Recently at a meeting an old timer was talking to a newcomer. The old timer said to the newcomer, “do you know what the difference is between us”? The newcomer seemed a little perplexed by the question. As far as he was concerned there were many differences between the two. The old timer quickly followed up his question with the following response. “The only difference between you and me is that you believe that your thoughts are true”.
This is actually a profound insight on the part of the old timer. When people first come into the program their minds are in a state of confusion. They have lived in denial for years about their dependence on their drug of choice. This denial also extends to how it has affected them personally as well as it’s effect on family, friends and co-workers.
Newcomers also find that they are often in a constant state of fear. On a daily basis they ruminate about the future. These future projections rarely have a positive ending in their rumination process.,The doctor needs to send them for more tests, so they think they are dying. The boss asks to see them, so they will walk round for days thinking they are going to be fired.
In the program we make efforts to be in the here and now. If we start to obsess about the future, we stop because we know that we have allowed fear to kidnap our serenity.
Personal Reflection: Do I believe my fearful thoughts?
Like many a newcomer we had called our sponsor full of complaints about how all the people in our life had wronged us. After listening to us for a few minutes our sponsor cut us off. He or she directed us to get a piece of paper and a pen and then get back on the call. We dutifully complied thinking that we were going to have an opportunity to blast everyone in our life who had angered or disappointed us recently. We would probably have to go to the post office to get a roll of stamps for all of the letters we would be writing to all those who had wronged us. However, when we got back on the phone, the conversation took a distinct turn. No, our sponsor wasn’t interested in our grievances. Rather, he or she asked us to write a gratitude list. At first we thought this was a bit strange. Why should we write down our gratitudes when we were full of upset about others. What we found that as we wrote down our gratitudes a lot of our feelings of upset dissipated. We realized that we had a lot to be grateful for. As we gained some time many of us have made this a daily practice where we write down a few gratitudes as part of our daily journaling regimen.
Personal Reflection: What am I grateful for right now?
At the end of a meeting you will often see someone who is coming into the rooms for the first time. You can almost sense their discomfort. Perhaps a lot of what they heard at the meeting was confusing. They might have been shocked to hear people speak about their feelings so openly and honestly. Many of them are grappling with coming to terms about their own addiction. Most likely they are in denial about that addiction. You can almost see them grimace at the mention of the word addict or alcoholic.
Almost all of us can identify with this moment because at one time that newcomer was us. So how did we evolve to being actively engaged in our program? As long as we came back after that first meeting; we discovered that we had found a home in AA, NA, OA or whatever program(s) we were involved with. We usually decided to come back because we identified with something someone spoke about. Many a newcomer has said, “as I was listening to you, I felt that you were telling my story”. There is a place in the program for anyone who is struggling with addiction. All you have to do is claim your seat.
Personal Reflection: How did I recognize my seat?