9 People To Avoid At 12-Step Meetings

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9 People To Avoid At 12-Step Meetings

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bible thumperI go to a lot of meetings. I tend to go to the same ones, see the same people and listen to the same shares. I do this because I know what to expect, and they know what to expect from me. There’s a familiarity in the incestuousness of repetition. It’s almost like going home to your insane family.

Yet every once in a while I get the crazy notion that I need to switch things up and hit another meeting or two. I usually come to my senses fairly quickly. Because when I venture out of my familiar territory, I almost always run into the dreaded “recovery” stereotypes that made my first few years of meetings almost unbearable.

In the beginning I had a hard time with the concept of “principles before personalities.” Overzealous Big Book thumpers would push my buttons, rigid rule adherers caused me major anxiety and chronic relapsers sent me into a judgmental free-for-all. But nowadays I have fine-tuned my bullshit radar and instead of letting those people and their behaviors get under my skin, I gravitate to those that do not make me cringe. In other words, I make a point of hanging out with the “winners”—those that actually have a program of recovery—and in doing so have found the support I need to stay off of drugs and alcohol.

Now I don’t usually tell people what to do, or give out unsolicited advice, but I’m going to share with you how to recognize these folks so that you too can avoid them. (Yes, AfterParty semi covered this before but consider this my expanded—and very personal—list.)

1) The Over-Sharer

You know those people; they’re the ones that have no problem telling the entire meeting way too much information about themselves and what they’re going through. They usually sit up front by the speaker so that they’ll get called upon to share. Before the speaker has even finished qualifying, they’ve got their hand raised. Then they’ll stare down the secretary until they get picked to share and unload all their dirt. After a few meetings you’ll know more about them then you do about yourself. The only problem is that they never do anything to actually change their lives. Somehow they have missed the part about “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Run away or expect to hear them yammer on about the same issues for eternity.

2) The Bible Thumper (not to be mistaken for the “Big Book Thumper”)

These poor souls are easy to recognize because they usually have their “recovery” literature in some weird faux leather book cover that’s strapped to a bible. Most likely they will begin every share with something like, “First off I would like to thank my Higher Power who I choose to call Jesus Christ.” They will then mention their church, their pastor or priest, and how the only way to stay sober is to get on your knees and pray. After the meeting they will endlessly pester you to come to their place of worship “just to check it out.” Now it’s nice that they’ve found what works for them, only nowhere in any 12-step literature does it say that you have to follow a organized religion—in fact it clearly states “God as we understood Him.” Sounds like a personal choice to me. So when someone starts shoving his or her brand of “salvation” down my throat under the guise of recovery, I feel like I can smell their crack pipe just minutes away from being lit. I have never met anyone that stayed clean and sober with just religion. No matter if they were a Buddhist, Jew, Muslim, or Christian, a religious program is not a program of recovery.

3) The Excessive Highlighter

Ever look over at someone’s recovery book and see that every damn sentence has been highlighted with that same day-glo yellow marker? Yes, there’s a ton of pertinent information in the literature, but to highlight every word is nothing short of overkill. Can you say OCD? Same said for the “dictionary definitioner”—these people look up every word they read as if the definition is somehow going to unlock the “recovery” mystery. I could be wrong here, but how about you just read the book and do the steps with your sponsor?

4) The 13th Stepper

Even people outside of recovery are familiar with this term for smarmy men and women with a lot of time under their belts that prey on a newcomer’s vulnerability. Under the guise of “support,” these people strike up a relationship solely for the purpose of having sex. They are not your friends, nor are they following the principles of recovery. If you still need another reason to judge them, keep in mind that the arbitrary “no relationships for the first year” rule was surely instigated because of them. Really, you can’t work on your issues if you’re busy trying to not come off as undamaged goods to that hottie with a lot of time that keeps inviting you out for coffee after the meeting. So if that cool old timer is coming onto you after you’ve just introduced yourself as a newcomer, tell that predator to keep it in their pants. Not to state the obvious but having sex with someone with double digit sobriety will not keep you clean.

5) The “Prescription Drugs Were Not My Problem” Dude

We’ve all met him. He’s the one that smokes medical marijuana, or takes a ton of Xanax because a doctor prescribes it. He usually starts off his spiel with some line about how bad illegal street drugs are, but these other substances are “medicinal” and they’re what keeps him sane. Sadly, dude is in denial, like big time. He has just switched addictions and unfortunately he will be taking along anyone who starts to believe his misguided ideas. You can usually identify him because he’s slurring his words. This is what we refer to as “Keith Richards clean.” So dude, just do us all a favor and stop lying about your clean/sobriety date because you’re using.

6) The Sponsee Collector

You know the mega-sponsor that thinks the more sponsees he or she has, the better the program of recovery? I’m not talking about the legitimate awesome sponsors with longterm sobriety that naturally attract sponsees. I mean the folks with only a medium amount of sober time who actively collect people. “I’m your sponsor,” you’ll hear them say to a newcomer. But that new sponsee needs to probably get in line and take a number because the sponsee collector is too over extended to actually sponsor anyone correctly. You can spot them because they always share about the amazing step work session they had with their 20 sponsees just before the meeting.

