How to Use the Moment of Silence

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The moment of silence at the beginning of every meeting belongs to you. In that spirit, you should be sure to make the most of it. (frankie’s/Shutterstock)

The moment of silence at the beginning of every meeting belongs to you. In that spirit, you should be sure to make the most of it. (frankie’s/Shutterstock)

The past couple of articles have detailed what happens at the beginning of an AA or NA meeting. Starting with the AA Preamble, we worked backward to the Serenity Prayer. Each of these articles was similar in that we were able to take the associated texts and break them down into three key parts each. But what happens when there is no text to break down? How, for instance, would we break down a moment of silence? Well, the short answer is that we wouldn’t. Perhaps, however, we can still offer some advice regarding what you might be doing in the course of that moment.

Before the Serenity Prayer, just about every meeting starts out with a moment of silence. Perhaps some don’t, but we have never been to a meeting at which this was not seen as a vital part of the process. Much like the Serenity Prayer and the Preamble, some recovering addicts and alcoholics have begun to see this as simply part of the routine. As such, they may just sit there during the moment of silence without really thinking about anything. Maybe they’re planning where to eat when they leave the meeting, or wondering why Criminal Minds bothered producing another spin-off. To each their own.

The point is that any thoughts running through most members’ heads during the moment of silence are idle at best. But depending upon the meeting you attend, you may hear your chairperson specifically declare a moment of silence for the addict or alcoholic who is still suffering. This should give you a relative idea as to how this moment is to be used. Even so, a rough idea is just that—rough. As such, we would like to offer three possible ways in which you may embrace the moment of silence to its fullest.

A Moment of Prayer

Prayer is a fairly common use for the moment of silence. (ptnphoto/Shutterstock)

Prayer is a fairly common use for the moment of silence. (ptnphoto/Shutterstock)

To many, the common assumption when hearing this moment dedicated to those who are still suffering is that they should be using the moment of silence to pray for such individuals. This can be hard for many of us, as there are more than a handful of addicts and alcoholics who could easily qualify for Al-Anon or Nar-Anon. In other words, there is no shortage of members who know other addicts and alcoholics against whom they are still harboring resentments that they cannot seem to let go.

Some say that praying for the person you resent is actually one of the best pathways to forgiveness. By praying for the individual who has brought you harm through their own disease, you may come to realize that you have more in common with them than you wish to admit. Your own disease has had no lack of consequences, but those who have chosen to forgive you were able to realize that you were simply a sick individual, a good person who came down with a troubling compulsion and then lost your way. Perhaps you should look at the still-suffering addict in much the same light, regardless of your personal feelings toward them.

But those that pray should not just be praying for those who wronged them. Certainly try to gear your prayers in that direction if you have a particular resentment troubling you, but for the most part you should try to let your thoughts and prayers encircle all those who have not found their way into recovery just yet. This isn’t necessarily about the belief that every single addict or alcoholic will recover, because many will not. This is about compassion, about caring for others whether you know them or not. Addiction tends to bring out our selfishness, and our prayers during the moment of silence are a way to discover a better side of ourselves.

If need be, there is technically nothing wrong with turning your prayers elsewhere. Simply try to follow one simple guideline—focus your prayers on true faith. In other words, don’t pray to win the lottery or to get a job or to sleep with that co-worker you have your eyes on. Prayers constructed of greed often go unanswered, and this has the potential to shake our faith. But if you pray that everything will work out the way it should, while understanding that how things should work out isn’t necessarily how you want them to, then you can never go wrong.

A Moment of Meditation

The moment of silence is also quite well-suited to quiet meditation. (Lolostock/Shutterstock)

The moment of silence is also quite well-suited to quiet meditation. (Lolostock/Shutterstock)

Many get confused when the words “prayer” and “meditation” are written in close proximity to one another. At first glance, they certainly seem to be the same idea. But upon further inspection, we realize that prayer is talking while meditating is listening. When you meditate during the moment of silence, you are not asking questions or—heavens forbid—making demands. You are simply clearing your mind and allowing the right answers to come.

Just because you are clearing your mind does not mean that you cannot focus your meditation in a specific direction. As noted, the moment of silence is often dedicated to those who are still suffering. To meditate on such people is essentially asking for guidance in your service work, so that you may divine the proper means of helping such people. And if you are truly ready for such an endeavor, those answers just may come. You won’t be able to help all of them, but you can at least help a few.

For instance, your meditation during the moment of silence may be plagued with thoughts of sponsorship. If you have been in the program for quite some time and have not yet sponsored anybody, it might be time to start. If you are a newcomer and are already thinking of ways to help people, the answer might be to take on a service commitment. Even something as simple as making coffee before the meeting can be helpful, as it will make other newcomers feel more comfortable. Or, if you are particularly shy, you may force yourself to make some introductions to other newcomers and give them your number. Not only will this help others, but you may get something extra out of it if you suffer from any level of social anxiety.

Some refer to AA (or NA, as the case may be) as a “selfish program.” What they mean by this is that you must help yourself first. Think of addiction like a plane crash—if you’re going to stand any chance of survival, you have to put on your own oxygen mask first before you can begin assisting others. So if you aren’t ready to help others, you might use the moment of silence to meditate on your character defects, as well as any reservations you might have about getting sober. The more thoroughly you resolve these issues, the more helpful you will be when encountering newcomers in need of guidance and support.

A Moment of Reflection

We may have a million thoughts running through our heads at any moment. On some days, the moment of silence could be a good time to sort through some of them while quieting the rest. (Ollyy/Shutterstock)

We may have a million thoughts running through our heads at any moment. On some days, the moment of silence could be a good time to sort through some of them while quieting the rest. (Ollyy/Shutterstock)

The moment of silence does not have to be used for prayer or meditation. Sometimes, we just need a moment to think. And again, this can easily be turned toward those who are still suffering. Many of us entered recovery when our former using buddies did not. Perhaps we even have family members who are afflicted, yet cannot seem to enter recovery. Unfortunately, there is little we can do to help them if they do not wish to help themselves. We can try staging an intervention, and this may be successful. But if it is not, we must at least reflect upon what we might learn from these people.

Get used to this sort of reflection, for it will hit you quite often. Throughout your journey in recovery, you will make many new friends and acquaintances who relapse. Some will return to the fold with new life lessons in their pocket. Others will never enter sobriety again. A few may even depart from our plane of existence after suffering an overdose. Honor their memory during the moment of silence, and remember that it could have been you. For this reason, you must always express gratitude for your sobriety whenever possible.

If you wish to avoid their fate, you should also reflect a bit on yourself. How are you feeling? More importantly, what sort of behaviors have your recent feelings inspired? If all is not right with you, then you might need to talk to someone after the meeting. You may even choose to pull your sponsor aside and talk during the meeting. Do not feel bad that they are missing a meeting, for helping you will still do much to keep them sober for another day. If your reflection tells you that you might be in for an emotional disturbance in the near future—assuming you are not already knee-deep in one right now—then this is an appropriate time to treat recovery as a “selfish program.” Relapse prevention should never be taken as a light matter.

At the end of the day, you should use the moment of silence to reflection upon whatever you feel will help you to stay sober. Whether your goal is to remove your character defects, accept a loss, or even just sit there and feel in touch with your sobriety for a while, it’s up to you. For that moment of silence, you are alone with yourself. Enjoy that gift while you have it.


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