When we come into the rooms of a 12 step fellowship, if we are new, chances are we are going to look for any and every excuse to NOT relate to the other people in there. For those of us who may not be entirely sure that they even need sobriety, it is easy to hear the stories in the rooms, and say, “well I was never THAT bad” or “well I never did THAT,” in order to convince ourselves that we shouldn’t stay. However, coming into the rooms with an open mind is often the only criteria that we need to really ensure we stay sometimes.
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When I first came in, I didn’t even think I had a problem. I thought my excessive drinking, heroin and cocaine use was pretty normal or at least compared to the people I got high with. I thought I could control it, and I thought that maybe I just got a little out of hand due to the people I had been associating with. I knew I felt like an empty shell, but I figured that was just the result of not sleeping or eating for 3 weeks straight. Push came to shove and I was literally dragged into treatment. I was resistant to sobriety, to say the least. I had never been to a meeting, and I only knew what I saw in the movies, and I did not relate to those people at all. Needless to say, I didn’t listen in meetings, I was focused on the social aspect rather than the solution, and I relapsed 5 times in a year. I half tried to work my steps because I was forced to by my halfway house, but I never really fully conceded to the idea that I had a disease, and that the rooms of AA were filled with the only other people on the planet who knew why I felt the way I did. However, being the stubborn alcoholic that I was, I wanted nothing to do with them, I judged their stories, and I made every effort to compare our differences rather than relating to their similarities with myself. The day finally came where I discovered that I couldn’t do it on my own. I had finally surrendered to the idea that I was never going to be able to stop drinking and getting high on my own will power. About a week later, I was sitting in a meeting, and the woman speaking literally told a story that was almost identical to my own. She hit the mark on every major emotional milestone and troublesome event that I had experienced in my own life. It lit me up. I was completely entranced by her story, and afterward, I made it a point to pay attention to each person in a meeting, no matter how boring their share was. My recovery and road to sobriety started to change, I started to change.
How to Relate Rather Than Compare in Sobriety
Here are some tips if you find that you are having a hard time relating to people in sobriety. Sure, it’s always easy to find differences, but once you can really relate to every person you hear share or speak in a meeting, you will find that you might enjoy meetings a lot more. These are some tips that I have found work for me.
- It helps to actually look at the person speaking, watch their emotions attached to what they are saying. Even if you have never been through what they are sharing about, try to remember a time when you may have felt just as lost or stressed or anxious.
- Try not to judge their story. So they have been arrested twenty times, and you have never been arrested, or vice versa, don’t pay attention to that. Focus on how their addiction destroyed them, and remember what yours did to you.
- Don’t assign someone a bottom – regardless of how high or low someone else’s bottom is, that is not for us to decide. We are all different, and we have all had enough when we have had enough. Sobriety can mean different things to all of us.
- Try not to compare Higher Powers – this was a huge one for me, as I was anti-organized religion when I first came in. Who and what someone else prays to is not our business, try to relate to how and why they pray.
- Use the time in which you are listening to another person as an opportunity to get out of yourself – we are always so focused on what is going on in our heads, that we are prone to missing out on the beautiful things that are happening around us, and the message that we could be missing.
- We have to remember that just because we don’t agree with something that someone else is sharing or feeling, doesn’t mean that their opinion is wrong. We can sometimes be quick to dismiss someone, simply because we don’t share their beliefs. That is not an alcoholic trait, but a human one.
They say to avoid “contempt prior to investigation” or in other words, don’t sell yourself short by having a closed mind to the people and the program before you give it a try. Don’t knock it until ya try it, ya dig? Find a little something, if you can, in each and every person you meet in these rooms. I’m not saying you have to LIKE each person and what they are saying, but it definitely does help if you can at least learn to relate and identify rather than compare yourself against them. Become a part of the group, not apart from it.
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