In the beginning I saw sober people as the opposite of cool, a threat to my fun lifestyle, self-righteous, and either downright frightening, or plain old repulsive. I often looked at them and thought they can’t relate to me because they don’t know me. But something wasn’t right and I knew it. Most of the time I was confused, and even though I couldn’t verbalize that, I hoped it was going to change. And the sooner the better.
So out of necessity, I gave change a chance, and eventually someone came along who spoke my language. They conveyed how and why recovery works, and in particular, what was in it for me. For lack of better terms, maybe they sized me up right, or maybe we just naturally meshed. Whatever the case, the art of relating our recovery to newcomers is often the difference between misery, and all out victory over their affliction.
Yes, the art of relating our story to newcomers is that important.
In the ‘12 Steps and 12 Traditions’ book of Alcoholics Anonymous (pg. 21-24) it talks about the result of sharing our personal stories.. “alcoholics who still had their health, their families, their jobs, and even two cars in the garage, began to recognize their alcoholism.. thus resulting in..sparing them the last 10-15 years of literal hell the rest of us had gone through.”
You know what that means to me? Stories work. Even if it hasn’t clicked for you yet, or you’re already a low-bottom alcoholic who’s experienced too many years of hell, these stories are literally just waiting for you to latch on. There’s no expiration date on hope.
But the above quote from the ‘12 and 12’ speaks of our personal stories (complete with drinking history and consequences), that’s why I want to make these assertions: my personal history isn’t always funny and still-suffering people need to laugh sometimes; my personal history won’t be shared effectively by someone else (maybe a sponsor) at 3am when a white-knuckled newcomer calls wanting to drink; my story can hardly be told effectively by anyone except me; and lastly, there’s a social relevance factor in story telling that equals the story’s effectiveness.
Enter, popular recovery stories that relate our new-lives to the newcomer.
There’s the Story of The Two Wolves, one is good, the other bad. They live within all of us and they’re constantly battling. Ever swaying our thoughts and actions in the process. The wolf who wins is the one we feed. This could be the most well-known (at least that I know of), even outside of recovery circles, which makes it even more powerful.
There’s the Story of a super-star high-school quarter back, and the newcomer to recovery. One is being highly recruited by a big-time college, and the other is being forced onto a new team by their circumstances. Both new teams have veteran players, coaches, and a playbook which needs learning. One team says, “Just don’t drop the ball kid.” The other, “Don’t take the first drink.” However, both teams tell the new guy, “Everything will be okay, we got you, just keep practicing with us. If you stay and learn the playbook, you’ll play in the big game and be successful.”
There’s the Story of an alcoholic trapped in a big hole in the ground. With no ladder to get out and many failed attempts, they grow desperate, and begin seeking new solutions. First, a preacher walks by and suggests the alcoholic say prayers meant for people in holes. Then, a doctor walks by and writes the alcoholic a prescription for getting out of holes. Unsuccessful, and searching still, the alcoholic is shocked when a sponsor walks by and jumps into the hole. The alcoholic says, “Well this is just great. Now we’re both in this hole!” The sponsor replies, “It’s okay, I’ve been here before. I’ll show you the way and we’ll get out together.”
I would like to hear the story that made your recovery lightbulb come on. Which one of those stories was the most entertaining? Which one made you laugh or cry? And how did they adhere you to the characters telling the tail? Please share in the comments.