7) The Over Committer

Having a meeting commitment is awesome and a really good way to get involved. However having a commitment at every meeting you attend is a little overboard. If someone is a GSR at the Monday meeting, the secretary for Tuesday, Wednesday’s treasurer, the literature person on Thursday, H&I at the county jail on Friday, chip person at that really large Saturday meeting, and the coffee maker for the Sunday book study, well, she’s over extended herself. Usually this is someone that doesn’t want to actually work a program. Though they’re actually help out a lot, just don’t follow in their footsteps or you will never get your step work done.

8) The In the Rooms Dater

I have a friend that dated so many women that he had to switch fellowships. He didn’t want to leave—he actually really liked the fellowship he was in—but he once told me there was nothing more terrifying than walking into a room where you have had sex with 90% of the women and they all hate you.

9) The Judgmental Writer

You know this guy. In fact you’re reading his stuff right now. He thinks he has this whole thing figured out, and for him, maybe he does. Just don’t take his word for it. Go out there and see what works for you. Maybe oversharing is the right way for you to get it all out so you can move forward? Maybe you need to date an entire meeting, or get a ton of commitments, or find “your lord and savior”? Who knows? Definitely not you, and until you explore every possibility and decide for yourself, you’ll never know.

Happy hunting.

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13 Comments

  1. Asinine article. I hope a potential newcomer doesn’t read your bullshit, and decide not to join us.

    Why don’t you work the steps, and get over yourself.

  2. AA may be fine for some. However, the thought of sharing my business with a bunch of strangers, or listening to other people pour out their dull ass stories actually would make me WANT to drink. I’ve been to a few AA meetings and all I wanted to do after the meet was open a vein. Good grief! How do you sit around day after day drinking coffee, listening to sad tale after sad tale, by people who simply would perk up with a drink (or their drug of choice)! Having an addiction is bad enough, but attending AA is tantamount to being punished for having an illness. NO THANKS!

  3. Let’s face it, there are some reall fuckin loosers in AA who go there with no drinking problem, quit drinking and stay because its the only place that they cant kick them out and we have to be their friends. What make this even worse is that these psudomembers will usually have years of recovery and then somehow criticize people with real alcohol problems for not getting it. Look if you had a bad christening of your boat and no one came, quit drinking on your own, because you can, and that’s great, but don’t tell me that I am not doing the steps because I am struggling with Chrystal meth.

  4. Mike Pinkerton on

    Common folks..it’s satire. Not bad satire either. “Take what you like..leave what you don’t.”

  5. Thank goodness I left the freaking 12 step faith healing cult 7yrs ago. Frank Buchman’s hijacked religion isn’t good for alcohol abuse or anything else.

  6. I am so glad that when I came in, everyone seemed to genuinely care and welcome everyone. I was not very lovable for the first few years but they continued to love me. They tried to follow the big book as much as possible. That includes the section where they say, we are not medical professionals and we will leave that to those who are. I still remember a young lady who did encounter some members who did tell her she should not be on antidepressants because being in AA meant you should not need them anymore. They made her feel guilty because she was prescribed the medicine so she stopped on her on without checking with her MD because she knew what he would say. After a few weeks she took a leap off of a very high place and splattered all over the asphalt below. I was very sad for her. I heard her talk in meetings about how depressed she had been and she was very open about saying the medicine made her feel better and she was able to get so much from her AA program. I made myself a promise to never ever play MD with anyone’s life, just as the Book admonishes me. I still cringe (with 36 + years of sobriety) when I hear or see something like what is written above that is another example of showing disapproval of something that an MD would understand may be keeping someone alive. Sending it out into the digital world for anyone to see and feel guilty because they want to do what they are told by people with sobriety. I pray that if anyone does read the above judgmental idea of who to avoid and who to stay away with will not take it seriously. God Bless (I am not a Bible thumper, even though I do say “God Bless.”

  7. Regarding using medication prescribed by a physician: unless you’re a medical professional yourself, your opinion on this means nothing. In fact, it could cause harm.

      • Recovering From Recovery on

        Actually, it does. You have no place telling ANYONE what to take if you’re not a psychiatrist. I could sue your ass if you do.

  8. david stokes on

    Although i agree with alot of this its all just as extreme as you say these people are. Your putting everyone in boxes and categories. Its a bit inhumane. We all do this together but none of us do it exactly the same.

  9. I know these folks. They tend not to commit to a home group. I’ve met various combinations. One guy with “double digit” sobriety collects young newcomers with his sociopathic pater, men and women with the goal of a place on a couch for a couple months at a time. It augments his need for employment. And aren’t they fortunate to an in house sponsor…

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About Author

Patrick ONeil

Patrick O'Neil is a former junkie bank robber and the author of the memoir Gun, Needle, Spoon. His writing has appeared in numerous publications, countless film festivals have rejected his documentaries and he continues to play and record music. He has been a guest on AfterPartyPod.

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