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Bullies in Recovery: If you want what we have, you’ll do what we do!

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“If you want what we have, you’ll do what we do!” You hear that saying a lot in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), as well as many other 12 step recovery programs.  The idea is that if you want to get and stay clean and sober, you will work the steps like others in the program do. As the rooms in AA and NA have grown, many different levels of misunderstanding about what that slogan means have grown too. Can an adult person in recovery be bullied into behaving a certain way because they fear that if they don’t they will be cast aside and relapse?

This answer of course varies depending on the person, meeting groups, and location, but for the most part yes, there is a real sense of vulnerability among those new in any 12 step program. It’s important to also understand that when it comes to being a newcomer in a 12 step program, it does not have to be limited to months; it can extend to years depending on personal growth through the steps, attendance at meetings, helping others, and their own spiritual path. The idea and belief to do whatever is needed in order to fit in, people please and even try to become the poster child of AA and NA has actually driven many people in recovery right out of the rooms.

In The Rooms

If you have been in the rooms of AA or NA long enough you may encounter such people. They are the people that try to “run” the show. The ones that feel their way in recovery is the only way. They act as if feelings are always based on fear and to actually feel them is wrong. If you are sad or angry, than you are not working a good enough program and need to help others more. If you are not doing it their way you are less likely to be invited to their social events and most likely to be gossiped about. As a result, many people have relapsed because they felt bullied out of the rooms. The flip side to this is that many times, these bullies relapse because nowhere does it say in any 12 step program, “If you want to stay clean and sober, you must bully others into doing it your way.”

Fortunately, if you have a good sponsor, strong values, and base your recovery on the principles of the 12 steps, you will be just fine. The unfortunate part is watching so many people get sucked into this way of behaving because they just want to fit in. Most recovering addicts and alcoholics have low esteem; they are willing to do whatever it takes to fit in, even if it’s bullying others in the rooms.

Staying Clean & Sober

It takes times to rebuild self-esteem, change old behaviors, and build confidence without putting selfish motives, ego, and pride first. Like anything else in life, balance is crucial in order to successfully stay clean and sober long term. You can’t give it (helping others) away if you don’t have it; so make sure your relationship with your Higher Power is right. How do you know if your actions are not right? If it’s selfish, prideful, egotistical, impatient, gossipy, mean, and hurts others, it’s not the right thing to do. It’s just that simple.

Written by: Watershed Ashling

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