Newcomers: Watch out for the Time-Bullies!

Don’t let anyone talk you out of your miracle.

By the 1980’s, working the 12 Step Program had been replaced by a “Meeting Makers Make It” Program and going to meetings became the program!

In the 1940’s and 50’s meetings were a place where recovered alcoholics talked about carrying the message of experience strength and hope to suffering alcoholics and help newcomers work out a solution to their problem (alcoholism/addiction).

“Seeing much of each other, scarce an evening passed that someone’s home did not shelter a little gathering of men and women, happy in their release, and constantly thinking how they might present their discovery to some newcomer. In addition to these casual get togethers, it became customary to set apart one night a week for a meeting to be attended by anyone or everyone interested in a spiritual way of life. Aside from fellowship and sociability, the prime object was to provide a time and place where new people might bring their problems.” (A.A. 4th Ed., 159-160)

Today, our meetings have changed into something else.–endless rituals of readings and poetry recitals intermixed fellowship bromides such as, “This program is caught not taught” and “Keep Coming Back and Wait for the Miracle”.
Recovery success rates went from 50% to 75% to less than 10%! Many alcoholics or addicts would be better off trying to quit on their own will power than come to a meeting where untreated alcoholics sit around and talk about their problems and tell the newcomer not to work any Steps for the first year.

But something amazing happened!

Joe and Charlie started a “Back-to-the-Big Book” revival in the late 1980’s, whereby the newcomer could work all 12 Steps in a weekend! Since then, there has been a resurgence of working the 12 Steps. Today, thanks people A.A. archivist Wally P. who revived the Beginner Meetings of the 1940’s, newcomers are shown, once again, how to work a 12 Step program in four, one-hour sessions!

As a result, newcomers are again experiencing 50% to 75% recovery success rates!

Schisms in the Fellowship

You would think the fellowship would be excited about such successes, but many were not. Most were threatened by newcomers working the 12 Steps fast. They didn’t understand how anyone could work the program in one day. Why this animosity? There are a lot of people in the fellowship who don’t have to work a 12 Step program as outlined in the Big Book. They can get by on going to meetings.

Dr. Bob once said,

“There are two ways to work this program. The easy way was the work and in live in the 12 Step program. The other, the hard way, Don’t drink and go to meetings.”

So a schism developed. Fundamental lines were drawn between the Meeting Makers’ program of discussion versus the Big Book Thumpers’ program of action.

When a newcomer comes to a meeting, who has just learned how to work the 12 Step program, who has only a few weeks or months of sobriety, they are confronted not welcomed. There are some members in our fellowship members who act like TIME-BULLIES. They’re easy to identify, they walk around the rooms announcing themselves with a sense of unbridled ego, “I’m 25 year Bill, “I’m 10 year Sally”, I’m 13 years sober Kevin, My name is Dick and I’m 15 years dry”, etc. Furthermore, many of them are just dry, no emotional sobriety. They’re just “doing time” in meetings.

Time-bullies worship their sobriety time. They plan elaborate Medallion celebrations with endless accolades to those receiving their chip. For them, their sobriety time indicates some measure of higher sobriety over someone with less time. For them, time is a sort of “fellowship currency” and determines their status in the fellowship. For example, there are members in A.A. who smoke marijuana, but because they haven’t had a drink in 15 years, claim their sobriety is intact. They bristle with antagonism at the suggestion that they are not sober.

These time-bullies love to attack the newcomer, who comes into the room full of the spirit, who having just completed their first round of 12 Steps, usually in a short period of time, and who want to reach out to other newcomers and freely share what was so freely given to them.

The first thing they’re asked, “How much time do you have?” The newcomer replies, “30 days”. The time-bully answers back, Oh…you’re just a newcomer. What could you possibly offer another newcomer. You’re still a newcomer yourself. You should be still on Step 1 and not Step 12. You’re just on a pink cloud. You shouldn’t be working Steps in your first year” and so on.

