A newcomer doesn’t need a sign around his or her neck to be identified as one. Usually they’ve taken a seat in the back of the room. They are the ones who often bolt out of the meeting as soon as it’s over. If they do stay for the meeting after the meeting, they often begin to assess the other people who were present. They might judge how a person dressed or spoke. The newcomer might also freely express his or her judgment about what was said.
Usually though, no one corrects the newcomer. Yes, it’s true, they are taking other people’s inventories. Experience has shown that if we criticized the newcomer, it might turn them off to the program. Even if they accepted our criticism, they really aren’t ready to grasp the idea of taking someone’s inventory. They probably would say they are just expressing their opinion.
As they gain some time, that newcomer will begin to take their own inventory. When they do so, their eyes will be opened as to their own character defects. They will learn that we need to keep the focus on ourselves. As they work on their fourth step, they will suddenly stop judging other and begin to keep the focus on themselves.
Personal Reflection: Do I still take other people’s inventory?
In our active days, we looked down our noses at anyone who wasn’t drinking or drugging. Quite frankly we found you to be boring and unexciting. In our minds,the truly “cool” people were the ones who were using. We were definitely one of the cool and hip ones. You non users definitely were not.
When we finally entered sobriety many of us got a bit depressed. How were we going to enjoy life now that we had given up our drug of choice. We had left the ranks of the cool, and had joined the boring sober people.
Then something interesting happened. At a meeting, we got invited to our first sober party. Initially we thought that using the words sober and party in the same sentence was a contradiction in terms. However we went. To our great surprise we had a blast. We could still do and say all kinds of crazy things while maintaining our sobriety. We didn’t need alcohol or drugs to be one of the cool ones. We could be sober and still be a cool and interesting person. Our uniqueness could be tapped without the aid of a drink or a drug. We did just fine in social conversation without the use of a substance to help lubricate the flow. By the end of the evening we realized that this sobriety thing really could work for us.
Personal Reflection: What does fun look like in sobriety?
Almost all newcomers heard the same thing upon entering the program. It was “suggested” to them that they make 90 meetings in 90 days. Upon hearing this, they were often taken aback. For many of them, the thought of any type of commitment was viewed as an impossibility. While active, repeating any responsibility for more than a day was a prescription for failure. Then something wonderful began to happen. The program began to take hold and days and then weeks of sobriety were acquired. Their faces began to become known at both a home group and other groups as well. Before they knew it, they had made ninety meetings in ninety days. When their name was called they proudly walked up to receive their ninety day coin. When they sat down, some old timer turned to them and said, “Congratulations. Do you know what comes after ninety days? Ninety-one”.
By this time, hopefully our newcomer has accepted the reality of the program. Addiction is not like other afflictions. Going to meetings is not like a round of antibiotics. It is not something you take for a period of time and then are declared cured from your disease. Part of our medicine regimen are meetings. We need to have a lifetime prescription of meetings. Yes, the dosage may be different based on the case. But there is no doubt that frequent dosages of meetings are essential to sobriety.
Personal Reflection: Do I need to up my prescription of meetings?
Addicts are not known for their patience. Like everyone else, they undergo the travails of daily living. However, their coping skills are highly underdeveloped. When confronted with the daily tests of life, they quickly turned to their drug of choice. This lack of patience manifests in many facets of their lives. They usually give up on any type of work except for the least challenging. Working at jobs with little challenge often leads to feelings of guilt and shame. They stay in unhealthy relationships because the people are usually less demanding of them. If their partner or friend begins too expect more of them, they move on.
In sobriety, we begin to move away from impatience. We no longer see time as our enemy. We come to learn that things of value often require an investment of time. To advance in a career, a lot of work has to be done over time. Quitting when we hit the first speed bump is not an option in sobriety. The same holds true in relationships. Building a healthy relationship takes work, commitment and patience. It certainly is not going to evolve without, stress, friction and differences. With patience however something wonderful can and will be created. Since our Higher Power created time, we might as well use it.
Personal Reflection: Do I still have issues with patience?
Coming into the program, you don’t have to believe anything.
You don’t even have to believe that you can stay sober. All you need to do is make believe than you can. This means that every day when you get up just imagine that you can be sober for that day. Just for that day take the actions that a sober person would take. Even if you don’t believe you will stay sober for that day.
You don’t even have to believe in the power of the program. All you have to do is imagine that the program can work for you. Throughout your day follow the suggestions that have been given to you by program people. Even if you don’t believe in it, make a meeting, call your sponsor and do some type of service.
You don’t even have to believe that you have a Higher Power. Use your imagination and evolve a personal G-d of your understanding. Then throughout your day turn to your Higher Power; even though you don’t believe in Him.
Somewhere along the way, all of those make believe actions begin to take root and before you know it, your beginning to believe.
