Try listening to old-timers with an open mind

I was at a meeting before this whole Covid thing shut them down. I heard a guy my age say old-timers don’t get what it is like to get sober. As if we who are in long term recovery have forgotten what it was like.

I saw heads nod as other newer types agreed with his sentiment.

I wasn’t asked to share that day. The person in the chair was looking for more positive speakers – code for speak only in glowing terms of recovery, and the fellowship. Being one who was taught to share what ever mood I am in, I was not surprised I was not asked to speak.

Some days are giving days (speaking), other days are getting days (listening), I suppose.

I know this much. If I had spoken up that day, I would have rattled the chairperson. She may have wanted a lovely, peaceful meeting of gratitude and butterflies, but in my experience, I have learned more in the bumpy meetings than any of the isn’t life just great ones.

I would have said that cross talking is not my usual style, but frankly stereotyping us old timers as having no recollection of what it means to be a newcomer is insulting.

I would have explained that first of all, the only way we old-timers get to be old-timers is precisely by remembering how we got here. If he is fortunate to hang around long enough, he too might get to realize that.

We remember alright. Not just the last drink, although that is usually pretty significant. But the whole process. The first drinks or tokes. The first line. The risks of progressing from one drink, one drug, to others. The characters we hung with. The ones we lied to. The embarrassing moments along the way. Fights. Court rooms. Cells. Divorces. Losing bodily functions. Waking up with people we didn’t know. Feeling ashamed. Dirty.

Some of us move on from the damage quicker than others. I for one have gone to clinicians, sponsors, pastors and relatives for help all through my 32 plus years of abstinence. I not only remember, but have been scarred by my choices, and the choices of others I was raised with and by.

Here is what I know about my own recovery: If you are like me, in the beginning you think you know a lot. But ask yourself this: Is it possible that you are so sick you don’t know how sick you are? When you get your head around thoughts like that, it opens the door to many more teachable moments. But to get there, you have to first of all understand that you came to the fellowship asking, or practically begging, for help. To remain humble throughout your recovery is one of the toughest challenges of all. To remember you need to keep asking for help. Not submissively or embarrassingly servile. But authentically. Remembering the state you were in at your most dejected.

Today I am not ashamed of my addiction to alcohol and other drugs. It beats having diabetes. Or bad teeth. Or cancer.

So, when I look back, and remember, I have few moments where I resort to blame. It was what it was, you know?

But when I go to a meeting and see people trying to control the room by picking only their friends, or the happy joyful all the time bunch, I get frustrated. Recovery is not happy all the time. In fact, it can be downright difficult for long periods. Divorces happen. People die. Jobs are eliminated. Friends relapse. Should you only share when you are happy? That makes no sense to me.

As for the ones who are arrogant enough to label old-timers as anything, I say Keep Coming Back. If you are one of the fortunate ones, you may get to write blog post one day expressing the silliness of some of our earlier thoughts about the people who are on the life raft with you. If not … well, we’ll hear about you.

Love is the answer. But so is your truth. Get to know it.

And maybe try it with an open mind.

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