About Me

My photo
I have recovered from the disease of Alcoholism. I believe there is only one person really,.. everybody. And that peace of mind is everything. -So treat your neighbor as you would treat yourself, because your neighbor IS yourself. I think most of recovery is what I would call common sense, but that learning to be ordinary is a true gift very few people acquire. My ambition is to accept everything unflinchingly, with compassion, and therefore be intrinsically comfortable in my own skin, no matter what. I am comfortable being uncomfortable and am willing to go to any lengths to improve my life. I believe the Big Book was divinely inspired, and is extraordinarily powerful. Unfortunately AA's best kept secret a lot of the time. (In my opinion). I just try to do what works, no matter what it is.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

How I try not to be a control freak when I am attempting to help newcomers

Once we relinquish the deluded craving to control others, we (paradoxically) become MUCH more able to engage in a significant way with that person.
It’s hard to relinquish the delusion of control when there is a possibility of death, but because it is so beneficial to the relationship with newcomers, we have a duty to, if we care about that person, and the time they have left with us.

I cannot help a newcomer unless I know they may die if they do not get well. nor can I help them if I am being a control freak. I have to be impartial. Unattached. Without agenda, for them to be able to listen to me. Otherwise I am wasting my time, and possibly speeding up their demise.

I can ‘feel’’ when things are not right. I can ‘feel’ when I am saying something that rankles that is not helping them. Sometimes it is good that they are rankled. Other times it is not. I tell the difference between the two by how it feels being in their presence, how the conversation feels and my intention to be of service.
Even when I am doing something ‘right’ I will get a short lived ‘toxic’ response from the newcomer as they ‘thrash around’ initially when faced with some inconvenient truth that narrows their options to seeking a spiritual solution. I cannot remember how long this period used to last when I first started doing it, but for the last few years I have noticed that if I persevere, the initial ‘fight’ can last as short as 2-3hrs. Sometimes 1-2. Very occasionally 45mins. What I mean is that rebellion of some sort is to be expected and do not take it personally. There are of course some who remain argumentative and complaining no matter what. They tend to be the more strident, confident, somewhat bullying-type personalities. Perhaps they have no desire to change? Perhaps there is just an entrenched habit of the mind to argue and criticise? Who knows. All I know some remain shirty and complaining for a long time. I don’t mind that they are like this, but it is not pleasant, and requires patience. They deserve help just like everyone else, but if I think I am not helping them I will back off, unless they are at real risk of drinking or feeling suicidal, and are too angry to ask for help in AA somewhere else.

It is possible to make very concrete suggestions with NO agenda to control. I am not required to be vague. All I do is give up the internal ‘fight’ to have things ‘go my way’. I act in full knowledge that the worst may occur and I may never get what I want, and I am resolved to accept that should it arise. I know that when I genuinely feel this way, that the other person knows this is my feeling, even if I never articulate it as such. Most communication is non-verbal, and people can tell if you are ‘on their case’ or not. Most of the time I am paying attention to how I feel about what is being said, more than the words themselves. Often I will feel initially attacked, when they start feeling antagonistic or derogatory toward me, but this is 90% of the time temporary, so experience has taught me not to take it personally. The better the communication feels, after the initial ‘hump’, the more I feel I am helping/getting through to them.

Otherwise it is perfectly natural for anger or resentment to crop up from time to time from people you help. As long as they have sufficient restraint to communicate it in a non-harmful way, this need not be an issue. Until then, you just have to be a bit patient, and do some damage limitation with their outbursts when they show up. I am able to be firm and draw a line if I am not offended or defensive (ie not resentful).

I do not apply this to people who’ve been in AA longer and are not at much risk of drinking at all. If they are sour, gossipy or critical of anyone, they are not people I befriend or hang around with in AA. I am very lucky to have many meetings to choose from so it is not very difficult to find people who have been sober for a while and do not bitch and moan about other AAs. There are some extraordinarily fair minded and balanced AAs in my locale, some with extremely impressive social skills, so I am very lucky. The cantankerous, complaining judgemental ones can be avoided fairly easily. AA will always be a big mixture of people so their will always be the snide passive-aggressives and the overt attackers in amongst the membership. As long as you spot it fairly quickly and move on, it doesn’t have to be an issue.

Phew. This Sunday seems very peaceful despite my too-full agenda, and I have a short stop at a beautiful ancient church here which I always like. I hope your heart is at rest this Sunday.


Syd said...

I see this with my work with a sponsee. It came up the other day and I backed off when he was argumentative. I decided that I was going to try to "win" if the discussion went further. So we went onto something else. Thanks for this post. I will refer to it again.

Unknown said...

I also like that there are so many meetings to choose from. It really eliminates any excuses about not liking the people in a particular meeting!

I'm finding some of the same things you talk about here in my parenting lately. I can really save a lot of hassle by reading my kids' body language and tone, and then avoiding their attempts to draw me into an argument. Instead, I just say what needs to be said and leave it there.

Anonymous said...

Hi Irish Friend of Bill,

Thank you so much for visiting my blog and commenting. Your comments mean the world to me. Unfortunately I cannot Skype because I don't have a webcam, but thank you!

I think it's great that you are a mentor to newcomers to AA-- your experience is invaluable to them. Addiction is so hard (maybe impossible) to overcome alone. I know your newbees are grateful even if there is an initial fight.

Be well, Irish. I'm glad I have found your blog.


Unknown said...

Not sure where to start, I am looking for some direction. I was talking to a friend last night who brought up to me that he see some signs of stinky thinking on my girlfriend. he stated to explain how his old girl friend would do the same. as he started to explain how they will always find ways to blame others things started to fall in place. i care very much for her and would like to find a test she can take to see if she needs AA. she only drinks wine but have to have it every day. how can i get her to start thinking about it?

An Irish Friend of Bill said...

hmm. do u know anyone in aa locally? or in al anon?
AA have open meetings. U cld go to one with yr GF. Phone yr locall AA number and ask whicjh meetings are 'open'. ie non alcoholics can attend.
because they are all so different, u cld ask if the local aa can recommend a meeting where ur GF would meet other women alcoholics in recovery.
or u cld go to al anon meetings and ask which open aa meeting they recommend u and ur GF go to .

al anon meetings will help, but the next best thing is to both go to an open aa meeting. also ask yr local aa number to send you a 'who me' pack for yr GF.ur local aa helpline tel no shld be easy to find :)

AA meetings shld be very welcoming and inclusive. u can go just out of interest if they are open. u dont have to be an alcoholic to attend. plus i think they are quite good fun. :) Far more interesting than the telly :)

Anonymous said...


It is my first time here. I just wanted to say hi!