Recovery Connections

John Schwary is CEO of Transitional Living Communities, a 850-bed recovery program he founded in Mesa, Arizona January 9, 1992 when he had a year sober. He's in his 27th year of recovery.

In these posts, he views life mostly through the lenses of recovery. While the blog is factual, he sometimes disguises events and people to protect anonymity.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The speaker at the Sunday morning meeting delivered an excellent explanation of the 12 steps. Because there were a lot of newcomers at the meeting, he focused on the basics. And even though I've been around for some 20 years, I appreciated his clear outline of how the program works for different people. When he finished speaking he chose the topic "working the program."

When it was his turn an old-timer explained that when he came into the program he thought, that as time passed and he achieved more sobriety, he would be elevated into some kind of inner circle. He thought that maybe he would learn a secret code or a secret handshake that came with seniority in the program. Today, however, he realizes that the program in all of its beautiful basics is the same now as it was 20 years ago. And it works pretty well for everyone as long as they don't drink or put other substances into their body. As a speaker explained, that's the one step that we have to do perfectly.

I suppose one of the reasons I appreciated his clear explanation is that many old-timers will dictate that their way is the only way the program works. And they will brook no deviation from their opinion. They seem to believe that their seniority confers upon them some type of wisdom to which others are not privy.

I believe that seniority comes with responsibility. And I believe old-timers have a responsibility to carry the message to newcomers in a way that will help them understand the program. A rigid, dogmatic, interpretation of the program sends a lot of people out the door in my opinion.

Attraction, not promotion, works for me.