These types are energy vampires who suck the spirit right out the newcomer. The newcomer is sometimes ill-equipped to handle such bullying and are sometimes talked out their miracle.

Newcomer: Learn how to protect yourself

Arm yourself with the facts.

Remember, Bill W. started working with other alcoholics immediately after detox, which was a three to five day stay in a hospital. Ebby T. was 60 days sober when he approached Bill W. with the solution. Dr. Bob was only a couple of weeks sober, when he and Bill approached Bill D. A.A. number three in the hospital.

Never go to a meeting on your own. Go with two or three others, like yourself who are working the Steps. Take care of each other and support one another.

And start your own meetings with like-minded members and create a fellowship of those living in the spirit.

Have you run into any time bullies lately. What’s your experience.


17 thoughts on “Newcomers: Watch out for the Time-Bullies!

  1. Interesting topic today…. My first crack at AA (hope that didn’t "trigger anyone" was in a group where we read the 12 n 12…and I was led to believe I was doing the program because of my attendance there and my understanding of Bills THOUGHTS about the 12 steps.

    Low and behold, when the poop hit the fan 14 months later…. i was smoking pot and trying to attend meetings under the 3rd tradition..

    You see, I KNEW i was gonna drink and I KNEW if I did, i was going straight to hell in a handbasket… The marijuana maintenance "program" lasted about 15 months or so… But one day, I ended up at another group… it too was a 12 n 12 group… BUT… there were also Big Book people there and I was FORTUNATE to end up with a  BB sponsor.

    He quickly diagnosed my problem for me… untreated alcoholism… and he then offered me the help that HE knew I needed,,, take the steps as laid out in the BB.

    Also at this same time frame.. Joe and Charlie came to town…"is that odd or is that God"- Joe McQ.

    He took me to the weekend workshop and I was blown away…

    That year, I took all 12 steps and I have not looked back since…

    I can tell u though… everything I "identified with" at the first J n C workshop I went to was highlighted in Pink.

    The following year when we went back i highlighted it in Yellow….

    Guess what…. the first "identification" was my EX-WIFES!   lol

    I share this with you because It was MY experience..

    And to this day, taking her inventory saved my life !…. you see, by me actually taking ACTION in the steps…. I was on the way to a new freedom…

    I obviously was NOT rocketed in to the 4th dimension that first year, but I also didn’t die either.  My sponsor got me active in service and he spent time with me to keep me focused on my amends and helping newcomers that came to our group.

    This man had 20 years of sobriety at the time, but he never mentioned it… when it was mentioned, it was only a reference of the time frame when he hit bottom.

    He got me connected to a group of new members and I am sure he laughed his tail off watching us running around Toronto trying to "help this guy or girl "…

    Bottom line was, he showed me by HIS service to others HOW to grow my relationship with the God that I DIDN’T understand yet.

    I am grateful for that experience BECAUSE, when I landed in the city I live in now, I soon found myself surrounded by a TREATMENT centre influenced fellowship… and they DIDN’T wanna hear it !  lol

    But alas,, they wore me down and I got waay off track from what I was shown in my beginning…

    The net result for me was panic attacks ( I STILL blame the fellowship for and suicidal plans on a daily basis.

    These things I share with you because I found myself in that state at 14 years in the fellowship….. don;’t think for a minute this cannot happen to any of you…. (Ebby warned Bill of this on page 14 btw)

    I pray that each and everyone that reads this will grab a newcomer and take them thru the book.. It just might save YOUR ass like it did mine.

    God bless and may you be Graced by His love at the very time you need it.

  2. this is freaking true, funny, honest, straight to the point, and will save the real addict and alcoholic. i want to print it out and post it!!! love from ur aa sister!!

  3. I agree to a point , that little clicks at times and at some Mtgs. and they are diff to penetrate.Please do not let that stop you from acquiring the best is yet to come. It took allot of courage to get yourself to a mtg.even reaching out to this site, so please try and feel comfortable, and if you feel like talking there is someone who will listen, I remember yrs ago,when a newcomer came into the rooms everyone knew it and we would all help her or him. We used to call it ," taking them under your wing", and show them the ropes, introduce newcomer to other members who live the 12 Steps and ask if they would be interested in being a temp sponsor until you can find someone who you identify with and respect and want the contentment that they eminate. Work through the Big Book. You’ll see, stick around until the miracle happens. You will only then begin to LIVE.

