Slinging It Around

I went to an anniversary meeting last week. Generally speaking I love anniversaries, especially the one and two-year recipients who are still more or less in awe of their sobriety and their fellowships. This one was pretty great too, except in one respect.

The first recipient was a one-year guy who’d had multiple relapses, both prolonged and short. Apparently – not by his account – he’d known the man who presented his medallion some years ago in another state, and then re-connected with him locally the previously year. Those sorts of coincidences occur pretty often down here in Florida, where it seems that old alcoholics and other addicts come to die the same as other folks. We’re also loaded with newcomers from the dozens of treatment facilities in our area. Generally speaking, our fellowships are the richer for it. Anyway, the celebrant seemed to think it was working for him.

For the rest of us, however, who had to listen to a six minute recitation of the presenter’s life history, and all the things he’d done over the years, it was an exercise in the tolerance that our fellowships try to foster. Some of us cringed at the display of ego. Others sat patiently. One member with three decades in recovery had his forehead resting in his hand, a disgusted expression on his face. My wife and I kept giving each other glances and eye-rolls. The fellow did refer to the recipient three or four times during his orgy of self-aggrandizement. I think he may have spent 30 seconds total talking about him.

When the paragon of recovery finally finished, the guy who was actually supposed to be telling his story spoke for less than a minute. Apparently there wasn’t much left to say.

It made me think. How often, when I share, do I basically speak to let others know how wise I am — mostly to hear myself talk? How often do I share just because I want to, not because I have anything to say? How often do I blow my own horn, or try to sound wise and thoughtful instead of sharing my experience, strength and hope, as it says in most fellowships’ statement of purpose? Do I share my experience with the topic, what strength I gained from working on it, how I was able to use my program to solve – at least partially – my own problem, in the hope that someone will be able to relate? Or do I pontificate, give advice, attempt to sound all-knowing and spout all sorts of program clichés, book quotations and direct, cross-talking advice instead of speaking from my heart?

I’ve got to admit that after witnessing last week’s display of ego and self-will run riot, I’ll be taking a good look at my behavior. It’s easy for us old-timers to sound like we’ve got our excrement accumulated — we’ve had years to learn the script — but it doesn’t necessarily mean that we do. Sometimes we’re just slinging it around.

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