Wednesday, April 20, 2011

When does it become time to take the cotton out of your mouth and put it back in your ears?

Is it 1 year? 2 Years? 5 years? How about 8?

After 8 years, my sponsor said I could take the cotton out of my mouth, that was supposedly in my ears, now what am I supposed to do with this damned cotton? Stick it down the new guy's mouth?


  1. I regularly take vows of silence and stop speaking from the podium, typically when I am re-working the steps. This has been a good practice.

    My personal belief is that folks who are not having current experiences should zip it. I know guys who are months sober that have had a profound alteration, they have a message of depth and weight. I know other guys sober decades that are attempting to live off a spiritual experience they had a long time ago. Nothing new is happening. I like some of these guys but am bored spitless when they talk because there is nothing new.

  2. There are a few guys that I know with 10 - 15 years, and they will say the same damn thing, tell the same damn story, regardless of the topic. I can recite their litany verbatim I've heard it so often. As Rob said, nothing is happening in their lives, so they relive some experience they had years ago. Again, and again, and again.

    They feel that since they have been around "a few 24 hours", whatever they say has some sort of deep wisdom attached to it.

    One of these guys came up to me the other night and told me that I shouldn't discuss the topic at hand at a meeting (the "only" in Step 11. for example), but rather something about my personal life. As he does. Nothing like a critic.

    I go through periods of silence, and if have nothing good to say, won't say anything. You can learn a lot by listening. And the new guys? Damn, but don't they have some good stuff to talk about.

    As far as the excess cotton goes? Make a sweater or something.

  3. Silence, is always a great educator.
    Most of the talking I found that is significant happens one on one. Can't seem to bullshit as much.

  4. Just once, I'd like to go up to a 32 year sober deacon and assign him that 4 month on-fire guy as a sponsor.

  5. As a sponsor or a sponsee?

  6. My point would be to assign the new guy as the deacon's sponsor.

    Show me a guy with time who could pocket their pride enough to let someone with less time sponsor them... let alone even be able to hear what they say.

    People with time can let that stand in their way of experiencing God again... especially the ones who are appalled by the thought of doing steps again... including writing an inventory.

    They say stuff like "Back when I first got sober..." and "Now that I'm sober..."

    This is less my concern... because I've been someone who has had a tougher time than most just "getting" time... let alone keeping it. So my hat's off to those with time for one thing... but Frank refers to someone who doesn't do continual work in the steps as not someone with 30 years, but 6 months... repeated 60 times.

    I think the new man should talk. I think they should speak their truth about where they are at... what they drink like.

  7. A great idea, Patrick. I think the whole purpose of choosing a sponsor is looking for someone who has, as they say, "something that you want". Years don't mean shit, it's quality of sobriety that matters.

    There are folks who have 6 months repeated 30 times, and some who have 30 years but not many days.

    My sponsor has 35 years, but when I asked him I had no idea how much time he had. It's what he had that attracted me.

    And indeed the new guy should talk. There's more honesty and sincerity from a new guy than my buddies with 15 years.

    Had a guy with 9 months mention a few weeks back that he really wanted to say something in a meeting, but was told that he shouldn't open his mouth for the 1st year. WTF does that come from? My buddy with 15 years.

    Now I agree that it's important for new guys to listen, but if they have something good to say, speak up. If they stray into the field of bullshit, we'll rein them in.

  8. Most A.A.’s think that A.A. is all about talking, when really it is all about listening. Listening is both principle and prayer. Listening is silence and silence listening. Alcoholics hate silence, it’s too loud. They can’t stand what comes up in it. In our group, we start and end the meeting with three minutes of silence. Three minutes really isn’t that long, but it is almost unbearable for some. At our retreat last weekend, we did twenty minutes of silence each morning.

    When I was new I was told that if I knew anything at all I wouldn’t be in A.A. in the first place and that maybe I should be quiet and listen. That when I was called on in a meeting, all I should say is “My name is Jim and I’m an alcoholic and I’m grateful to be here.” In my old home group, if you were new and a group member, you didn’t get to talk in the meeting until you had done a Fifth Step with your sponsor. So, while I am not sure about the one-year thing, I do believe that newcomers (especially retreads) don’t have much to say early on. I was also told that the only reasons I should go to an A.A. meeting is to either ask for help or seek someone to help. So, I tell my guys that and to not share except to say “My name is ___and I’m an alcoholic and I’m grateful to be here” until after they’ve completed a Fifth Step.

