Sunday, December 06, 2009

Seniority = Credibility

Yesterday at a workshop, I was at a "roundtable" with a gentleman who kept using his "almost 24 years of sobriety" as a club, as a trump card, as an end to every argument. He had to always be right - because he had been sober for "almost 24 years." I finally found a gentle way to congratulate him and mention that I had celebrated 25 years of sobriety in July. And suddenly, he was able to listen to me. Then there were two voices at the table.

Now, I am not minimizing the value of sober experience. I am all for it. I think it is great. But I don't think it makes me always right and you always wrong. I don't think it means I should stop listening to you. And especially, I don't think it means that I have the answers and you have the questions.

I don't like to beat people over the head with how long I have been sober. I love what they do in certain areas of the country- where they state, as a matter of fact, their date of sobriety. Not to boast, just to say. I finally put my sobriety date in the header of my blog because I seldom come off as an expert or even a long-term-sober authority and it would annoy me when someone would come along and make the assumption that I was newly sober (because I don't spout all the answers all the time) and give me good advice in the comments about how to hang in there just for today.

But yesterday at that roundtable, there were two men who were really struggling and I thought they could have used an encouraging word. I kept wondering what it would feel like to be shut down because someone else had "nearly 24 years." I wonder if I would even value that 24 years. I wonder if I would even want it.

One man said (I had my doubts about the veracity of his claim) that he had taken 4 years to do his 4th step, based on the advice of his sponsor. He was now going to take a couple of years to do his 6th step. I was very worried about him. I would have to drink or commit suicide if I was going to spend a couple of years after the 4th step without getting to the 9th step.

Another man at the table was a man I have known for at least 15 years in AA, he was angry about "AA dogma" and I thought that probably wasn't a really good sign of his spiritual condition. Or maybe it was a response to the attitude at the table.

Couldn't we try to be kind to each other and share our experience, strength, and hope without being so proud about what we could never have accomplished without the grace of a loving God?

If I really believe that I am sober by the Grace of God, I wouldn't go around boasting about it. If I really believe that I have done a fabulous job of doing great "work" at getting and staying sober, I guess I can go around bragging about it. I don't believe I have that luxury.

I will thank God for his Grace and then try to pass that on.


Mike Golch said...

You are right,I was at a meeting one when a young man was bragging on his long term of soberity,when one of the old timmers called him on it the braggard had 5 years.the old timer said that was impressive.I knew what was comming next.The old timer asked for a show of hands who had more than 5 years sober,my hand was the only one not raised.there were 25 people at that meeting.

Ed G. said...

I think I've heard you write something like "...sometimes there's not much to recommend for longevity in AA..."

As someone who has some longevity, I think I know what you mean. It seems my longevity has one purpose only - it serves to give hope to people with less time that they can do this program imperfectly (by a mile!) and still stay sober.

Blessings and aloha...

Pam said...

There is a lady in one of my groups who is 12 years sober and liks to brag that "she is living proof that one does not have to do the steps because she has never even done step one".
How crazy is that?

Scott W said...

Bigshotism. I was told to guard against that.

I have heard a way to diffuse that attitude of year boasting. When someone mentions their years just reply, "Well, that's a good start!"

Lou said...

I think AlAnoners are the least likely to work the steps or get a sponsor. I don't know why this is. I do know the people who are not motivated to really work the program, are the same ones coming to meetings 5 years later still crying and asking "why is this happening to me."

AnyEdge said...

I understand and agree with what you say about sober time. I've met long-sobered individuals who don't seem to have what I would want.

But I also think that some people take the 'gift of God' part of it too far too: if newcomers think that it is some fast miracle that they do not have to work for, they can be in trouble. I mean, in my case, God didn't just descend from the heavens and make me sober.

He made it possible, but I had to work my ass off too. And I've said and written that I am proud of the work I've done. Just like I am proud of good work I've done at my job or in my marriage. It's effort that I have been given the grace to put into my life.

But then, I don't even have 2 years yet. So maybe I should still just be quiet and listen to my elders. ;)

(Please note that that was firmly tongue in cheek, and not meant seriously in any way.)

Syd said...

I agree with Lou regarding Al-Anon. It seems that there are many who go to meetings and for whatever reason, don't get a sponsor and work the steps. I could stay at Step One for the next 20 + years but what a miserable time that would be. I am glad that I did what others told me to do based on their E, S, and H.

mike said...

thanks for the post.
It's all in the 24 hour periods to me. I think that sometimes letting people know your sobriety date is a good thing, but it shouldn't be the tell all.
I do the program at my own pace nobody else and if someone doesn't care for that...well, that's sort of their problem...I do what feel works best for me. :)