So, you are relatively new to recovery and enjoy the “newbie attention” you receive from your support group. Your group spent a lot of time supporting you on your early recovery, and it feels good. But sooner or later someone else joins the group and takes center stage.
For support group newbies who thrived in newfound attention, it can be disconcerting to see new members join the group and take away the spotlight. You’ve made progress towards sobriety and you know you still have a long way to go, but how do you keep going when the people who cheered you on have turned their attention to someone else?
For someone who’s now a little less new, honesty in meetings can become difficult because you are supposed to love and support everyone in your group, not resent them.
What is this feeling? Could it be jealousy? Why is this happening?
Attention Seeking Behavior and Relapse
Some attention seekers may relapse while trying to regain the focus of the group. Nearly every group has members who self-sabotage for years. An attention seeker’s plight is pitiful and heart-wrenching, but other members eventually lose the will to help the person as they come to believe that he or she is not really trying to recover.
Others become overly dramatic when sharing stories, with lots of attention seeking behaviors readily recognizable to most in the group. A good sponsor will call this out, but not everyone works with a sponsor. Furthermore, some people aren’t completely honest with their sponsors or are simply unable to take a sponsor’s words of wisdom and encouragement to heart.
Who Needs Attention Now
While these cries for attention may seem like silly solutions, they occur quite commonly. In spite of these feelings, you may find that you are actually ready to begin to heal and grow. Perhaps you can guide newer members to the people who have helped you. Perhaps you can talk to them about your initial experience with this group and how you navigated early recovery. Quite often, new members find those with just a few weeks or months in recovery to be the most approachable.
Members with anywhere from one year to 20 years of sobriety under their belt may be too intimidating for newbies. These new members are trying to figure out how anyone could get through a week without alcohol or drugs. They cannot fathom being sober for even one year, let alone beyond that. However, your recent experience may help them focus on recovery one day at a time.
Discussions of this nature occur regularly in recovery forums, rehab programs and sobriety meetings.
A True Ambassador for Recovery
While you’re still in the process of learning how to cope with your new life, you have been in the newbie’s shoes most recently and the memories are still fresh in your mind. The small steps you take ahead of them may just bridge the gap in their minds between today’s low point and a slightly brighter next few days. To a newbie, that can be a whole lot less overwhelming of a journey to take on compared to dangling a destination that — although possible — seems light years away at the moment.
So while you may not be in the right place to sponsor someone at this time, a newbie taking away the spotlight pushes you into a new phase; a new and important role in the support group construct. With your short experience in sobriety combined with a resolve to stay on the path, you just might be the most encouraging recovery ambassador a "newbie" can find. With your experience as a guide, newbies can start finding emotional balance in early recovery just as you did.