I am an alcoholic. I’ve been sober for a long time now. I got sober by attending twelve step meetings. As many people know, when you identify yourself in a twelve step meeting, you say, “My name is ‘X’ and I’m an alcoholic.” For many, this simple identification is a powerful event in itself. Many people who struggle with alcohol have a hard time admitting that they are an alcoholic, sometimes to themselves, but certainly to anyone else. The simple act of identification allows a person to name their problem, accept it for themselves, and recognize that they are amidst a group of people who all have the same issue. There are many different formats to meetings, but in some there is simply a group of people sitting in a circle who share their experience, strength, and hope on a certain topic. As we go around the room, everyone says their name and that they are an alcoholic.
It’s been a while, but I have also worked in a large professional organization. We had a lot of meetings in that setting as well–one on one meetings, team meetings, interdepartmental meetings, and working group meetings of people assigned to a special project. Often times we would start the meetings by going around the room and having everyone say their name and their job title and function, so everyone would have an idea of who was at the table and what they did. Everytime we had one of those meetings, as the introductions were going around the room, I would tell myself, “Don’t say ‘I’m Nate and I’m an alcoholic.’ Don’t say ‘I’m Nate and I’m an alcoholic.’ Don’t say ‘I’m Nate and I’m an alcoholic.’” I’ve identified in one way so many times, I didn’t want to fall back on the habit. The embarrassment and shame that would ensue!
If you work in a large professional organization where there are meetings where people go around the room and identify themselves, there is a good chance someone in that room who is repeating that same reminder to themselves. You have no idea who it is, but I guarantee you someone is living with that same low grade anxiety each time the introductions go around the room. What is more, to avoid the shame and embarrassment, I’m sure there’s a host of other identities that people are holding back. If you don’t feel that same twinge of anxiety, know that the meeting is starting out a little easier for you.