Stop Talking, Just Listen

One of my first meetings was a beginner’s meeting with fifty plus people attending. During one of those first meetings a man stood up saying, “You newcomer’s don’t know nothing. . . Stop whining! Take the cotton out of your ears, put it in your mouth, shut the **** up and listen. Big Dick, as he was known, saved my life.

The “I Know Syndrome”

Before I started live in recovery, I use to know everything. Not only did I know but I knew more about the subject than you. I would repeat what you said embellishing my “expertise” with a tad bit more. Or I would simply repeat, “Yea, I know . . . I know . . . I know” like some old vinyl record skipping.

In reality, the only thing I knew how to do was drink. I would take a can of beer out of a cardboard box, press my nail under the tab, pull forward, put the can to my mouth and GULP really fast! I was damned if this can was going to get warm on me. Five or six gulps later I’m (literally) running to the refrigerator for another one, repeating the cycle all over again. That was my existence in life.

The most important lesson I can pass on to anyone in early sobriety is to listen. Sure, you can bring up a topic of something going in your life, especially if you feel like drinking/using. Afterward, just sit back and really listen to those around you who have the experiences and possible solution(s) to help you with your problem. If you really think about it, we are blessed with hundreds of people in our lives who have knowledge and wisdom of how not to drink one day at a time. All we have to do is listen.

The Language Barrier

The first couple of months, even up to my first year of recovery, was overwhelming. Especially at meetings when you were throwing all those strange words and slogans at me. Meetings were like being in a foreign country, I couldn’t understand a thing anyone was talking about.

Selfishness, self-centeredness – you aren’t talking to me are you? Humility, resentment, fear, acceptance, surrender, powerlessness – the list goes on. Spirituality? The fourth dimensions? Speakeasy’s? Traditions? GSO, GSR, the Chairperson? And now your slogans – “One Day at a Time”, “Let Go, Let God”, “Think, Think, Think” and “Easy Does it”? I thought the point of recovery was to return me back to sanity? Who wants to listen to all that? I was so confused!

I read a lot of books throughout the year. I believe I have a very good vocabulary. But when it came to understanding the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, I need help with that too! There were “Big Book Meetings” too, but after a few of them I was even more confused.

It was only after I went through the Big Book with a Sponsor my understanding of all this terminology really began to make sense. When I attended meetings after this process everything made more sense. Now I understand when Bill Wilson says, ” “I was soon to be catapulted into what I like to call the fourth dimension of existence.

Don’t Tell Me What to Do

Most addicts don’t like to be told what to do. Why would we? I’ll be damned if another adult tried to TELL me what to do in my life. Now all I ask is, “When you’re doing things on your own, how is your life working out for you? There are so many things I learned when I let someone else make decisions for me in early sobriety.

First and foremost, my continued sobriety was most important. Without it, everything else didn’t really matter. I had to put every thought and action into my sobriety. Without question I did what they asked – no matter what the weather, whether I was “sick”, whether I had transportation or not. I learned to put the same amount of effort in my sobriety I use to in my addiction.

During my early sobriety I developed an attitude of, “Well I’ll prove them wrong!” There were a few people who didn’t give me hope of staying sober. Even at meetings they said this, so what’s the point of staying sober. What is the point of this whole process if in the end I’m not going to stay sober?

I did not like people telling me what to do – at all. Even today my Sponsor has to remind me, “Mike, …authority?” In our language its a keyword for me. He reminds me it’s best for me to do what I’m told and swallow my pride. I didn’t understand it at first but isn’t it ego and pride which got me here?

Ninety Meetings, Ninety Days

So if someone “suggested” to go to ninety meetings in ninety days – I did it. Think about this – how many hours a day did you put into your addiction? My answer – all day long. A recovery meeting is an hour or a hour and a half – that’s it. Even in my very small community, we have a “nooner” every day. There should be no reason you can’t attend a meeting at least once per day. DON’T MAKE AN EXCUSE NOT TO GO – JUST GO! When you get there, just listen. Listen to the experience, strength and hope of those people who have more sobriety to you – they have answers to most of your problems and if they don’t, they will guide you to someone who can help!

What’s the point? – Get Involved!

The hardest part for me in early sobriety is putting aside the things described above and JUST DO IT! Putting aside all my preconceptions and expectations, instead replacing them with, “Alright I don’t know everything, what do you have to offer?”

The conception of not drinking or using “One Day at A Time” was inconceivable to me. Yet, when I humbled myself to only listen I began to learn how those with long term sobriety did it. I really paid attention to what people said. I began to hold on to every word.

My first Sponsor’s first “suggestion” to me was, “Mike, if you want to stay sober try these three things – honestly, open mindedness and willingness.” He further explained it this way:

  • Honesty – be honest with yourself and others, no matter what, the lying, cheating, stealing days are over, you can’t bullshit a bullshitter
  • Open mindedness – put what you believe aside and listen to what people have to say, then ask yourself, “If it worked for them, perhaps it will work for me? Perhaps there is some truth in what they said?
  • Willingness – try it. If someone said they did “this” to stay sober, try it. If you still don’t understand what they did – ask them. Ask questions and try them in your own life

The biggest pitfall for everyone is falling back into old routines. Don’t. Make a commitment to yourself, no one else. Why does anyone else have to know? Get involved in your sobriety.

Our own experiences show us we can’t just sit back and stay sober. It doesn’t work that way. We actually have to do things to help us change. How can I change if I don’t LISTEN to those around me who have changed?

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