Sunday, 19 October 2014

Follow Program Etiquette

      I walk into the room. The floor is already a mess even though the linoleum is less than two months old. The new paint is peeling where someone had ripped a taped sign off the wall. Dead mouse smell hits my nostrils. On the wax board in front of the room [a thirty two dollar wax board, conscience] someone had scrawled the words Follow Program Edecate. I put my stuff down on the couch. I approach the wax board. The eraser has long ago disappeared. I wipe off the offensive words with a sleeve.

     Several years ago, some of the bleeding deacons decided that the new people who were now infiltrating the rooms in droves needed to be taught about what they referred to as "program etiquette." I thought that was a lousy idea. We already had chair people announcing things like don't cuss and turn off the cell phones [group conscience] at the beginning of each meeting. How many rules did we need here?

     Not to be denied, some of the folks from the district got together and began going around to different places and holding "workshops" on "etiquette." Yes, I went to one. One was enough. There was a slew of things that were offensive to the bleeding deacons:
          New people got up and down too much.

          They went to the bathrooms too much.

          They dared to leave the meeting to take smoke breaks.

          New people talked too much to each other during the meetings.

          They talked about day treatment, drug court, and other addictions when it was their turn to share.

          Some of them even left the meeting before the final prayer at the end.

          New people didn't understand anonymity.

          They talked about the meeting in the parking lot.

          They ratted on people to their counselors or to drug court.

     If these workshops had been renamed "Traditions Workshops" and the trads were presented as ideals to follow, I would not have had a problem. But the etiquette workshops were simply bitchfests with lecturers. Nothing good came out of them far as I could tell.

     I have a lot of time in. I've been abstinent for more than half my life. When I get up during a meeting to use the bathroom, I don't get the stares from the bleeding deacons. Kids have to ask to be excused from the room or from the dinner table. Adults at a recovery meeting do at times have to use the bathroom during the meeting. This should not be a big deal people.

     Yes, some of us are easily distracted. It ain't just the newcomers, folks. Yes, sometimes the room is too bright or too noisy or too smelly. Yeah, sometimes we need to stand up or stretch our legs a bit. If an adult wishes to leave a room for any reason, why is that anyone's business? Sometimes, a topic is hitting close to home and someone may need a break for that reason. Tobacco is an addiction, we are now told. If you don't smoke or if your smoking allows you to sit still for an hour without a cigarette, count yourself lucky.

     Is there a list of acceptable topics floating around that I haven't been told about? If I am worried or angry or think I will relapse over some person, place, thing, situation, organization, or other entity, isn't that fair game for bringing up at a meeting? "Hardly any recovery in this room," you say. I was told that if I thought something was going to cause me to mess up, that I could talk about it in the rooms. Whatever.

     There are a few more non-theists in the rooms than there used to be. The growing trend of young people who are un-churched is also reflected in the composition of people in recovery. Some of us choose to sit or stand during the final prayer. We don't want to be fake and say words that do not hold any meaning to us. Folks leaving before the final "amen" disconcerts me too at times. Bottom line: We don't have (all that much, if any) control over the behavior of others. I don't have to die on that particular mountain. Neither do you. A few people will leave before the end of meetings. Suck it up and deal with it. 

     Breaching of anonymity is a problem but it is not only the newcomers who do it. Some people who should know better call up drug court personnel and rat out the mandated people. This one goes to the bathroom too much. That one comes a few minutes late. The other one is sleeping. These two are seeing each other secretly on the side. And so on. The professional staff at drug court are at fault for listening. So maybe new folks in treatment are in the parking lot talking about what happened at the meetings. Is that any worse than those of us who know better going home and telling our spouses who was there or what was said? Different from a gang of recovering people in a restaurant talking about other recovering people? More terrible than the rumors going around concerning who picked up again, who slept with who, or who is getting a divorce? Awful-er than snitching to drug court? We who have been there have a responsibility to follow the spirit of tradition twelve as well as the letter.

     This is not an us versus them thing. This is not a newcomers against bleeding deacons recovery. We have a responsibility at meetings. We are the ones who can gently take people aside and explain some aspect of a tradition. We are the ones who can help a chairperson out by asking for quiet. We are the ones who can practice celebrating the new people instead of verbally attacking them for not "following program etiquette."

     Cell phones are an annoyance everywhere. The abrupt ringing is a problem in movie theaters and classrooms as well as in meetings. Cursing is something that may offend some of the older folks. As for the rest of your shitty rules, stuff them.

     We have no business directing when someone may take care of their bodily functions, take a cigarette break, or leave a room. We are not prison guards. We are not the be all and end all. When we fail to be polite and respectful of newcomers, we add another notch to the belt of problem behaviors in the rooms. One of these days, most of us will wake up and find ourselves dead. Those newcomers that you deplore will be left to carry on the message. What legacy are you leaving them?

sapphoq itching for a coffee and more



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