I had an interesting experience at an AA meeting recently. I was sitting in my regular spot in the room where generally 25-40 folks gather for a meeting. I have come to accept that the meeting will not be run exactly to suit my wants. We have this damn red light now that goes off after folks have talked for 3 minutes. Although I have never had the light go off on me, I still find the practice to be a bit controlling. As well, I am perplexed as to why folks carry on conversations during the reading of the steps and traditions – after all, these principles are what saved their lives. But I have come to accept that issue too.
At a recent meeting, my wanting to be the director of the stage performance was again tested. Two folks sitting in front of me were sucking on some sort of stick and blowing out wisps of vapor. At first I thought they were using some sort of nebulizer or breathing treatment. Then I realized they were each puffing away on e-cigarettes. This is a smoke-free meeting! All right, so they were not creating smoke but only vapor, but they were sitting in a nonsmoking AA meeting getting their nicotine fix. In my self-righteous indignation I became fixated on their smoking for the rest of the meeting.
So with some hindsight and thought, here is where I have come out on the issue. Whether the e-cigarettes violate the smoke-free building or meeting stipulations is perhaps a judgment call. I somehow suspect that in our litigious society that issue will make its way through the court system when it comes to e-cigs and airplanes, restaurants, and public buildings. More substantively to me is the “drug” use during a recovery meeting. But I also realize that nicotine is my addiction issue and not necessarily the two folks with the e-cigs. Based on my logic, would one need to ban nicotine gum and patches in AA meetings as well? Or was it just the overt actions of their puffing away on the e-cigs that I was reacting to?
Then I thought about the cookies and candy that are routinely set-out at the meeting. Do they not cause the same reaction in someone with an eating disorder as e-cigs to a nicotine addict. As someone with an eating disorder myself, I respond no, as I know the snacks are there and I simply don’t take them. If the snacks just showed up one day, like the e-cigs, the situation might be different.
So the punch line is that when I come around to thinking this issue through from beyond my own narrow self-serving perspective, e-cigarettes in a recovery context takes on a whole different meaning. I am incredibly grateful that being in recovery allows me to think beyond my own narrow self-interests. I am incredibly grateful that the experience of recovery prevented me from stomping out of the AA meeting in righteous indignation and using the incident as a convenient excuse to go about and buy a pack of smokes after some 15 years of being smoke-free.