Identify, Don’t Compare

Another important concept I was lucky enough to hear early and to understand quickly.  I like the shipwreck analogy used in one of the books.  Years ago, my son went through a time when he was fascinated with the Titanic, and I could picture it.  Those of us who find ourselves at a meeting are like survivors of a shipwreck.  Getting on the boat, we may have had nothing in common and wanted nothing to do with each other.  After surviving the experience of active alcoholism, though, we are family.  There’s also a passage that says something like – we are people who ordinarily would not mix.  Very true.

As a youngster in AA, I had hardly anything in common with hardly anyone.  For sure alcoholism knows no boundaries.  It’s natural to come in and compare.  I have nothing in common with these people!  I am not like them!  I don’t belong here!  In my case this was especially true, since I hadn’t experienced many of the adverse consequences of drinking.  Not when I first went to AA, anyway.

But the good people of AA had heard all that before, and they knew just what to say.  I was told to identify with the feelings people talked about, not compare the details of our lives or even of our drinking.  It’s also said that we should not compare our insides with other people’s outsides.  They may look like they have it all together, but time spent around the program will show that isn’t always true.

Thinking about it now, it seems obvious that I could identify with the emotions.  We can all probably identify with all emotions, at least somewhat.  Basically I am a middle aged middle class late bloomer lesbian white woman.  But I have what’s important in common with the older, younger, richer, poorer, male and female everything alcoholics.  We are so much the same on that fundamental level, that I’ve belonged at every meeting I ever went to.

These days it’s hard for me to be tolerant of people with other political views on social issues, especially if I perceive what they want to be unfair to me.  I know beyond a doubt that my experience in AA has shown me sides of types of people I would never ever have experienced any other way.  The books also say that there is bad in the best of us, and good in the worst of us, and so I keep looking for it, especially within those people who give me trouble.  Or, more properly, those people I trouble myself about.

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One thought on “Identify, Don’t Compare

  1. I can relate when I started AA I was 18. I could not relate to the life experiences but I could relate to the raw emotion. I was lucky that there were a few young people around to encourage me. As I got older I could relate to the life experience. I have been through marriage, divorce being homeless having children and a lot of other things in sobriety. The people around the tables have encouraged me supported through it all.

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