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Old Timers in AA

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By Kristen McGuiness

12/01/11

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Melody Anderson’s advice for the newcomer at odds with an embittered old-timer is to “look at why you’re bothered,” she says. “Part of the process of recovery is learning to handle other personalities. The first principle is not picking up the substance to which you are addicted. But you’re going to hear a lot of crazy things [in AA] and if that’s what sends you out, you probably weren’t going to stay anyway.”

Yet the old-timer-newcomer animosity can provide, according to Dr. Jaffe, opportunities for growth. “We can treat hardliners—people who think that the way they see the world is absolutely right and if it’s not that way, it’s absolutely wrong—with the same tolerance we might wish they would offer us,” he says. “It really comes down to what you’re looking for in recovery: are you looking to better your own life or to seek acceptance from others?”

Melody Anderson concurs. “If you don’t like one meeting, go to six more,” she adds. “There will always be someone you don’t like anywhere you go, which is why, ultimately, only you are responsible for the quality of your meeting.”

Kristen McGuiness is a freelance writer and regular contributor to The Fix who wrote previously about the 13th step and dreaming about drinking, among many other topics. She is the author of 51/50: The Magical Adventures of a Single Life

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