The Different Types You Find in AA
Go to enough meetings and you’ll start to notice that many of the least appealing people you encounter can be divided into one of several different types. Behold our guide to eight of them.
We are people who normally would not mix, says the Big Book. What it doesn’t add is that many of these people start to mesh together through a few common identifying characteristics. While, let’s be honest, all of us can do things at times that might make us resemble one of these types, many others have pulled up a more permanent seat at a particular table. So who do you recognize from your home group?
THE COURT CARDER
These are those folks who have gotten a nudge from the judge - that is, they’re required to attend AA because of an alcohol-related offense. Most easily recognizable by their late entrance and loud yawns coming from their back row seat, the Court Carder loves to watch the clock and skedaddle out the door as soon as they’ve gotten someone - anyone! - to autograph their slip of paper. This type is most common in LA, where DUIs are seen as an AA rite of passage. You will, in all likelihood, not find the Court Carder nibbling on a sugar cookie and fellowshipping at the back of the room post-meeting, telling another meeting attendee that he really related to his share. While encouraging these folks is never a bad idea, keep in mind that they may consider you just south of a Scientologist. So remember that it's attraction, not promotion. Unless he asks otherwise, a handshake and a meeting directory is the best starter kit you can offer.
THE DOUBLE WINNER
The fact of the matter is that a fat chunk of AA members could probably benefit from a few Alanon meetings, but the ones to avoid are those who seem to enjoy boasting about their various afflictions. When it’s just Alanon we’re talking about, this isn’t a problem: plenty of alcoholics grew up with addicted or at least dysfunctional parents who robbed them of the ability to put their needs first. But the Double Winner is always in danger of becoming a Triple, Quadruple or even Centuple Winner. Got issues with food, gambling, sex, money or hoarding? Well, Triple and higher winners have problems with everything and happily tout their membership of 12-step programs that you probably haven’t even imagined existed. These people tend to regale you, when they run into you at the grocery store with your in-laws, with stories about how working a fourth step in their sex addiction program helped them to surrender their hooker habit. Double, Triple and Quadruple Winners might do best to calm down and remember that recovery isn't a pyramid business scheme, and that they don't climb higher up the chain by working 24, 48, or 96 steps.
THE SEX ADDICT
While addiction to other 12-step programs is a concern, that doesn’t mean that the seriously sick aren’t lurking around AA. The infamous 13th-Stepper and sexual predator can come in male or female form and are most easily identifiable by their proximity to the newest and most attractive members of the program. We're not talking about your average AA-er, unwittingly acting out the usual grab bag of sexual dysfunctions with others, but those who repeatedly try to get those not yet on their feet onto their backs, oftentimes leaving them in psychological and emotional turmoil. Don't expect roses on your doorstep (or even a text message) after the Sex Addict is done with you. In fact, you might want to think about attending some new meetings so you don’t have to see this guy or gal saving seats for their next victim. Be forewarned that you might be a Sex Addict if others look at you with "Don't even think about it" disdain every time a doe-eyed newcomer walks in.
If AA says that members share “what it was like, what happened, and what it's like now,” then Drunkaloguers are those who skip out on the “what it’s like now” part in order to regale rooms with tales of drug deals gone bad, police chases and gunshot wounds that sometimes sound dangerously close to Bullshit City. Or just those who, when asked to speak for 30 minutes, spend 27 rambling about their disastrous childhood and multiple karaoke contests while in tequila-induced blackouts, the next two on how their life went completely downhill, and the final minute on finding AA and giving up booze - and oops, now they’re out of time and oh, don't forget to work the steps. Problem is, if you stick around in AA long enough, the drunkalogues can start to get boring - and spending too much time on the old days can somehow twist memories of self-destruction into just some crazy times. The Drunkaloguer can have much crossover with the Sick Old-Timer; in other words, the reason they’re not sharing their recovery is that they don’t have any.