    I mentioned that we had a retreat last weekend. It was just our group and one guest, a woman who is about ten years sober. This woman has a history of being defiant and hostile towards what she calls “Being told what to do.” She also used to sponsor a gal who is a member of our group. Sponsored her by mainly making her get involved in the district service structure in early sobriety and by going to lots of meetings. Gina hooked up with us about a year and a half ago. She was miserable and depressed. She went through the steps with us and now she glows. She sponsors other women and loves A.A. and loves life. I guess she invited her former sponsor. We had a meeting Saturday night and during crossfire, a consideration was posed to the former sponsor. She had shared about how didn’t want to be told what to do and about how she didn’t agree with how e do things and then about how she was in a crisis and lonely and miserable and nobody in A.A. called her. I asked “Is it possible that your defiance and belligerence and your refusal to integrate spiritual principles into your life is what has brought you to this place of isolation and self-pity?” I thought that she might tell me to go fuck myself and leave, but instead she broke down bawling. Her former sponsee took her aside. End of the story is that the former sponsee is going to take her old sponsor through the steps.

  9. "Had a guy with 9 months mention a few weeks back that he really wanted to say something in a meeting, but was told that he shouldn't open his mouth for the 1st year. WTF does that come from? My buddy with 15 years."

    I have a opinion where this comes from, "delusions of grandeur", people making up there own shit and doling it out without real thought.
    I picked my sponsor because he was a decent man, period. He was married with children and had a job he loved. Everything about this man exuded a strong compassionate moral character.
    The BB asked me to reach out for help.
    As far as talking during a meeting, I say talk. You will understand when to be silent in time.
    Some how people in AA were taught (by treatment centers)to act as if they are councilors/psycho-therapists, that we have to treat the new comer as if they are completely broken and we know how to fix them. The pressure a "sponsor" puts on himself today is unnecessary, his ego is much to involved.
    I was taught to bring the new guy through the BB, primarily the first 164 pages. Read with him when he is ready. That may be in the first day, week, month or so. I have sponsored people who have just came in and people who had been in for years. I never judged any of them. The teaching begins when it begins.
    I remember maybe 12 years ago I took a 5th step from a man sober 27 years it was his first one.In the end,"I said thanks for allowing me to be of service". I never saw him again. This encounter happened during a Joe and Charlie weekend in Mountain View, Ark.
    All these rules that have been incorporated into AA from T/C's is killing the natural flow of healing AA once had. AA is a self-help program, designed for Alcoholics.
    Just some thoughts I had.

  10. When I was new back in... retread if you will... this last time, I pretty much felt like pounded whale shit and that I didn't know much. It's kind of like I knew.

    What was really neat about it was that I was "reasonable" as the book says. I didn't feel like talking... but I did, because there's no passing in our group. But since it took me time to get through the steps, in those early meetings, I just discussed a bit about where I was at with reviewing steps 1, 2, and 3 and that I was writting an inventory.

    There again, I had just come off some recent drunks so I was able to talk about my attempts to control my drinking and how I tried to hide it from my family and coworkers and how that all went.

    Looking back, I think it does those who're already sober to hear a new drunk/retread talk about attempts at control and their ultimate failures in doing so. In other words, as I said originally, identification.

    I missed my/the Denver Group's retreat this year. I had to work instead and I'm fine with it. But one thing for sure about that group, whether you be newcomer or oldtimer, there's some heat in that group and when you are asked to share, you'd better bring something and it better be real.

  11. In our group you are asked to share your current experience with the topic, which is a short passage from the book. And if you have no current experience with that, share from where you are at.

    It does give the newcomer a chance to share. But regardless of whether you are new or old, if you're talking out of your ass, you'll probably get crossfired.

