By that I do not mean presenting myself as straight, though I am gay, because I’m pretty sure no one perceives that I am gay by my looking at me. I mean not rasising my hand, speaking up, or saying something when I’m called on in an AA meeting.
When I was new, I was instructed to say something at every discussion meeting I went to, and I pretty much did. The AA lifestyle was hard for me because I am naturally introverted. I don’t like to be the center of attention, and I don’t like to ask (by speaking) a whole room full of people to focus on me for any amount of time. I believe it was right and completely necessary to speak as much as possible at first – for me. There is the other type of newcomer, the one who can’t be quiet, and for that person, listening would be the number one skill to cultivate.
As time has gone by, and especially over the last ten years or so, it has been my custom to pass and not volunteer. I have felt justified (so of course I was wrong) in that I’m not in unusual (for me) danger of drinking. It’s OK to be quiet and introverted. The new people need the time more than I do. It’s just the way I am and want to be. At my regular meetings where people know me, they often comment if I do talk during a meeting, because it is so rare.
In my new thinking about this, I’ve come to believe it is wrong, for several reasons. It’s giving me an incomplete program, because sharing at meetings is a big part of the program. It does not give whatever good I have to give. I have stayed sober for a long time, and I should share whatever I can articulate about that success to help others. I need to be an example and represent long term sobriety. When I’m at a meeting, and I have the most time in the room, I am proof of the fact that it works over the long term. Well, I’m that even without having the most time.
It is good for my ego to talk. I have the uncomfortable feeling that people think I’m new – I do give off that vibe by shyness. I don’t like it that when I say something, it is often being received as coming from a newcomer. Why not? Because of my ego.
Which leads me to the hardest part to write about. There are two characteristics of oldtimers that I don’t like, that I judge unfavorably. One is the person who has to mention his or her time again and again, just to make sure no one misses it. I don’t want to be perceived as doing that. The other is the oldtimer who is just too special to share. When he or she is going through a tough time, this person doesn’t talk about it at meetings because they have known some of those people for so long. They don’t want to show weakness, or they don’t want people to know the yuckiness of their current situation.
I am so uncomfortable with judging these behaviors that I don’t want to post them. I understand that I am the one who is wrong here. Wrong in the judging and wrong in the passing. Because I still don’t like to share, I notice that as my turn is coming around, my heart starts to pound. After all these years, it may never stop, so I’ve got to go on anyway. I still don’t raise my hand or worse – just speak up (I hate that kind of meeting format), but I haven’t passed for a long time when I’m called on, and I am trying hard not to.