What Is That Annoying Whine?

by Bill

It usually comes from the back of the room, but is sometimes heard outside the rooms of recovery as well.  It’s not uncommon in detox and primary treatment facilities.  Depending on the situation, it may be delivered in a penitent tone or the voice of imagined authority.  Regardless of how it sounds, or where you hear it, a whine is a whine is an excuse.  And a poor one at that.

imagesI know that whining is often modeled for us by family, and that many of us have found it a useful tool to deflect responsibility for our lives onto someone or something else — or both.  I try to be understanding of newcomers when they do it, but it’s not newcomers who seem to do it most often; it’s the repeaters (what we used to call “retreads” when I worked in the field) who seem to have mastered the skill.

Whines range from “I don’t have time to come to meetings (go to treatment, see a therapist, etc.), to “I can never find a sponsor who understands me,” to “I have mental health issues,” to learned statements about statistics on how many people recover in 12-step groups versus…whatever.  No matter how it’s couched it’s just another form of denial, and it doesn’t take long for whiners to piss me off.  Maybe that’s a character defect of mine but I’m only human (he whines).

Bill Wilson wrote:

“Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path;”


“If you have decided you want what we have, and are willing to go to any lengths to get it, then you are ready to take certain steps;”


“At some of these we balked. We thought we could find an easier, softer way….”


But I think Walt Disney put it even better:

“The way to get started is to stop talking and start doing.”

You see, whenever I ask a whiner , “Well, did you get phone numbers and make three or four program phone calls a day,” “Did you get a sponsor,” Did you make an honest effort to complete the 12 Steps,” and “Did you keep doing those things,” the answer is always the same.  

You guessed it: more whining and excuses.

People talk about being in recovery, but I say if you aren’t actively taking the suggestions and working a program, then you aren’t in recovery.  Talking about jumping into the pool with the other kids doesn’t get you wet — it’s the jump that does it.  Reading books about swimming and watching others doesn’t keep you afloat when the waves get higher than your head.  If you want the benefits, you have to do the work.

Recovery is different from addiction. There, if we wanted the “benefits” we just took another pill, had another beer, made another excursion to the casino, Wal-Mart, the massage parlor or down “that street.”  And we got results that didn’t last.

Hanging around the rooms, whether they be those of AA, NA, OA, ACA, CODA, SAA, SA or any other “A” will not get us sober, and if we manage to remain abstinent for a while we may be assured that it won’t last.  Once the novelty of recovery wears off (or we go into withdrawal, which usually takes only a few days) we’ll be back out there, bending over so the monkey can climb back on.

So don’t whine to me.  Whine to the mirror.  Maybe that will do some good.  Better yet, go to  meetings, keep your mouth shut, and follow suggestions for a while.  And don’t wait a bunch of years to do it, like I did.

Then check back with me.  I’d love to hear that story!


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