  12. Fair enough... but does the new person get a wider berth than the folks with years of sobriety?

  13. Hey Patrick,

    We treat the new person with utmost compassion and kindness. Same with the old-timer. When I crossfire someone I always try to put it as a consideration starting with "Could it be...?" Of course, some people are pretty thin-skinned, so they take it as a personal attack, but that isn’t my problem.

    Lately we have not been getting a lot of brand new people. They like the fluffier meetings at the hall down the street a few blocks. We seem to get either the person that has been around "few 24 hours" and is floundering and adrift in A.A. Or we get the old-timer who has gotten tired of contemporary A.A. meetings and is looking for something a little more old-school. A couple of weeks ago we had three of them show up at once. Lee C. with thirty years, Jim C. with 33 years, and Joe G. with 38 years. Joe has been a mentor of mine and I have read inventory to Lee a few time. All three remarked that finding our meeting was a breath of fresh air to them. Joe is a tough old Irish guy from New York City, Hell’s Kitchen. He came across the country in a black out and ended up here. He tells a story about when he was in the Navy in his late teens, The Navy made him go to an A.A. meeting in Philadelphia. At that meeting he met Bill Wilson, who gave him a first edition book and signed it. Joe says that when he got back to the ship, he threw that book as far out in the water as he could throw it.

    Back in the eighties, during my chronic relapse days, I used to stay sober thirty-sixty days and then get drunk. As I never planned on getting drunk, I was always surprised by it. Joe would say “It doesn’t surprise us when you get drunk. If you want to surprise us, stay sober.” Two weeks ago, Joe asks me how long I was sober. I told him a little more than twenty years and he says “Goddamn, you’re still suprising me!”

  14. I'm sadened to say that Pueblo A.A. just got worse.

    Noon meeting had a huge fight over politics and they split.

    Good thing, right?

    Well, usually, when there's a divorce, one good thing comes of it; you get to stop fighting and leave each other alone.

    In this case, the new group had a chance to keep all the good stuff and get rid of all the shit. Instead, they kept all the shit and added a whole bunch of new shit.

    The old group is now hurting for attendance as there's now 5 noon meetings in this one-goat town.

  15. That's the tough part of living in a one goat town. Choices are limited. Too bad about the split, but that's what happens when you get a bunch of control freak alcoholics in one room.

    Give it time. Sometimes after the dust settles an equilibrium is achieved.

  16. Don't feel too bad.There's too many meetings in this town, with more starting all the time. Each time a new one starts up, it just sucks more life out of the existing ones. I guess most don't pay attention to the part of Tradition Four that talks about "Except as it affects other groups or A.a. as a whole."

  17. At last count there are 295 meeting on the local schedule. And at every meeting I attend, there's always a plea for everyone to go to meeting "x" as "it really needs your support."

    Uh, if no one's attending a meeting, maybe there's a reason? Why should I stop going to the meetings I do and attend others because they're on life support?

    But God forbid that they consider changing the format. Shit, we really need 100 As Bill Sees It meetings, or 75 Beginner Daily Inspiration meetings. (Obvious exaggerations here)

    But the best argument for not calling it quits is "Suppose a really desperate alcoholic comes to the door and the meeting isn't there?" If he's that desperate, he'll look at the schedule and find another one.

    It's all about control. It's my meeting and you should go to it if you're really serious about recovery. Right!

  18. Good points.

    I went to a meeting in the small town of cheyenne wells Colorado and needed a meeting. I was selling frozen food to peoples' homes and had started drinking again.

    It started off with some nice innocent bourbon and beer nightcaps and turned into me lining up my last 4 hours of customers being heavy drinkers who invited me into their homes and let me drink with them till I started to see crooked. Then there were times I had a struggle finding my motel... in a town of 900. Bit I managed to park my truck, get it plugged in, and close my sales for the night. All this while hiding my drinking from my wife, family friends.

    It was easy as fuck staying away from A.A. in ky hometown. Besides, I was experimenting with some controlled drinking.

    I thought I'd find a nice little meeting where nobody knew me. Evidently, everybody knee me and drank themselves.

  19. Maybe we should ban you, Gunthar.

    Why don't you go back to Stinkin' Thinkin', or were you banned from there already?

    No mind. I'll ask MA and ftg about your status.

  20. How do we know you're not him?