Recovery From Alcoholism Isn’t About Judging Others

Thank you to Samantha who is sharing her story of recovery from alcoholism with us today.

Sober doesn’t Suck! is a safe place for people to share their stories of alcoholism, addiction and recovery openly and honestly. There is no requirement of sobriety for posting, if you’re concerned about your using I want to hear from you too.


This “simple” 12 step program teaches us so many things.  We learn tolerance, acceptance, and honesty.  We learn to identify our character defects and embrace the opposite.  We learn to do the next right thing.  And, we learn to keep our side of the street clean.  In fact, some of us go the extra mile and clean our side and cross the street to clean up the rest of the neighborhood.  We are continuously learning as we navigate through the road, the journey of recovery from alcoholism.

I’m a huge proponent of twelfth step work.  I often find that doing service work seems to help others a tad less than it ultimately helps me.  That can mean picking up the phone and reaching out to a woman.  Sometimes it’s baking cookies and taking them to a meeting.  Other times, it is simply shaking a hand.  Twelfth step work takes on many forms, but, at the end of the day, at the end of our 24 hours, it always yields reciprocal benefits.

Some of my service includes driving a fellow to a meeting and back.  Many years ago I would pick up a gentleman from his home and take him to a meeting.  I would take him back to his home after the meeting and head back to my home.  I’m a proponent of women working with women and men working with men.  However, there is some service work where it is appropriate to help anyone, regardless of gender.

Asleep At The Wheel

This particular fellow frustrated me week after week.  I would pick him up and we’d engage in delightful banter on the way to the meeting.  He would enjoy coffee, cookies and chat quite animatedly during fellowship.  But as soon as the speaker began reading “How it Works,” my passenger would fall asleep.

He slept the entire meeting.  I would wake him up in time for the closing prayer.  We would talk and laugh the whole way home.  Yet, resentment was building inside me.  I was frustrated I took the time to take him to meetings in which he would fall asleep.  I was embarrassed his inappropriate behavior was making me look bad to the other members.  If he slept through the meeting, how could he possibly benefit from my service work? Clearly, my ego told me, he was wasting my time.

I never addressed the issue with my passenger and my friend.  For months I took him to meetings and listened to the lead while watching him sleep.  For months I allowed this resentment to fester and grow.  Better yet, I allowed my ego to build because I was better than my fellow.  I was receiving the full benefits of AA by fully participating in the meeting.  Yes, I was really, really working a great program.

Working The Program to Beat Alcoholism

Almost a year later my home group celebrated our anniversary.  As you know, this is the most special meeting of the year.  One of the circuit speakers came to our meeting to lead.  I pulled out all my bells and whistles to create a professional looking monster-sized vegetable tray to accompany our pizza dinner.  The night was grand and I was so looking forward to listening to the message.  I parked myself in the front row, directly in front of the speaker so as not to miss a word he said.

Soon, I felt commotion around me.  People were getting up.  They were gravitating toward the edge of the room and seek out hands to hold.  What?  What, was happening I asked myself.  The meeting had just begun.  But, it had not just begun.  I fell asleep in the front row, in front of our speaker, on this, the most special meeting of the year.

Mortified, embarrassed and truly humbled I found my fellows and finished the Lord’s Prayer.  I quickly made a beeline for the anniversary coordinator and extended my most sincere apologies.  She didn’t know what I was talking about as she had no idea I fell asleep.

The entire ride home, alone this week, I thought about what had happened.  I recognized how dirty my street had become.  My ego projected a picture of white picket fences and rose bushes.  But, in fact, I was seeing my street through rose colored glasses.  I was judging my fellow and allowing myself to think, for weeks, for months, I was so much better than my friend.

A Lesson In Humility

The experience was more than humbling.  It was a necessary reminder to me that sometimes just showing up, just shaking a hand or exchanging a word with a fellow is all you need.  It is our Higher Power that guides us to meetings and we get what we need from each and every meeting.  Driving my friend to a meeting was the benefit I could provide him.  It was not for me to decide what else he needed.  Driving my friend to meetings was helping me.  I was being of service, I was learning, and above all I eventually learned a most important lesson.

My friend has since moved away and I cannot take him to meetings.  However, I have taken many more a fellow to a meeting.  And, many of these fellows have succumb to sleep during a meeting.  I recognize my part in the service work and remind myself that their program is their program.  My program is my program.  All I need to do is do the next right thing and keep my own side of the street clean.  It is not for me to try and tidy the entire AA neighborhood.

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3 Responses

  1. I have been in the recovery life style for many years. At first I was always taking other people inventory. It was until years later that I realized what I was doing was unproductive. A good way to learn how to not judge other is by going into a sober living environment. This way you can relate to other like yourself who are simply just trying to stay sober. I went to the Normal Heights program. The program changed my life and it can change yours too.

  2. Judging others is in no way a productive activity nor a way to get over alcoholism. Pointing out someone’s mistake will make you no less of a human who commits mistake too. The starting point of a road to recovery is acknowledging the fact that you have mistaken and in need of help.

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