Readings From The Book Of Crap

by Bill Brenner on December 1, 2010

I’ve noticed a sad phenomena in the halls of recovery. And I’ve had just about enough of it.

Mood music:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60J6HlvfePM&fs=1&hl=en_US]

A lot of my 12-Step brothers and sisters have a saying: “I’m taking inventory.” It’s supposed to be about reflecting on your own growth and behavior. But it’s really about trash talking other people. One person is doing too much of it lately.

Everyone who walks into an OA, AA or NA meeting is a little crazy. If we weren’t a little bit off, we wouldn’t have to be there in the first place. We’re entitled to our faults. But when someone corners you all the time, pushing the AA big book in your face and quoting from its pages like you’re desperately in need of hearing them recite it, there’s a problem. Especially when it’s clear they’re not coming from a healthy place.

Anonymity is an important tool of recovery, so I’ll keep the person’s name out. The person cornered me after Saturday’s OA meeting after I shared about needing to tweak my program. Me seeing my needs as they are turned into a tirade about me being in denial. He tells me to read page whatever in the 24-hour book and page something-or-other in the Big Book. After awhile, it’s like David Koresh pushing a Bible in your face and telling you what it means, just before the compound bursts into flames.

As I looked at the clock and saw a half hour going by, I felt something I haven’t felt in a long time: I wanted to punch the guy. Hard. That IS NOT OK.

This fella is having a lot of trouble relating to people lately. He walks around asking people for money and then spends it on cigarettes. He tells you we have to bomb the Chinese and the Iranians because Israel is going to be nuked and it’s in God’s plan. He goes on about how this person demoralized him or that one betrayed him simply because they called him to the carpet when he decided to interrupt or speak out of turn.

Most disturbing, God is becoming his excuse for every bad decision he decides to make. It’s an old story, people using God to justify their bad choices.

I bring it up not to flame anyone, but to point out something vitally important for anyone trying to hang onto their sobriety and abstinence. When someone needs help, you try to help. But when someone needs SO MUCH HELP that they latch on and suck the life out of you, calling several times a day and making a crisis out of every little thing, it’s time to back away.

A person like this is not evil. They need to be loved, and we should love them and try to guide them. That’s what God wants.

But in any program of recovery, limits are everything. Limits are meant to protect you from relapse. 

And when you let someone bring you down with crazy talk all the time, you’re putting your own recovery in jeopardy.

Relapse and you hurt your family, your friends, your livelihood, and your faith. And once that happens, you’re no longer in a position to help anyone else.

You can’t help yourself, for goodness sake.

To be of service to the most people, you have to cut ties with a few. It may not make sense, but it’s true. That’s what I have to do.

So when someone tells you we have to start bombing China in between reciting direct passages from the AA Big Book, it’s time to look them in the eye and tell them, as politely as possible, that it’s time to grow up.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Paul M. December 1, 2010 at 10:01 am

Hey Bill. Couldn’t comment on FB for some reason…

There are a couple people in my meetings that most of us are pretty sure aren’t addicts, but the meetings are a place they won’t get kicked out of. Some of them are like the person you describe, others fit in and play nice. Not saying this is the case with this person, but it might be.
Either way, you gotta cut that interaction time down to about 45 seconds with a polite but firm, ‘Billy, (or whoever)I’m not really in a place to hear this right now, we’ll have to talk another time….’

JF December 1, 2010 at 10:49 am

Well put Bill. And, in line with the Big Book of AA, which states we should not waste our time on people beyond our help (which is usually because they won’t accept it). As that will steal time away from people ready to accept what we have to offer.

I am reminded of my early days in AA, when I never refused anyone a ride, never declined to loan money, never declined to meet with anyone at any time of day or not. I ended up exhausted and feeling none to well about myself.

Eventually, an “old timer” pulled me aside and explained that we weren’t councilors, banks, taxi cab drivers etc. and that my job was to help alcoholics who wanted help to stop drinking, period.

The next time someone approached me for money I literally said, “Can’t help you there, but I am happy to get started on the steps with you, right here and now.” They declined and walked away. I have more examples, too numerous to list.

This post is a great reminder of what our job as recovered alcoholics really is — not to feed the world but rather to dry it out 😉

NCS January 26, 2011 at 4:47 am

Well put. In the 12-step group I attend, members are requested to ask permission first before giving unsolicited advice. And only after a meeting.

Also, speaking from one’s own experience (“When I was in a similar situation, here’s what I did…”) is always better received than using a bunch of “you” words (“YOU should do this or that…”). Most people want help, but don’t like being lectured.

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