Friday, May 08, 2009

And furthermore...


What about these chips?  We like to get the medallions to commemorate our sobriety.  We like the roman numerals.  Some of us have learned to read roman numerals by getting our chips each year!  

For a while, in recent years, I attended a 5:30 every evening meeting.  And every evening, they would go through the ritual of chips... usually about 15 minutes worth of 24 hour, 30 day, 60 day, 90 day, 6 month, 1 year, multiples of years chips.  And applause.  And passing them around to hold and look earnest about.  My friend Larry called it "The Academy Awards," which I thought was fitting.  

Don't get me wrong.  I have a chip in my wallet.  I have one in my home, displayed in the arms of a little praying cowboy... I like my chips.  But I always try to give them away.  

Yesterday when I was writing my post, I tried to find a photo that would illustrate the idea of superstars in AA.  I found an ad for a velvet lined case to store your chips in - like coins in a coin set.  This, to me, is absolutely obscene.  To think of taking outward signs of the God-given gift of sobriety, and putting them in a velvet lined case, to be shut away and preserved... just isn't right.  

You have got to give it away to keep it.  I think that goes for our chips too.  

We used to pass them along.  And then you would look at your chip all year and know whose hands it had been in the year before, and the year before.  And you would plan on who you would pass it to.  It would be tangible evidence of the chain of sobriety, freely given from God and shared from one member to another.  If I got a chip that was bought by a group, it seemed to me to be a failure of sorts, to not have someone who was passing along their cherished chip.  

In 2005, I drove to Tucson, Arizona to pass on my 20 year chip to a dear friend.  And that was the last time I had someone who wanted my chip.  

Our culture has changed.  People now look at you like you are a cheap skate if you talk about passing along a chip, like it is second hand, used.  How sad.  I will still try to pass mine along... 

And I really need to say that I cannot stand the passing the chip around the room - for everyone to put their "mojo" on.  According to Merriam Webster, mojo is "a magic spell, hex, or charm ; broadly : magical power" and you know, I don't want any "mojo" on my chip, thank you very much.    We did not used to do this.  I think it makes us look like a bunch of cultish superstitious nuts.  Sorry.  It is a strange practice, but it has become commonplace.  I do believe it started in treatment centers.  

This is part of what makes me feel so old.  I sit in my meetings and usually keep my mouth shut about all of this crap.  It is what they want.  I can be a bleeding deacon or an elder statesman.  I won't make a very effective statesman if I am always carping about all this silly ritualistic stuff - but I sure wish we would stop it.  

So I write this to you tonight.  And I don't expect many of you to agree with me, and that is 100%  OK  with me.  Let's all stay sober, agree or disagree... OK?

18 comments:

Steve E. said...

I always keep my chips in a velvet box. I guess it's velvet--It say "VELVEETA on the side! I'm just joking, of course.

Since there are not many folks left to pass on a 34-year chip, I usually just turn them both in to the place where they give me new ones...I use two, one for my pocket, the other for in case I lost the first one.

I keep the chip with me ALL the time. ALL the time. And actually, other than that, I never give chips, or their distribution methods too much thought.

Can't wait, Mary, to see your RANT tomorrow night! -grin!
S

One Drunk to Another said...

Every year, sometime near my sobriety date, I seem to encounter a need for my current chip. And I give it away. I have for years. Last year, I didn't because the opportunity didn't present itself. But I am sure it will someday.

I did put my 11 year coin in a frame that's on my wall. It belonged to my Dad and he passed it along to me. I can't bear to part with it.

When I got sober, you got a coin for 30, 60, and 90 days during one meeting a week and you got your yearly coin at a monthly meeting designated by your group, such as the last Saturday of the month. I don't get it these days. And I hate the speeches, "Due to the people in these rooms, my sponsor, God, the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker..." You know what I mean. Jeez.

Ed G. said...

Thanx for this...

I always keep my chip in my pocket - it's turned up as useful in some pretty strange ways...

I'm honored to be able to pass my chip along but it doesn't happen every year - if I can't give it to someone, I just turn it in or throw it on a pile...

I also don't like the passing around thang but, like you, play along and offer my opinion if it's requested...

Kathy Lynne said...

I don't think I'll ever give my one year chip to anyone...but that's not true....maybe I will give it to my first sponsee..I don't know..right now it just means so much...that first year. I have given some of my monthly chips if the occasion calls for it...maybe when I have more time they will be easier to part with...I get your point...we do have to give it away. There is a tradition at Bill W.'s gravesite to leave a chip, take a chip. That's pretty special.

dAAve said...

I plan on staying sober today as well.
And I love your little praying cowboy chip holder. Haven't seen that before.

Mark W. said...