    I might be off topic, but i cannot emphasize enough the importance to acquire this Freedom of self, ONE DAY AT A TIME, and going to Mtgs.

    This is a great site. and i sure hope you stick around , for we all need you.

  4. There’s a kind of bullying widely spread in my country: (spiritual) "shock therapy" one or more members in a closed meeting use strong or subtle terms "with love" to "uncloud" newcomer’s or oldtimer’s minds. My first sponsor (AA) told me about it, the spiritual tool that helped AAs to focus and the oldtimers were admired because they didn’t flinch under any circumstance. If anyone flinches or protests, it’s ‘cos "it’s not working program". I wanted it, I admired it, I thought it was a powerful complement of the 12 Steps (btw, what were they?) and BB. I received it once, yep, helped me, and I tried to apply it and I failed and hurt another fellowship’s member. I never did it anymore. In time I found there’s no sign of this tool in my BB.

    Sometimes when I share my ESH with BB, someone tries to make me flinch. I grab God’s hand and my Steps, and follow the BB instructions to grow spiritually. I share with newcomers my experience and BB’s directions, they may look harder than "shock therapy" but they are giving me a relationship with God and making me able to receive His Sanity, Power, Protection, and Wisdom, much, much successful than any "don’t flinch, don’t … even if your a** fells off"

  5. My first sponsor was a "time bully"…At first she seemed baffled by my claim to have worked the first 3 steps in an hour, but not hostile. The next day, she told me it was "impossible" to work 3 steps in 13 days. When i said, "rare, i agree, but not impossible" she basically dumped me. That was less that 24 hours into our relationship. She said I wasn’t really working the program if i wasn’t submitting to her authority.

    I believe it is my job to submit to the authority of my higher power — who keeps directing me back to muckers and big book thumpers in other 12 step fellowships.

    Sadly, my fellowship does not appear to contain any of them. If it does, I haven’t heard them yet.

    I learned my lesson. I found a friend in my fellowship who believes in the steps and spiritual experience and i stick close to him.

    I am praying and asking about for a Big Book Sponsor who is also SLAA to come into my life, and help me through the rest of these steps.

  6. When I was 2 months sober I was asked to be someone’s sponsor. I was on my 9th step amends and my sponsor told me I could begin sponsoring when I was 1/2 way through my amends. I was only 1/4 way through so I put the peddle to the metal and started cranking out amends. I wanted to carry the message of the Big Book. I was on fire and couldn’t wait to share the 12 step program out of the book. So once I was 1/2 way through I started my sponsorship experience. The women wanting help were a ‘none stop stream’ (still are). It has been the #1 joy and has helped me learn and spiritually grow beyond my wildest dreams.

    Now… Let me tell you the bad part. I got so much trouble from older members of the fellowship. I was called up and told I had no business sponsoring anyone until I had at least year sober… I was gossiped about (we’ll sees if she makes it to a year sober…any one being sponsored by her is in trouble…etc.) Needless to say I wrote a lot of 10th step resentment inventory but I continued to take people through the book.

    Why was it that people in AA felt so threatened by me sponsoring newcomers in my first year? I can’t say I fully know. The only conclusion I’ve come up with is that what I was doing was different. People all through the ages have been persecuted because what they did was different so I suppose my case is no different.

    My "newcomer sponsoring newcomers" status is no more. I have some "time" behind me which took away the stigma that what I was doing was wrong or different. I love the suggestion of going to meetings in groups to carry the message of the Big Book. Smart. I had to make groups up with sponsorship because I had just moved to that town. After that we formed Big Book studies and ran in a pack. It was awesome!!!

