetings. My breath gets trapped in my throat, my face gets hot, my heart beats out of my chest. Know the feeling? It's OK to be shy, its not going to make you drunk.
I tell my sponsees that, yes listen up at meetings, but also to be discerning. Just because someone is really confident and speaks at every single meeting does not mean they have a good message.
I've found my own niche in talking to people after/before the meeting. Newcomers, friends, whoever. It comes naturally.
Maybe you could try being the greeter? That might loosen you up some.
Anyway, I know where your coming from. Its OK!!!
And thank you BARB! for the sponsorship pamphlett thing. A sponsors job is very simple. Too many try to embellish the job with their own agenda...
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Old 03-21-2010, 12:50 AM
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Originally Posted by rika View Post
Today I told my sponsor that I had shared in the mtg. I was dishonest with her and I feel terrible about it. I am thinking now about telling her I'm not ready, and finding a new sponsor that will understand and let me share at my own pace.
Hi Rika and welcome to SR.

I think you should be honest with your sponsor but I don't necessarily think you should run away from them and look for someone else. Your sponsor is just trying to help work through your Steps. Sponsors are only human they they don't always get it right.......but sometimes they do get it right, even when the sponsee thinks it is wrong.

As to sharing, here is a suggestion for you

"My name is Rika. I am an alcoholic. I suffer from social anxiety and I am frightened of speaking to people. Thanks for letting me share. "


Now I can promise you that is the type of share that would definitely help the newcomer, even if you can only just manage the same at every single meeting.


Honesty, openness and willingness.

Good luck.
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Old 03-21-2010, 06:49 AM
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Smile Wow!

Thanks so much to you all for all this brilliant advice! I needed this so much and feel so much pressure lifted, and I'll talk to my sponsor later and have decided to look for another sponsor and try out some different meetings. It's so wonderful to feel this support from you guys.

I have progressed dramatically with overcoming my social anxiety from when I first came in to AA, and I have 2 home groups and have service commitments there that are tea-making and GREETING, which is something I never dreamed I could do at the beginning. I also pick up the phone and call newcomers to AA and other AA members and try to be helpful wherever I can. I never used to pick up the phone before, and my drinking was very lone and isolated in the last few years, to the point where I was on my knees and willing to go to any lengths when I first came in. I really do have faith that the 12 steps and the fellowship of AA works. But like i said before, the sudden pressure to share has knocked me sideways and I feel on shaky ground, because I always reached for the drink to try to control my anxiety before, and I really don't want to do that anymore.

Last year when I decided to get help, I went to my doctor and he put me on Antabuse for the first month to help me stop drinking, and I also went to AA and did an 8 week CBT course, which really helped, and went on a waiting list for counselling and a social anxiety CBT group. The counselling just started and the social anxiety group starts on 15th April. I really think these therapies will be good for me to do alongside the 12 steps, but my sponsor said they won't be helpful because they will keep me wrapped up in 'SELF';self-pity, self-centredness etc, where the 12 Steps help to get the alcoholic out of SELF. I said I would do the therapy anyway with the SELF issue in mind, but she disaproves.

I do have a lot of respect for my sponsor and know she's being so firm with me because she wants me to have the best recovery. I was feeling like I was letting her and myself down by not being able to do what she says.....but now I feel that I have to protect my recovery and give myself time to gradually build my courage to share. It will be amazing when this comes and if it will feel "as natural as breathing" I will be on cloud 9.

Thanks so much again for everyone who has helped me with their advice. I will keep you posted! x
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Old 03-21-2010, 07:09 AM
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Sounds like your doing great to me.
being the greeter is another thing that will help with the "fear of people thing"

when i got sober i struggled with it......id spent a long time on the streets and holding sober conversations or just interacting was uncomfortable.

i could do anger but dont ask me how i am or try to interact with me cos i aint got a clue.
hope it works out with the sponsor......and the steps.

id be interested to hear your experience.
have a nice sunny day in london....
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Old 03-21-2010, 07:18 AM
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A sponsor's role is to guide the sponsee through the 12 Step process - this is where their expertise lies.

A sponsor is not a therapist or a counsellor so cannot fulfill those roles. If a sponsee needs extra support from counselling/therapy then a sponsor can easily work alongside that.

I am sure you will be able to find someone who supports the outside treatment you are getting. There are plenty within AA who have counselling and therapy. And there are plenty of counsellors and therapists who support the 12 Step program.

Good luck. Keep in touch.
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Old 03-21-2010, 07:22 AM
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I really think these therapies will be good for me to do alongside the 12 steps, but my sponsor said they won't be helpful because they will keep me wrapped up in 'SELF';self-pity, self-centredness etc, where the 12 Steps help to get the alcoholic out of SELF. I said I would do the therapy anyway with the SELF issue in mind, but she disaproves.

I'm sure your sponsor has your well being at heart, but if it were me, I'd ask her to keep her opinions about my therapies to herself. She's not a doctor or a counselor, and I don't think her 'advice' about the 'unhelpfulness' of therapy is what a sponsor is truly for.
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Old 03-25-2010, 12:44 AM
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wow I needed this thread. I also suffer from extreme social anxiety and have actually started tearing up in front of groups of people before when the attention is on me.

This thread now gives me the permission to take it one step at a time, that I don't have to feel pressured to share, which is a huge load off my shoulders!

thanks guys
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