I let my 20th anniversary go by without any specific remarks, although I alluded to it in several places, but it seems appropriate to make a few comments. I mean, one is without question an “Old Timer” at 20, and we’re supposed to have all that wisdom and say really deep stuff, right?
Well, in my case, not.
I have found that over the years I seem to have less and less to say, both at meetings and when writing. That’s why a lot of my writing is just factual. The reason for that isn’t humility, exactly. It’s more a matter of being willing to keep my mouth shut and let someone else say it for me.
I mean, let’s face it. There are just so many things to be said. Most of us have heard them all by the time we’ve done a couple of years worth of meetings, and although it’s always a good idea to have our minds refreshed, it’s no fun to listen to some old fart run riffs on a theme he’s spouted a couple of hundred times. It’s almost as boring as listening to some bleeding deacon “share” for ten minutes by stringing together phrases from the literature and things he’s heard others say over and over.
In my opinion — not nearly so humble as it might be — old-timers are there for the continuity, and to interject a bit of sanity from time to time, not to dominate the meeting. Newcomers need to learn to share, and the one to four year folks need to be able to get feedback to help work through the trials of early sobriety. They are the ones that need to talk, and the folks who just went through the same shit are the ones best-qualified to share their experience, strength and hope. I can lecture on Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome for two hours (and have, many times) but I can no more relate to it nowadays than I can remember what it was like to be able to run a mile without breathing hard — or why anyone would ever want to try to have sex in a 1962 Impala. That stuff was a long time ago.
So, as the years have passed, I’ve become less and less impressed by my own voice. I tend to hang around and see what the other folks have to say, and occasionally talk for a minute or two toward the end of the meeting. Apart from that, I generally find that the other people get things done just fine without me — just as they are able to run the group, intergroup and the various committees without my continued assistance. Show me a meeting run by old-timers, and I’ll show you a sick group.
I try to remember that the rooms got along just fine before I got there, and they’ll do fine when I’m just a brick in the front walkway and a vague memory of “Old Bill.” I sponsor the folks who ask, write my little screeds, hit meetings (because what if they had a meeting and no one came) and mostly speak when I’m spoken to or called on.
I need you folks a whole lot more than you need me, and I’ve finally figured that out. That’s why I don’t make much fuss about anniversaries any more. Folks need to know it’s possible, but they don’t need to hear a soliloquy.
Of course, your mileage may vary.