THE PINK CLOUDER
Sobriety can be challenging for many AAers, but for the Pink Clouders (otherwise known as the Tony the Tigers of the program), everything's grrrrrrrrrrreat! The euphoric condition is characteristic of early sobriety, when the mind and body are free of drugs and alcohol but the harshness of real life has yet to set in. Pink Clouds exist because, for some people, simply not getting drunk or high is a high in itself. Pink Clouders often don’t seem to realize that just putting the plug in the jug doesn’t mean their every last concern has flitted away - but why tell ‘em when they’ll find out soon enough anyway? The cause of inappropriate smiling and naturally dilated pupils, the ignorant bliss these people float around in is enough to make a struggling AA member want to turn a Pink Clouder into a Black-and-Blue Clouder. But have no fear, Sick Old-Timer, because when a Pink Clouder naturally descends from that dreamy state where sobriety suddenly feels like a brick rather than a feather, it can get pretty darn unpink. So enjoy it while you can, Pink Clouders (and hang in there long enough to work the steps).
THE SICK OLD-TIMER/AA NAZI
When sympathy's what you're after, for God's sake don't call the Sick Old-Timer - also known as the AA Nazi - because if water boarding was allowed in meetings, this guy or gal would be the one administering it. This type-A military breed gives advice in the form of Big Book page and paragraph numbers without any further explanation, and will cut you off in a second if he catches you cross-talking, going over your time limit or violating any other specific group rules. Known to greet newcomers with recommendations that they take the cotton out of their ears and stuff it in their mouths - while thinking nothing of updating Facebook posts while sitting in meetings - the Sick Old-Timer is very much who you don’t want to be. Find yourself constantly judging everyone around you, even though their lives appear to be moving forward while yours remains stuck in one place? You may well be one of these yourself. Of course, since one of the primary characteristics is a lack of self-awareness, you’re probably going to be the last to realize it. If you worry you’re in danger, shake things up, find some new AA pals, get a new sponsor, try tackling those steps and for God’s sake, stay away from the newcomers.
If you're in need of generic responses for complicated problems in the form of depersonalized clichés, call a Sloganeer! For better or worse, this type is here to remind you, like a mockingbird with a myriad of overwrought AA slogans, that it's all been said and done. Not all Sloganeers are bad - while being told that you should have an “attitude of gratitude” by a snaggle-toothed homeless-looking row-mate may make you want to throw a punch, it can also be exactly what you need to hear. Just beware of those whose entire vocabulary seems to be culled from the Unwritten Encyclopedia of Sober Banalities ("Keep it Simple, Stupid!"). Hardcore sloganeers sport different keychain attachments for every day of the week, each featuring a hopeful inspirational quote, and have been known to speak for hours without uttering a single adage-free sentence - which let's face it, can come off as a little robotic and cultish to newcomers. Meeting makers may make it but that doesn’t mean we all need to hear that every second.
THE RELAPSE ADDICT
While the Sloganeer would say, "You're either moving towards a drink or away from one" the Relapse Addict appears to do both. Also known as the Shame Junkie, this person stays completely immersed in the drama of constant falls from grace and subsequent treks towards redemption. Each return to the program is followed at some point thereafter by a petering out. In short, once the pink cloud's gone, it's sayonara to the program for these temporary teetotalers who are always caught in the middle - either reading the Big Book or setting a drink on one. It can be an excruciating place to be but when a Relapse Addict gets real, their story can be the most helpful to others. After all, some get sober after their first meeting, some after their 13th trip to rehab. It takes what it takes, and Relapse Addicts would surely like to not be Relapse Addicts. So take the cotton from your ears and shove it in your mouth, Sick Old-Timer!
Being in recovery might mean no more throwing up and getting concerned looks from your liquor store cashier 10 times a day. But what the hell are you supposed to do with all your new free time? Plenty choose to become Fellowshippers, in which they transfer their previous obsessions of hanging out in dimly lit bars and crack dens to spending free time with other alcoholics outside of meetings. Fellowshippers are the social butterflies of the program and can usually be found at both "the meeting before the meeting" (translation: coffee) and "the meeting after the meeting" (translation: more coffee). But really, it's about more than the joe, and the only Fellowshippers to be wary of are the Getting-Sicker-By-The-Minute ones, who use their relatively high profiles in AA to avoid doing any work on themselves (see also: Sick Old-Timer above). Or Fellowshipping Extremists, who can border on annoying when they turn every life activity into a SOBER EVENT. Want to go bowling? For a Fellowshipping Extremist, it's "Sober Bowling!" Need to go grocery shopping and pick up your dry cleaning? Take a hardcore Fellowshipper along and it's "Sober Errands!”
JD Kaye is the pseudonym for a sober alcoholic who lives in the South.
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