Two Things I Wish I had Listened to as a Newcomer
When I began going to recovery meetings, I was a mental and physical wreck. I was also very stubborn and thought I knew what was best for me. I was, after all, a know-it-all teenager. I am certain the following suggestions were said to me but I failed to hear them and failed to heed their warnings. My hope is that someone will read these and hear them– really hear them. Perhaps I can spare someone a few of the painful lessons I learned the hard way.
I will use pronouns that fit my experience but the idea is the same across the board! I’d also like to say that the following things I address here do not happen everywhere. Meetings, like every other environment in the world, have the potential for shortfalls but I feel the good vastly outweighs the bad.
Women with Women, Men with Men:
While there is nothing wrong with people of the opposite sex talking to one another at meetings, it is important to look at our motives. There is a reason it is strongly recommended that newcomers not hurry into a relationship. Newcomers need to focus on their recovery and that is a full-time job. First things first.
Relationships, especially sexual ones, can interfere with this journey. We get distracted by our innate human drives. When I was a newcomer, all of my drives where way off track, and they usually drove me toward self-destruction.
While I have been helped by people of all genders in recovery, I remember being told, “Honey, the men in here will pat your butt, but the women in here will save it.” The women who I have been blessed to call members of my tribe love me enough to tell me the truth– even when I don’t want to hear it– because they know my life depends on me being honest with myself and continuing to grow.
Length of Time in Sobriety Does Not Equal Good Health:
Despite all my previous drinking and drugging, I was still very naïve when I first entered recovery meetings at age 16. While the people in meetings welcomed me with open arms, I didn’t know that some of them could be dangerous. I thought everyone in meetings was on the same journey to get well so I figured those who had been on the journey longest must be somehow healthier.
I wish that someone had told me that concept was not always the case. I was desperate for attention and wanted to be heard. Unfortunately, there were some people who were more than willing to give me attention that I was not emotionally prepared to handle.
Then, and now, experience has shown me:
- Avoid people of the opposite sex (or people who might want to enter a relationship with you) who are overly eager to help you in your early recovery. There is a chance that person may have ulterior motives. As mentioned above: Ladies, stick with the women.
- Don’t mess with a person who tells you he doesn’t want to mess with your recovery but still dates you anyway. This is a person, who, after dating you, immediately begins to say how it isn’t right, and then claim that he feels like a bad guy. He is looking for reassurance from you that its ok because he knows he has no business acting on his selfish impulses.
As people in recovery, it is our duty to look out for those who are new and do our best to help provide a safe place for people to come and heal. For those of us who are sustaining our recovery, it is our duty to be of maximum service to helping the newcomers, and this means giving them the space to do the hard work that we know needs to be done.
If you see a man or a woman imposing on that healing space with a newcomer, please confront them and remind them of what we are all here to do: recover. We are a community and its imperative to protect our tribe! If we do not, people stay sick.
Seeking attention and attempting to avoid the pain of being alone resulted in further pain, shame, and remorse. I kept myself sick. I delayed my growth and I was in misery because of it. As the saying goes, “you cannot avoid pain, but misery is optional.” What will you choose today?
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