Do you think I’m wrong? Just for today, make believe I’m right and believe in yourself, the program and a Higher Power.
Personal Reflection: What do I still need to make believe in?
A healthy individual needs to have a positive sense of self. We are comfortable in our own shoes and need not seek the approval of others. We get into trouble when our egos get in the way. If we attribute too great a sense of importance to ourselves, it drives a wedge between us and others. We quickly find that people don’t want to be around us because we radiate the feeling that we are better than them. This often manifests in the way we speak and act towards others. The more egotistical we become, the more people tend to avoid us. We are often confused by this. We think that given how wonderful we are, how brilliant is our advice, that people would flock to us. Yet the opposite is just the case. We discover that people are much more interested in being around someone whose interest extends beyond them self.
Excessive ego also drives a wedge between people and their Higher Power. The more ego we have, the less space we are allowing for G-d to enter our lives. As our humility increases, more space becomes available for G-d to fill. Over time our relationship and connection to G-d deepens as a result.
Personal Refection: Do I need to deepen my connection with G-d and with others?
Medical school these days is a rigorous program. Part of the reason for this is that every year the body of medical information increases. In fact sometimes this is due to the discovery of yet another disease which heretofore had not been properly identified.
To this vast sea of technical information we can add another disease which has plagued people for centuries. We can term it the “trying” disease. Many people are afflicted with it. It manifests itself every time a person says, “I’ll try”. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. “I’ll try to meet you next Tuesday”; “I’ll try to put in an application for the job”, “I’ll try to start an exercise program”. We could go on infinitum. The problem with using the word “try” is that you are not committing to anything. Implicit in “try” is that you might not be able to fulfill what you’re committing to. It leaves a back door open to flake out. This is especially applicable to an active alcoholic or addict. How many times have we heard a person say, “this is my last drink, drug or food binge. Tomorrow I will try to stop”. Alcoholics and addicts can’t be given any possibility of a back door. We need full throttle commitment and action. Anything else becomes a “try”.
Personal Reflection: Do I sometimes suffer from the disease of try?
Quite often you will be at a meeting where someone will say that “they need to rat out on themselves”. They will proceed to talk about something which they did or said which they felt was inappropriate or wrong. When you examine this concept of “ratting out” it is really quite amazing. What is occurring is essentially a confession in public of a perceived wrong or impropriety. Where else in the world will you find a person publicly acknowledging a mistake. Certainly not in the world of politics or the work place. On this scale it is only found in the rooms of AA, NA, OA and other fellowships. What is even more amazing is that these so called “acknowledgements” are often seeing the light of day for the first time. In essence the person is describing something which no one else knew about. If they kept their mouth shut, their secret would have been safe. Yet they chose to open up and share. Why do they do it? Perhaps because in sobriety they no longer want to live with secrets. They no longer want to live with lies. Even if no else knows about their wrongdoing, this process helps them acknowledge it to them self. When they publicly admit a wrong, we can all be proud to be part of the program.
Personal Reflection: Is there anything I need to share at a meeting?
Obsessive thinking can be the bane of the recovering alcoholic or addict. Without our drug of choice our minds can run rampant with fear and worry. At times, we are almost immobilized by our thoughts. Usually these thoughts are tied into future events.
Part of sobriety is understanding that that future outcome is ultimately not in our hands. Of course we still need to take actions to best ensure that the desired future outcome has the best opportunity for taking place. The challenge is that when we are in anxiety, we can almost become immobilized. The key is find the inner strength to take an action towards our goal. Sometimes we are so overcome with fear that we can’t even get out of our beds. Then the action in that moment is to force ourselves to throw off the covers and get dressed. What we discover at that point is that once we begin to take action, our system gets jump started and further movement towards our goal takes place. Pushing through the initial resistance is the hardest part of the process. Once we do so, our anxiety decreases as we put in energy to reach our goal. On the deepest level we are still powerless over outcome. We are not powerless over resistance to action and the elimination of anxiety.
Personal Reflection: How do I push through resistance?
Everybody has a bad day. We claim to have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed. Perhaps we are a little more irritable than we normally are. It seems that for some reason more stressful situations than usual head our way. All of this is nothing out of the ordinary. All of us at one time or another have one of those days.
What is of concern is when we repeatedly enter the day in a negative state, and it just goes downhill from there. When we were using, at least we had the excuse of a massive hangover.
If you want to consider yourself emotionally sober, there is no excuse for waking up in a state of negativity and resentment. Our emotional state upon awakening and throughout the day is an inside job. Yes, of course we will have difficult days. What is important to note is that we have a choice on how to respond. Old timers put it very bluntly. After hearing our rant about what a horrible day we had; will turn to us and simply say, “time to get off the pity pot”.
Personal Reflection: What kind of day am I going to have today?