Tuesday, January 06, 2009


My ex-husband used to talk about people who want to "second-hand" sobriety.  Since he was from Australia, he had an odd way of putting things.  But after a while I understood what he meant.  I had a friend at the time who no longer attended AA meetings, but would talk to me - a lot - she wanted to get her AA second-hand through me.  She didn't actually want to do what it took to get what I had.  (She ended up drinking again, still is all these years later, and it is not pretty.)

Last night I met with a sponsee who is going through sponsor hell.  She has a sponsee who is being a second-hander.  She wants what my sponsee has, but is unwilling to do anything that my sponsee suggests that she does.  Myself?  I do not have time for people like that.  I suggest to my sponsee that she doesn't either.  Of course, it is her decision, but I think it is a waste of time, and the big book says the same, to waste our time on people who aren't ready.  

We can only share our own experience, strength, and hope with people.  We can show them how we recovered.  We cannot do it for them.  We can walk with them every step of the way, but we cannot carry them.  Or as they used to say in meetings "we carry the message, not the mess."  

My sponsee related something to me last night that she heard.  That the newcomer is the lifeblood of the program.  Blood alone is a mess, all over the road.  That the people with some sobriety, say 5 - 20 years, are the muscle of the program.  They do the work.  But blood with muscle is still an unstructured mess.  That the "old-timers", people with over 20 years of sobriety, are the bones of the program.  We provide it the framework on which to hang all that other stuff.  But alone, the bones would just be a skeleton.

I am afraid that these old-timers are getting old and frail and dying, and there is not enough muscle out there to become an effective framework.  The blood is not working on becoming the muscle.  They get told enough times that "the newcomer is the most important person in the room,"  maybe they don't want to give up that importance.   

I wasn't going to say this here, but I am just cranky enough this morning to say it... I think, for the first time in my experience in AA, that we are falling apart.  We don't know what our message is, and if we do, we are too lazy to carry it.  We are sitting around like baby birds, with our mouths open, waiting for someone to come along and feed us, and we never worry about spreading our wings and doing some work to get some food for our fellows and our babies.  We all want to be babies all the time.  It doesn't work.  

Talking about sunshine, rainbows, and puppies might sound happy and good.  But we are sick people who need a lot of serious work - getting down to the causes and conditions that got us to behave the ways we did.  This is a life threatening illness that kills thousands every day.  It is an illness that kills people who don't even have it!  

If you have realized how sick you are, and you are willing to do the work, you get incredible results.  Part of that is that you know that you have to pass it on to others, and so you do.  And then you feel compelled to "give back" by being part of the AA service structure.  It isn't pleasant, no.  But it is what you do - if you want to stay sober.  

It's a takes a lot of blood and muscle and bone.  It is gristly.  It is not happy rainbows every day.  


dAAve said...

I think I can't save the world. But I can save me (by doing whatever it takes)and indirectly, help save those around me.
I'll always be the optimist.

Pam said...

Sometimes I want to tell re-lapsers "hey you don't get to keep being a new comer!"
What's been hard for me lately along this subject you are talking about, is that some of the people that are carrying the message are carrying the WRONG message!
I want to say "stop tweaking my beautiful program, it works fine like it is."
I know- I'm preaching to the choir ;)
Always lovin ya Mary Sugarcheeks.

steveroni said...

Mary, some people I know (I do not sponsor them) go only to 'Speaker' meetings. I believe many of those are 'second-hand' AAers.

It's almost as if they just wish to be entertained, rather than work a program of recovery.

Thanks for the gristly blood, muscle, and bone, which are more real than metraphoric.

J-Online said...

I'm glad you came out and said how you really feel. In Houston, I have seen some meetings where they enable and others that truly carry the message. I choose to go to meetings where it's not always nice, happy, and rainbows. It's real; it's life or death. Thanks for your post today.

Mark W. said...

Thank you again!

Simply mpo but I've come to believe that we cannot give up on AA. The message like you just carried HAS to continue to be carried. We can bring this back!

I'm a bit taken back by how far "the most important person in the room" has traveled. From Savannah to Colorado??? There's more to that, isn't there...

Syd said...

I hear this MC from several AA'ers who are concerned about the future of the program. They see singleness of purpose going out the window and fewer people who want to work the steps or who are willing to go to any length.

I fear that many are lazy and come to meetings for socialization, not recovery. JMO.

Trailboss said...

Girl, you are so honest. The world needs more like you.

wendy said...

if my sponsor read blogs she'd probably suggest that I reread that next to last paragraph again. it took me a while to be willing, and I still want to fight against the suggestions somedays, but the results have been incredible. Thank you for carrying that message.

♥Shann♥ said...

Standing up against your pals, or others just isnt fun, and I am not talking about just to fight to fight, but I know you have said it many times, I have heard, it and read it, and I see a big differnce in AA than when I got here. ITS watered down a bit.

When I first got sober it was taught what is fact of this program and what is ESH and there is a differnce and its important to know and do and be... and anyway I know you get it.... I keep passing it on, and part of that is saying what you just said and I hope that others hear it, not just in blogland but in meetings, because I know a lot of share it,... have a good day

Scott W said...

I try to do more than 'enough' and I keep coming back. That's all I know to do.

Anonymous said...

This is scary, Mary Christine. Someone Thursday night before the meeting with 25 years of sobriety said there just aren't enough people around with 25 years sober, and how do people with 25 years sobriety and more keep being sober - what is it exactly that keeps them sober. And that the program isn't what it used to be.