Last night's speaker identified three phases he went through in his attitude towards A.A. meetings. These all occurred during the first 11 months of his sobriety, while he was in prison. He was in a work release program where, starting with one night a week, they gradually increased the number of nights he was allowed out to attend A.A. meetings, as he continued to not screw up.
At first, he said, he went because he had to. He hated being there and kept thinking, "Is this what my life has come to? To hang out with a bunch of alcoholics?" After a while he entered the second phase, where he realized that he always felt better while at a meeting. He still would have preferred not to go at all, but had to admit that it wasn't so bad. Finally, towards the end of his 11 months, he started looking forward to going to meetings—phase three.
This reminded me of what I was told in early sobriety: there are only two times I needed to go to a meeting: (1) when I wanted to and (2) when I didn't want to. In early sobriety, the number of times I went for the second reason exceeded the number of times I went for the first, but quite a lot. At some point, years ago, that changed. Now I rarely go for the second reason (though it does happen, usually when I'm thinking, "I've got better things to do").
After a number of years of sobriety, I recognized a fourth phase in my attitude toward meetings, namely, to go because I might have something to offer a newcomer, because I might be able to help someone who is struggling. For me, this brings the deepest satisfaction of all.