Posts tagged Welcoming Newcomers

Keep Coming Back – It Works


Outside a meeting hall recently, a 20 something year old man introduced himself to me, then asked, “So how many times have you relapsed?”  Surprised, I gently replied, ” None – did you know you never have to use again? ”    He looked at me a little quizically and asked, ” How long have you been sober?”  His eyes opened wide when I told him,” 24 years.”  The surprise on his face made me feel a little sad.

In our local recovery community there seems to be an unusually wide spread expectation of failure in sobriety among many newcomers.  This is a new phenomena to me.  When traveling for business, I attended meetings all over the United States.  At none of those meeting halls did I hear people focus conversation on an expectation of relapse – a fear of it, yes – but not an expectation of it.  It’s become so prevalent here that two months ago I asked another sober person of several years if he’s noticed the same preoccupation.  He has, and thinks it may have to do with the fact there are so many treatment facilities where we live that families and the courts intervene earlier, before people have really hit bottom.  Perhaps, but I don’t buy it.

Unless those of us with more years in recovery keep coming back and sharing our experience strength and hope, the newcomers don’t have the same examples we had to see that it works.  What I’ve been taught is we have a sacred responsibility, obligation and opportunity to pass on the principles of the program as they were passed on to us by the old timers – Step 12.  Many of us came to the program earlier in our drinking/drugging careers and didn’t have to lose as much as the old timers of our day, because they told their stories.  I was in my 20’s.  Now I’m not – it’s been 24 years of sobriety for me in AA.  It’s been the same number of years for me in Alanon – I only wish my serenity and sanity as an Alanon member was as consistent as my sobriety. 

When I was a newcomer, AA meetings opened with “Let’s begin with a moment of silence for the alcoholic who still suffers followed by the Serenity prayer.”  They all ended with “Keep coming back.  It works,” sometimes adding “…if you work it.”  That opening and closing are rarely said in meetings here now – maybe I just need to try some new meetings.  Sometimes people begin with a moment of silence, but they forget to add that it’s for the alcoholic who still suffers.  There, but for the Grace of God go I. 

Recently, our attention was drawn to a seeming absence at some meetings of people welcoming the newcomer.  Could the lack of extending ourselves to newcomers at meetings be part of the cause of this preoccupation with relapse?  If I hadn’t felt such a  warm welcome from our fellows at my first meetings, I may not have returned.  It was scarey, and the people in meetings were “different.”  We need to remember our fellows – sisters and brothers – who haven’t made it to the program yet, or who’ve gone back out.  As a sponsee reminded me, the 12th Step keeps us sober, sane and serene – a true miracle of the 12 steps.  We can follow the example set for us and make it a point to reach out warmly to newcomers at every meeting. 

And, I needed to be told to keep coming back, it works.  I had no hope – only desperation.  When people said it worked, that gave me the little bit of potential hope for something better to keep my interest.  At my first meeting I told all of the men I didn’t like them very much.  When I finished the male trusted servant said, “Just keep coming back. We’re glad you’re here.”  That made me mad.  But, it also made me curious because they still wanted me there despite my upset with them.  What kind of people were they?!

I’m grateful the oldtimers in AA and Alanon gave me that simple direction at the end of every meeting.  I was willing to do what I was told, to follow directions – desperation works that way.  Thank God, so many of us do keep coming back.  God has since blessed me with sponsees willing to work the 12 Steps, and now they can work the 12th Step with other newcomers.   That’s the miracle of how the program works. 

So, all of you out there – keep coming back!

     – If you find this helpful, pass it on to others.

Affirmation for the Day – ” I am being of service to God and my fellows.”

Remember to say the affirmation at least 3 times whenever you remember it, preferably in front of a mirror.

Course In Miracles Lesson – I rest in God.

Practice – I rest in God.


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