When I am asked to be the guest speaker at a meeting, How should I tell my story?
Our Twelfth Step states:
Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
If our primary purpose is to carry our message, that is, our 12 step solution to recovery as outlined in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, then, when we are asked to share our story, what should we say and how should we say it?
The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous states on page 58:
Our stories disclose in a general way what we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like now. If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it -- then you are ready to take certain steps.
This quote implies that the speaker will identify themself as an addict by sharing their story of hopelessness, that is "what we used to be like" which also implies that we are no longer like that. Next, the speaker shares about "what happened" i.e. how they have recovered - how they worked their program of recovery. The speaker then finishes their story with what promises have been fulfilled as a result of this program, that is "what it is like now".
This quote also implies that the audience having received the speaker's message, have made a decision that they want what the speaker has. This response sets the stage for suffering addicts to commence their journey on the 12 step road to recovery.
How much time should we spend on each section of our story?
For some of us, speaker meetings conjures up memories of sitting for 40 minutes to an hour listening to tedious drunk-a-logs, belabored war stories, tales of woe and misery and sometimes just plain babbling streams of unconsciousness from the "guest" speaker. Sound familiar? Some speakers will even state how they have never even worked the 12 steps - staying sober on meetings alone! Audiences are held captive, never getting a "real" solution, a way out to what ails them. Unable to identify with the speaker's story, newcomers are usually left bewildered or worse yet, depressed, feeling more isolated and apart from the "so-called" fellowship.
Our suggestion, depending upon the amount of time you, is to breakdown your story as follows:
- What was I like? - 10% - Share your experience. Qualify yourself. What makes you a 'real' addict? Give your audience a chance to identify with you.
- What happened? - 70% - Share your strength - how you found this solution and what you did to recover!
- What am I like now? - 20% - Share your hope. Talk about the promises you have received as a result of working this program.
How do we know if our talk has been effective?
In the Preface of the Big Book (A.A. 4th Edition), it talks about the impact of our stories when delivered in an intelligent manner:
If you have a drinking (drugs, sex, gambling, food, co-dependency, etc.) problem, we hope that you may pause when (hearing our stories)...and think: "Yes, that happened to me"; or, more important, "Yes, I've felt like that"; or, most important, "Yes, I believe this program can work for me too."
Tell about your speaker meeting experiences
- Have you ever been invited to speak? How did you tell your story?
- What in your experience is least effective about a speaker?
- What in your experience makes for a good story?
- Heard a good speaker lately? Let us know who they are and why you thought their message was an effective one?