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Emperors New Clothes
by Joe Lair


I was traveling this summer and I got a chance to sit in on a meeting. I love hearing new things from people I donít know. Sitting with them I have no judgement, I havenít heard their spiel thousands of time before. I donít know anything about them and I donít care. That clears the way for me to hear them.

In my own meetings I run up against myself and what my brain tells me about the person whoís speaking. Iíve lived in my town most of life and Iíve sat in the meetings for decades. I have a past with lots of the people and sadly it clouds my listening ability at times, but when I travel I get a chance to sit, listen and my brain is well released from all that it can speak to me in my local meetings.

At this meeting, it was normal for them, but huge for me! There were probably two hundred people at the meeting and it was a format I love. About fifteen people got their cakes for varied times in recovery. There was a speaker who shared on a topic for a half hour and then the meeting broke into small groups and people wandered into different rooms. It was great!

I picked my room and got to meet some of the people there before the meeting started. The chairperson did her thing and the meeting started. I Quickly got uncomfortable. Something new was coming my way. The problem I face living where I live is we are so secluded. My state is huge but the population is small. We hug the Canadian border and we are off the beaten, somewhat.

On the Internet Iíd heard some discussion about the "New" ideas creeping into some Clubhouses. The short cutting concept has been batted around in the email group that I belong to. Iíd just never run up against it in a meeting setting and here I was sitting in a clubhouse that I didnít belong to, had no fellowship with, and I didnít know a soul. "Wow. What should I do?" raced across my brain. I decided to sit back. There were over twenty people in the room with me. The chairperson didnít ask if there were any people new to the area so I was sitting invisible. As the meeting progressed I started to twitch and with each new sharing from the people there I twitched even more. People in the meeting were suffering and they were suffering for nothing. Prominently on the wall when I entered the club displayed next to the regular recovery concepts was the "Shorter" version of recovery. The speaker had shared on the version and most of the people in the meeting I was sitting were sharing on it also. My problem is really simple with this, and I did address it in the meeting when I got called on by the chairperson.

As humans, one of the basic flaws we travel with is "Sloth." We are always looking for the easy way the simpler way to achieve success. We donít want to do the proven things. We get bored with them and then we start to change them and mold them into what we believe they should look like. The Steps of Recovery work. They have worked for millions for decades and they donít need to be shortened or changed. The traditions of recovery work and they have held groups, clubs, areas and everything else they needed to, together really well. They work because of history and that history needs to be respected.

As I started to speak two men got really frustrated with me and they shut me down by speaking over the top of me. They challenged me and they wanted to know, "Just who do you think you are!" They liked what they had and they were happy with what they had, so I made the decision to shut off what I was saying.

The story of the Emperors New Clothes was true at that clubhouse. Everyone is buying into what the man is wearing and no one is allowed to tell them that they are naked. Itís okay right? I donít know. Itís really hard for me at times to figure what should be said and what shouldnít be said. I backed off, made my amends to that group and reminded myself about the traditions again. I know where I stand and I know what I believe in and I also know that I have to remind myself that Iím not the sole judge on the matters that come before me. When I run up against things that I donít believe in, I have to really be careful. I so want to, "Share what I believe." I really want to tell folks that "itís not right and this is why." I get so scared about people who are walking some funky path because Iíve followed funky paths and luckily I was rescued. I did some of the dumbest things, believing I was helping myself on my path of recovery and I ended up in some terrible places because of it. Each time I was able to turn around and each time I got back out. But my biggest fear is going down some road and bringing people with me only to find out I was dumb again!

That was my frustration that night sitting in that clubhouse. Iím pretty sure they are off track. Iíím sure that the road they are walking is "ripe" with pot holes that just donít need to be hit. Iím sure that the short cut steps they are following, believing they are right, are wrong. Each time I started following a "Better" way, the first thing I found out was that I had chased God out. Each time a new way shows up in recovery the first thing I look for is,""Whereís God? " Each new way is usually someoneís way and that person wants lots of credit. In our own history in the rooms of recovery itís been proven time and again, when we push God out, we get sick fast. As long as we keep looking for ways to improve our own relationship with God, we have success. The moment we take our eyes off that relationship and look towards securing our own place, we start down roads that take us nowhere. In that meeting, the short cuts didnít mention any real building of a relationship with a "Higher Power." They did mention the group, a sponsor, a mentor or trusting in their own being. Again, whatís wrong with that? Lots. Groups become sick, sponsors are human and if we become our own "Score keeper" thatís terrible.

We need guidance. We need empirical truths that are unshakable. We need to have some sense of right and wrong that doesnít change to accommodate the times. If we have no Baseline to look at, or if we have some flexible rules that move with each person that looks at them, then we are once again back into Self and the chaos that goes with that. Chaos only brings sickness and itís a soul sickness that tears at the very fibers that keeps recovery moving. The two men who were in the meeting with me showed me just how easy it is to start slipping again. "Bully" personalities are some really scary personalities. God speaking in groups allows truth to show up. Truth doesnít need bullies to bring it out. Truth only needs some people following the dictates of recovery and nurturing those dictates in the group or club they belong to.

I pray for those that I met in that club. They are great people just like all people. I pray that God again is sought there. The ABCs of recovery are not Ashtrays, Brooms and Chairs. We are not saved from our addiction by the work we do. The ABCs end with "God could and would if He were sought."



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