Oh boy am I glad they don't pass around chips here!

On the same note??? I've heard again - someone add "we" as the first word of every step when "How It Works" is being read. I understand what is underneath that but it sure gives me the impression we're willing to re-write our literature at a moment's notice - and I don't like it!

It's also pretty stupid to hear "We" Having had... :)

Prayer Girl said...

I love the praying cowboy....just love it.

We have a women's group that passes the chips around for 'blessings and prayers'. This group does some other strange things too. BUT, that meeting is always powerfully filled with God's presence. No matter how much I don't like a lot of things they do, God is always strong there - I can feel it and hear it. A group from our local treatment center is always there.

I keep my mouth shut.

I keep my chips and sometimes when the occasion arises, I am able to pass one on. (They are not in a box.) They're sitting on a little milk glass tray I got from my mom that is pretty old and highly valued - by me.
PG

Scott W said...

Real cowboys DO pray.

Trailboss said...

I like the idea of passing the chips on. It just seems like the right thing to do.

Hope said...

I was away from AA for most of my sobriety. The first chip I got was for 7 years and it was a friend's chip before that. He committed suicide 10 years ago and I treasure that chip. I have since given one of my chips away and would give the rest away in a heartbeat if they did that here. I keep mine in my change purse so it's with me all the time.

Willa said...

I love that cowboy chip holder!

When I turned "3" a woman in my homegroup with 6 years gifted me with her 3 year chip. I was so honored. This is the first year I have started putting my chip on my keychain. I look at it every day. As of right now, no one has noticed it.

I am ashamed to say, out here in this part of California, during the birthdays, every meeting I've ever been to, we all pass around the chip and do the "mojo" thing. Though I am pleased to say, I see some "elder statesmen" in our group don't care for it much, either.

I love your thoughts, happy and rants and all!

Hope someday I can visit your groups. Or someday I hope you come visit mine, with its warts and all.

Willa

Mike Golch said...

I'm just great full for another day sober than to get caught up with some silly thing as to how or where we keep our coins.Mike G. said that!

Kristen said...

I got two 1 year chips at my first year anniversary. One was from my home group. It is brand new and shiny. I also got one from a man (actually a colleague of mine in a sort-of way, who I admire very much) - he had carried it around for 6 years. I cherish it and can't wait until I can give it away some day!!

Syd said...

I am keeping my one year medallion but will pass the others on to a sponsee. That is done in a couple of our Al-Anon groups here. And it is done in AA here too. I think that it was incredibly moving to see my grand sponsor pass along his 17 year chip to my sponsor.

Pam said...

I love the little cowboy stand!
I'm going on Thursday to visit one of my old groups. I'm looking forward to it and hope that some of the oldtimers are still there.

GG said...

In my group, we do the chip thing once a month. We pass the coins to put in good karma. I was happy to hear the word 'karma' used & not 'mojo.' I believe in karma. We only started doing the chips this year.

Last year, a friend gave me his 7yr chip. I was so pleased that he thought of me as the recipient, my heart almost stopped. It came to me with good karma and I'm genuinely committed to keep it going. It's my constant companion and reminder of who I am and the path I'm on. Sometimes in places of difficulty and/or stress, my chip is warm & safe in my hand, all that energy 'there' for me & reminding me to focus on Serenity, the rest will take care of itself, I'll know what to do when I need to. At first I thought of my chip as my 'forever' chip but recently decided that it's forever until whenever....

I don't quite understand why anyone would want to store these chips away, as if trophies. I do understand the importance of the chip as a reward or memento of an achievement. I think of these chips as a 12th Step thing, passing the message to others. I reckon that if people save these things in velvet boxes, well that't their karma, but I don't quite understand.

I gave my IIIyr chip to a good friend. She and I have been through some incredible healing together, including a possible rift between us. I like to think the chip from me will be there for her as she's been there for me.

I apologize for long-windedness. Some of us talked about chips & the meaning of at our last meeting & the topic is fresh in my mind.

Great post. Thank you.

Patty said...

The only chips I plan on keeping are the ones that my sponsor gave to me that were hers. She does have one rule about receiving chips that I have passed along to my sponsee's as well. If you want to get a chip, that is fine, but you are to take SOMETHING (cookies, cake, muffins or whatever you can afford, even if it is just a bag of candy) to that meeting and give thanks to the group for helping you to stay sober. This program owes YOU nothing. YOU owe this program your life. When I tell people this they think I must have the meanest,cruelest sponsor in the world! It put the whole coin thing into perspective for me though, once I wrapped my head around it. The only chip I carry around is a 24 hour. That is one I have always been able to pass on.

Vitorio Banali said...

What Would The Higher Power Say About All This????