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Conscience vs. Gossip.

31 May 2012

So, there’s a minor, and I mean really minor, issue going on in my men’s meeting. That meeting, for the longest time (by which I mean, something like 20 years), had a rotating chairperson, and speakers were members of the group. For the past year and a half or so, we’ve had a single chair, N., who has steadily asserted a little more in the way of change as time has gone on, being more rigid about the time (fine by me), and bringing in outside speakers once in a while (also fine by me). Those changes have rubbed some guys wrong after all this time. N., when he can’t chair, has always asked Tan Man to chair for him.

Tan Man is someone I’ve complained about before, on my old blog if not on this one. I don’t like him. He went on about wanting to sleep with my ex-wife during my divorce process, in a crude and licentious way. I wanted to put his face through the asphalt in the parking lot. But I didn’t. I never even confronted him about it. I just ignored him. And obviously, I’m still carrying a bit of a resentment about it. I need to let it go. After all, I’ve been divorced nearly two years now.

But here’s the deal. Tan Man is apparently drinking again, and calling guys up from the meeting drunk at night. He hasn’t called me. I have no evidence. And the truth is, it doesn’t matter. I’m told he denies it when called out. But he’s done it before, and admitted it. He comes to the meetings, and pretends to be sober when he isn’t. I confess, I don’t get that. I really don’t. But some people are sicker than others, as they say. And if he’s showing up to the meetings, it’s because somewhere in him there is a desire to stop drinking. So he’s welcome.

But people who are being fundamentally dishonest about their sobriety should not be put in positions of leadership in AA. I feel like I shouldn’t need to put up much of a defense for that statement. It’s one of the basic things about AA. The “leadership” (such as it is – chairpersons do not govern), is a cohort of sober people, working a program. It is especially troublesome to me that a person being (possibly, probably) dishonest about his sobriety would be the group treasurer. We’ve had a problem before with a man being treasurer who was sober, but with a serious gambling problem. Guess where the money went.

People who are active in addictions are not trustworthy. Period. They should not be given any positions of authority. So, what’s my responsibility here? Basically, none. I participated in the group conscience of the meeting and we elected a new chair. A man I really like. Humble, calm. A professional engineer. Sober ten years. I spoke to my sponsor about my feelings about Tan Man. Since Tan Man hasn’t called me drunk, and I haven’t smelled it on him, I have nothing to say about it. It’s not my business until it becomes my business.

What is my business is the health of the meeting. And so I’ve talked to the men who’ve been there longer than I have and we’ve agreed to return the treasurer position to a rotating commitment as well. And that’s as it should be. No group should be dependant upon any one person for the health of the group. It’s a collective environment. But I need to make sure that my motivations are correct.

Just because I don’t like Tan Man doesn’t mean I should be predisposed to consider him to be dishonest about his sobriety. Or judge him an inappropriate treasurer. Just because there’s gossip about him doesn’t mean I ought to participate or pay attention. But I have trouble separating gossip from true questions of conscience sometimes. The important thing is that I don’t start thinking of this group as belonging to me. I’m no more likely to be right about the direction than anyone else is. Which is why we take group consciences. And this one went the right way.

We just talked about the direction we wanted the meeting to go, not about any one person. And I kept my mouth shut about Tan Man, because it’s not my business yet. And probably never will be. Especially as long as I’m nursing a resentment about something that happened two years ago.

So I don’t know about the line between conscience and gossip. But I know that I tend to think I’m important in ways that I’m not, and that that leads me to unhappiness a lot of the time. When I relax, surrender my need to have things my way, participate in the conscience of the group, and only take stands on issues where I truly have something at stake, I am almost always at much greater peace with my decisions. Matters that don’t influence how I live my life and work my program are not so critical, in the end.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. furtheron permalink
    31 May 2012 09:36

    I think you handled it ok. Early on I was regularly attending a meeting (one I don’t much any more, for no reason than it is not so easy to get there now) and the secretary as we call them in the UK came in and openly shared that he had drunk that week. He said he would step down with imediate effect as the guidlines are a years continuous sobriety. The group spoke about it there and then, took a vote and he continued. I honestly think us putting faith in him and seeing his remorse for what he’d done was a turning point for him – I suceeded him at secretary just after my first anniversary and that group was instrumental in my early recovery and getting me through my Mum’s death another 10 months further on.

    There is a meeting I regularl go to and do service at now that is not well. There are few regular attendees, most of the regulars are complete newcomers or serial relapsers – one officer after another has drunk and then not turned up and we’ve had to scrabble to keep the group going. I’ve wanted to fix it – so was running around trying to get people to come along and volunteer for service there… but sadly many won’t. I think it is location for one thing, it is a bit out in the sticks, secondly there are a couple of old timers who go there… I’ve even in talking with others heard them refer to it as “so and so’s meeting”… Therefore they won’t get involved without these guys consent, blessing etc. I think it is a real real shame, the meeitng could be better in my opinion but I think these couple of guys who set it up years back like that they keep having to be asked to “save it” again…

    Egos – they are a problem aren’t they

    • 31 May 2012 09:53

      I always try to comment over at your blog, but they keep getting eaten by the internet.

      • 31 May 2012 17:29

        MI-6 is at it again.

      • furtheron permalink
        1 June 2012 03:50

        That is a annoying – I wonder why that is… I don’t think there is any setting issue I even turned off the validation stuff as others complained but left on approval as then I can deal with the Spam

  2. 31 May 2012 17:27

    Slightly tangential, but have you thought about talking out your old resentment with Tan Man? It might not hurt to tell him that what he did back then bothered you. Then you can let it go, and maybe it will be easier to deal with him in the future. He may not respond well to it, but at least then it’s off your shoulders. The fact that it is still impacting you makes it seem to me like it’s worth sharing.

    • 31 May 2012 21:22

      If there were anything to be gained from that, I’d do it. But as it is, I’d just be trying to wring an apology out of him, trying to force my agenda on someone. It would have been appropriate in the moment, or even a day later. But after all this time, it’s my problem, not his. I’m the one still in that place.

      • 31 May 2012 22:48

        Ah, well that would be the wrong reason then, expecting a specific response is probably a bad thing. But I don’t think that telling someone that something they did was upsetting to you at the time is forcing an agenda – it’s more like clearing the air (he may very well sense your resentment towards him, but not know why you have it). If you were just to acknowledge it, and not expect a response, that might help you clear it from your system.

        But I’m not there and I don’t know your situation like you do. As an anecdote, though, I once had to wrangle a friend’s problem with me out of him because he didn’t want to talk to me about it. Over months it had built into a really weird wall between us that involved huge arguments I didn’t understand. We had a major communication barrier happening. It turned out that he was really uncomfortable with physical contact and I’m the kind of person who hugs and touches people a lot. When I finally got him to tell me what it was about me that was bothering him it was so NOT a big deal to me – I didn’t CARE if my hand was on his shoulder or not, it was just part of what I do. But he had been so worried about it and uncomfortable with it so he didn’t know how to tell me. We were right as rain after that. Sometimes things in your head are bigger than they are in real life.

        But again, I don’t know this guy or your relationship with him, so don’t see this as advice, just reflection.

  3. 1 June 2012 20:55

    It sounds good to rotate the Treasurer position. I hope that the resentment goes with Tan Man.

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