Guest Post: My Friend John

I am honored to publish an article written by my friend John.  I have known John for a great deal of my sobriety, he has been a great source of wisdom and inspiration throughout my recovery.    Without further ado, here are John’s thoughts on the importance of introduction within the rooms of a 12-step meeting:

 

Introductions – What Are We Telling the Newcomer?

There are many different ways to introduce ourselves in AA meetings.  My favorite – “My name is John and I’m an alcoholic.”  Simple, to-the-point, unembellished.  Here are some others that I have heard, with possible ramifications for the newcomer.  For simplicity’s sake, I will use my name in each:

 

  1. “My name is John and I’m an addict and an alcoholic.” We need not even bring up the 5th tradition implications (although they could certainly be cited).  By using this introduction, we have unnecessarily set ourselves apart from the newcomer, who may shy away from us thinking that drugs are not his or her problem.  If drugs are in our backgrounds, there is plenty of time to discuss that, but at a later date.

 

  1. “John, alcoholic.” This one is too quick and glosses over our deadly disease almost as an afterthought.  Saying the entire sentence out loud conveys a sense of ownership of the disease from which the newcomer may benefit.

 

  1. “My name is John, and I am a recovering alcoholic.” This can be disconcerting to the uninitiated newcomer, especially if the person introducing himself has been sober a long time.  It may lead the newcomer to question the value or efficacy of AA.  The concept of continual growth through the practice of the 12 steps can be discussed if and when we develop a relationship with the newcomer, or when we share at a meeting.

 

  1. “My name is John, and I am a recovered alcoholic.” While many may hear hope and encouragement in this introduction, a newcomer may hear, “So you’re better than me?”  The concept of recovery from a “…hopeless state of mind and body…” can be discussed as noted in 3 above.

 

  1. “My name is John, and I am a grateful, recovering (or recovered) alcoholic.” I question whether or not this introduction should be used unless one is grateful every minute of every day, as one is alcoholic every minute of every day.

 

  1. “I’m an alcoholic with a John problem.” This introduction, while it may be accurate, screams obsession with self.  It also may lead the newcomer to believe that AA is a psychoanalytical exercise, rather than a path toward spiritual awakening.

 

  1. “My name is John, and I’m a real Again this introduction may be accurate, but it may allow the newcomer to think that perhaps he or she is not as bad as the speaker.  Also, having to qualify the term alcoholic with a superlative indicates our own desire to be special – either especially good or, in this case, especially bad.

 

  1. “My name is John (insert last name here), and I am an alcoholic.” Routinely introducing yourself with our last names may scare the newcomer into thinking that Alcoholics Anonymous is not as anonymous as he or she thought.  It also conveys a sense of self-importance that is contrary to many of our principles (see 6 above).  A possible exception to this suggestion may be our most famous circuit speakers (Sandy B, Earl H, Tom I, and many others come to mind).  To those of us who routinely do this, don’t worry about changing to just your first name.  If someone actually does need our information, he or she can always get us after the meeting.

 

As with so many things in life and in AA, less is often more.  What better time to keep it simple than when uttering the first words out of our mouths.

Posted on February 18, 2015, in Recovery, That's What Friends Are For and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. I have never seen a concise and thorough breakdown of introductions like this. I like this. A lot. I am guilty of number two there at times. I agree with all of what you said. Even at a meeting today, I did hear the “My name is XXX and I am dual-diagnosed” and the “Hi my name is XXX and I’m an addict and alcoholic”. I really did rage against the machine at this, and often still do an inner bristling. I am very much along the lines of singleness of purpose,and like you said, I agree that it is separating one’s self from the group. I am not sure why folks deem it necessary to apply a laundry list to their intros. But I know that it’s a losing proposition to try and change their minds.

    As for the full name (and by the way, I have been listening to Earl Hightower as of late…ha ha. One of my faves), I understand that we need not be anonymous at group level, so I don’t mind that. But it depends on how it’s conveyed. I think if a speaker does it, it’s fine with me. But when someone is sharing and always gives the full name (again, the meeting I went to today, there is a gent that always does that), it does seem to come with some self-importance tagged to it. Again, my opinions only.

    Thank you for this – loved it through and through. I will now make sure to not gloss over my introductions…ha!

    Blessings
    Paul

    Liked by 1 person

  2. very thoughtful and insightful.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Josie, I was given to understand recently that there is no ‘requirement’ at an AA meeting to say specific words when introducing oneself. in particular whether to say ‘I am an alcoholic’ which I know is a barrier to some people… I am not a member of AA but wondered if it were appropriate whether you could expand on this particular theme for me? if not, I quite understand! Prim xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Prim! Thanks so much for the question, and I would be happy to give you my answer (understanding always that I do not speak for the fellowship myself, of course).

      There is only one requirement at all for “membership” in the fellowship of AA, and that requirement is a DESIRE to stop drinking. You technically don’t even have to stop drinking (although I highly recommend it!). So in terms of requirements, there really are none at all. You could be a member of AA for 50 years, never call yourself an alcoholic, and that would be okay!

      In my experience, very few newcomers introduce themselves as alcoholics, and there has been no issue with it whatsoever. Every meeting starts with some introductory remarks that state clearly there are no rules to follow, everything within this program is voluntary.

      Feel free to question further if I’ve not answered your question, and thanks so much for the comment!

      Like

  4. I used to do #1, in part because my relapse started with mis-using prescription narcotics and I was reminding myself that it is not just the booze, but I stopped after some feedback aligned with reasoning in this post.

    There is someone in our group that says “I’m an alcoholic and my name is John.”. He has over 20 years and shared that his original sponsor did the same thing, and the point was it helped him take the ego of things and reminded him he was just a general variety alkie and his name was secondary. But I always thought it it set himself apart from the group as he was the only one doing that. Does that mean I was doing it wrong?

    I know there is some 12 step antagonism between the different versions of the programs. AA versus NA, etc. I think if a newcomer comes in to AA and maybe there is problem is more with drugs it is important to still be welcoming and not use protocols to telegraph that alcoholics are superior to addicts in someway.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I certainly agree with welcoming everyone, and I never considered what your “long-timer” friend says about his name being secondary. I really like that thought process.

      Truthfully, I have enjoyed this thought process start to finish, as I never really considered the implications of the introduction. Thanks so much for sharing your insight!

      Like

  5. Great post! Thanks John/Josie!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I loved the posting. I tried to write a comment but it kept crashing. For me, it resonated with how as addicts we need to look to include and identify with each other rather than exclude and remain “terminally unique.”

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What about: Hi I’m John and I used to be addicted to alcohol and now I am here to learn to deal with the consequences of that. Or make it actively addicted… ?

    Nice post! 🙂 Not AA going but I think language says a lot more than we think.

    Liked by 1 person

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