- The old-timers have something special about themWhen I went to my first meeting, I was amazed by how the people who shared spoke – they were uncommonly articulate, emotionally open, and honest. They way they could describe their inner world with such clarity and insight astounded me.
They could talk about their assets and defects with neither arrogance nor self-flagellation. My first thought was ‘everyone should come to a meeting just to listen – these people are so wise and interesting!’
- It can be cliqueyMany people say that as soon as they joined AA or OA, they felt that they were ‘home’, they were ‘loved back to life’ and they had a new family. That was not my initial experience; I felt awkward and out-of-place for quite a while.
- You’re a newbie for a long timeI thought that after a couple of months of going to 3-5 meetings a week, I’d be a pro who knew everyone! Nope. My ego has since been deflated.
- There’s a reason that you’re meant to share your experience, strength and hopeAt first all I wanted to hear was the gory details of active addiction so I could relate. Then I realised that it wasn’t helping, and I was even using it as a way to romance the bottle (or box of doughnuts). Now I want to hear about the solution, not the problem – I know enough about that to last a lifetime.
- You need to work the stepsI glazed over when hearing about the steps and higher power stuff at first. Then, predictably, I found out that just going to meetings was not enough.
- You can tell who hasn’t worked the stepsAt the risk of sounding judge-y –
Like how a lot of the old-timers have similar traits – humility, a sense of calm, a kindly gaze – the ‘dry drunks’ have their own less positive versions such as inflated egos, pomp and navel-gazing.
- Recovery is a life long commitmentYou can’t graduate from a 12 step program, unless you are graduating back into addiction (or into another one).
- There are a lot of spiritually-sick people there (duh!)After learning about the steps and the psychic change, I assumed that everyone there would be a perfect vision of love, kindness and serenity, sweeping me up into their arms to cradle and rock me into sobriety. Can you spot my huge ego?
- The Big Book has all the answers I needI don’t need to read another hundred self-help books or spend another thousand hours in psychotherapy. I need to stop drinking and abusing food.
- Meetings are not just a support groupAll the support in the world hasn’t helped me in the past, I need more than just empathy, I need a new way of life!
- Other’s recovery is the best evidence that the program worksIt doesn’t really matter why it works, because if you’re as desperate as me, you’re willing to try anything. If all these people – just in my little town – have recovered, that’s enough evidence for me to work the program even though I don’t see how replacing my flatmate’s jam that I ate 2 years ago will stop me from drinking and compulsively eating.
- My journey is surprisingly predictableThey said, get a sponsor or you will relapse. I got a sponsor, promptly dropped them, and right on cue, I relapsed. They said, work the steps or you will relapse. I stopped working the steps, and guess what?! I relapsed. They said, keep coming to meetings or you will relapse….and I did, etc.
If I listen to others, I don’t necessarily have to make the same mistakes, as long as I actually listen and don’t dismiss it thinking I know better or am any different.
Hope this might be helpful to someone someday! x