How To Spot The Winners

Around the 12-step rooms we are frequently told that we should not “take another person’s inventory,” often used in the sense that we ought not criticize another person’s program. The idea is that since (presumably) that person is doing the best they can, it might be bad for their recovery to tell them to their face what we believe they are doing wrong.

However, this does not imply that we should not take inventories at all. Especially in early recovery, we are advised to “stick with the winners,” and it is difficult to decide who the winners are without taking a close look at their programs.

By “close look,” I mean more than just superficial appearances. When we are choosing the people who are going to be our close supports, we need to look at the things that matter: length of sobriety, seriousness about the program, whether or not they “walk the walk” instead of just talking about it, and so forth. Do they simply repeat phrases from recovery texts, or are they able to talk about their programs in their own words? Do they share problems, or do they simply give advice? Do they know “the way things ought to be,” or are their ideas flexible? Are they able to accept that others may disagree without becoming angry? Do they preach tolerance but show prejudice outside of meetings? Are they genuine?

Do they hang out with people you’d call winners? Do they go to gender-specific meetings, tradition meetings and the like, as opposed to just open speaker meetings, where it is easy to get lost in plain sight. Do they seem happy? Are they living a life outside the program, or hiding from life by going to meetings? Do they seem to be hanging around to score with the opposite gender? Do they seem to try?

These are the things we need to know in order to identify those “winners” we’re supposed to be sticking with, but we need to keep our conclusions to ourselves. We don’t need to trash people’s self-esteem, and we don’t want to be known as gossips. We just need to be careful to make the best possible choices for our own recovery.

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