For the newcomer….hold on!

The best advice you can give the new kid is to remind him (or her) that everyone was new once.  And you know what I didn’t know when I was new?  I didn’t know that what I felt about 27 1/2 minutes after I committed to quitting drinking and staying sober was called a craving.

Hot sweats. Finger tapping. Leg shaking. Eyes tracking my surroundings.  Yeah. Craving. Even the remote possibility that I might never drink or use again used to have my ears ringing, heart racing, blood rushing up from my chest to the top of my head and pumping back down into my gut.  The whole time my head would be screaming at me between the ears, “Hey you piece of garbage, you’re not done. There’s no way you’re gonna stay sober. You’re a joke.”

Yeah, that’s called craving. And it’s one of the primary things that separates an addict from a potential alcoholic. “We believe… that the phenomenon of craving is limited to this class (alcoholics) and never occurs in the average temperate drinker.” That’s straight out of the doctor’s opinion.

It’s lousy news. Others can drink and use with impunity. They can nurse their private pains, heartaches and hurts with a bottle of Jack Daniels and still function the next day. They don’t get in cars, cross state lines, get arrested. They can sit around a table in a bar with their friends and clink martini glasses and then show up for their life a few hours later. I know…mystifying.  Time and time again as alcoholics and addicts, we’ll say we’re going to stop. We see the pain on the face of the people who love us and we feel certain inside that this is finally it. But it isn’t.  In spite of the most adamant resolution not to drink, in the face of total chaos and destruction, the moment comes when we drink again.


Unless we can experience a complete psychic change. (That means a complete displacement of the attitudes and responses that used to guide our entire lives.)

Oh. Okay. Total psychic transformation.  Well why didn’t you just say that. Let me get my magic carpet and zoom right over.

So here’s the advice:

  • Everything is going to have to change. That means you can’t hold onto stuff like your good ideas and all the reasons you can’t do the things we’re asking you to do.
  • You need to kick the old crowd to the curb. It’s impossible to stay sober when you’re spending the majority of time with people who drink and use like you do. I know this because I lived the first 6 months of my sober life in a house full of addicts and alcoholics. Very unpleasant. You are not welcome when you are sober because you become a mirror in which others see their disease.
  • It’s one day at a time…forever. So don’t use or drink no matter what. Learn to recoil from the drink (drug) as if it was going to reach out, grab your throat and choke you to death. Because the disease wants you dead. Period.
  • After a while, it will be unnecessary to recoil from the drink (or drug.) We are oddly placed in some position of neutrality when it comes to alcohol (I cannot really speak for drugs since I have not put myself around any drugs in my sobriety.)  The great fact for us is not just that we will not have to drink…but that we will not want to drink. That’s amazing stuff. Science can’t explain that. Religion can’t explain it. Your shrink can’t explain it. It’s a god thing.
  • Don’t get too hung up on God. If you’re down with God, amen. Keep doing what you’re doing and get to know your god a little better. If you can’t stand god…no big deal. Think of God as Group of Drunks.  I love that!  It kept me here. I hated god. I hated church. I hated religion. I wouldn’t say the Lord’s prayer because I was born Jewish. The story goes on ad infinitum but it’s all B.S., so I’ll leave it at this. If you stick around you will make your peace with god. Or you won’t. And either way it will be fine. A speaker I was listening to the other day said, “You only need to know 2 things about God: God is. And you aren’t God.
  • Go to as many meetings as you can. I easily clocked close to a 1,000 meetings in my first year. Why? Well, I was very very sick. And also, very bored and boring, and really had nothing going on that would prevent me from making 3 meetings a day. It was the first place I had been invited to return to in a long time. And there was always coffee. Sometimes there was cake. And I love cake. After a few months I started to know people…like really know them. People share all kinds of crazy stuff from the podium. I started to wake up, defrost. People would catch me in a meeting and they’d say something nutty like, “oh, it’s happening in you.” I had no idea what the eff that meant. I didn’t know that they meant they meant that when I came through the doors I looked like death warmed over and that I was starting to come back to life a little.
  • I’ve now seen that happen to newcomers. Sometimes I smile and tell them, “hey, it’s happening for you.”
  • Keep coming back to Alcoholics Anonymous. Always come back. Because you earned your seat. It is doubtful that you ended up here by mistake. And we love you. We really do. It’s kind of weird…I know. I’m not a particularly touchy feely person, but I have learned in AA how to open my heart to you and to my fellows. We have a common problem and a common solution, and that unites us. It’s an amazing thing to be a part of.

2 thoughts on “For the newcomer….hold on!”

  1. Awesome advice…it’s so basic, but we often times forget it. Kicking the old crowd to the curb is something we all should have learned in high school when we hung out with bad friends and they got us in trouble. For some reason, i just didn’t want to admit to myself that they were a huge cause of my bad habits. Once they were gone, I lost that desire to do stupid things.
    Awesome blog and you’re a great inspiration to anybody fighting addiction.

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