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When the Newness Wears Off

So, you are newly recovering from an addiction, with maybe a couple of months under your belt now. The holidays are coming to an end; and after the holiday season, the meetings that you attend are filling up with newer members, as is usually the case in 12-Step communities.

Holidays have a way of waking up the addicts to the problems surrounding their use. Either they have made complete messes of their family relationships during this period, or their using is more obvious to family and friends they haven’t seen often during the previous year. However it happens, there are a lot more people coming into recovery in December and January than any other time of year.

For those who really thrive in the attention they received in their 12-Step meetings for being the newest member, or one of them; (and you know who you are!); it can be uncomfortable and disconcerting to see so many new people coming in and getting that attention you thought was all for you. Now there will be a shift in focus for your recovery.

While you may have made some small inroads into sponsorship and recovery work itself, you will have to be completely honest with those who support your recovery about your feelings. This is hard when new, because you know you are supposed to love and support everyone in your meetings, but what is this new feeling? Could it be that ugly monster called jealousy? Is that what is happening?

Some will relapse in their attempt to regain the spotlight and attention of the group. There are some in nearly every group who do this for years and have no recovery to speak of, long term. Their plight is pitiful and heart-wrenching, but the group will soon lose the will to reach out to help these persons, believing that they are not really trying to recover. Who knows what factors are at work in relapse behaviors? Just recognize the futility and insanity of this particular way of receiving the regard of your group.

Others will become overly dramatic when sharing in their meetings, with lots of “look at me” behavior readily recognizable to most in the group, except themselves. A good sponsor will put an end to this behavior, but not everyone works with a sponsor, or is honest with them, or even listens to their words of wisdom and encouragement.

While these may seem like silly solutions, they are commonly used. The other way to deal with the feelings of this loss of attention may be that you will begin to grow into recovery now. Perhaps you can guide these other newer members to the people who have helped you. Perhaps you can talk to them about your experience in the first weeks of this group and how you navigated early recovery. Quite often, it is those with three weeks, a month, or two months who are most easy for new members to talk to.

When they recognize that others may have a year or five or twenty, they are terrified to talk to those people. Other members with just a short time longer than they have are much easier to approach. These new members are trying to figure out how on earth anyone ever gets a week without alcohol and drugs. They cannot fathom a year or beyond that. It will be your recent experience that may bridge them coming to terms with how to do this recovery business one day at a time, not for years on end. That is too overwhelming to think about. While your experiences are not as many, you have been there most recently and the memories are still fresh in your mind. While you should not be sponsoring at this time, due to your own inexperience, you will see how you may be the best ambassador to recovery that they can find.

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work, with a specialization in substance abuse treatment. Having worked in this field for over 20 years, she is currently working on her certification as an addictions’ counselor.

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