    I have recently moved again. It seems there are no Big Book Thumpers in this town accept a few transplants like me. I think I’ve located approximately 10 and sponsored one girl through the process. It looks like we will be starting a BBSS soon.

    If you are new and have been through the steps immediately and rapidly and someone asks you to sponsor them…DO IT!!! Don’t let anyone elses fear dictate what you should and shouldn’t do. I believe God put that Sponsee in your life. Are you going to say no the God and rob yourself of the best part of the program???

    Liz in Michigan

  7. I know this is an old post but I loved what I read. I am currently working on my fourth step and although I’m taking a long time on it (not from dragging my feet mind you, but simply being detailed as well as adding a few things such as other columns-one for mentioning good points about the person/place/thing/or situation that I’m pissed at for example) but I would never tell someone they are doing it wrong if they are doing it quickly. That is probably the best way to be honest. Just the fact that I added a column, if I said that openly at a meeting the people you are referring to would slam me for "doing what I want" without caring about why. These time bullies as you said who contradict the Big Book left and right such as how to treat newcomers (they act pushy despite their being no axes to grind, no people to please, and no lectures to be endured). Looking at it like that, they wind up contradicting much of the book. There are lots of religious people who do things resembling the steps yet we don’t classify them as following the AA program. These time bullies are AA members on a technicality, the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. I personally don’t classify them as AA members aside from that, their view points are gibberish and exist for me to ignore them, that is my OBLIGATION to myself. They don’t know what they are talking about, they aren’t followers of the Big Book, they are fans. Why would I ever do what they want me to do? I knew one who although he followed the steps, he was an ass. He demanded that you do a fourth step on white paper and black ink. You MUST do a fifth step with a sponsor. Neither one of these ideas are anywhere to be found in the book. It does say in regards to the fourth step "we put them down before us in black and white" but there is no MUST and even if there was Pg. 164 tells me to basically take out a sharpie and scratch all musts and haftas from the pages as "our book is meant to be suggestive ONLY" thereby canceling all the other "musts" out that came before that one at the end. I would tell anyone to do a fourth step on yellow paper and blue ink or on a laptop(as a laptop was a big time no no with that guy) and go out of your way to do a fifth step with someone outside of AA. What I hear a lot lately is if you don’t trust your sponsor enough to do a fifth step with him, you have the wrong sponsor. I say you should NEVER trust a fellow AA member with a fifth step. I have done it before and nothing bad happened, but on another occasion in a different area of the country, things on my fifth step didn’t stay confidential. Never again. Had I just followed the book, that wouldn’t have happened. If I do a fourth step in paragraph form on yellow paper in blue ink and do a fifth step with NO ONE in AA, yet I stay sober, I’ll know it’s my higher power. I had the audacity and arrogance to bold faced reject these rule and regulations that contradict the Big Book, making me allegedly selfish and self centered doing what I want to do in accordance with MY will, if me following the book is me acting so selfish and arrogant, I should become more arrogant than anyone can possibly imagine. I should take my self will to the ends of the earth and drag my life through the mud with it. If their idea of me being arrogant is me not contradicting the book, then I’ll boldly be arrogant! So important to know the book. Alcoholics have broken bullshit detectors, knowing the book is a great way to fix our broken bullshit detector, wonderful way to not be bedazzled by bullshit such as nonsensical rules that obnoxious time bullies invent that are no where to be found in the book.

  8. I’m not completely sold on the idea of someone with 30, 60 or 90 days or 6 or 8 months claiming they “have worked Steps 1-8 and are living in 9, 10, 11 and 12”. I also know having a year doesn’t atutomatically mean you have any sober spiritual solution based support to offer the next person. And maybe it’s just me and the meetings I’ve attended, but a lot of newcomers seeking AA gold stars are popping up, spouting the jargon of the BB but having no internal understanding or working knowledge of the program. AA doesn’t need to cultivate a plethora/plague of codependent, people pleasing, self seeking, fear based, dishonest, selfish emotional vampires with a handful of days claiming to be working a program and available to sponsor others. The spiritual life is not a theory, that’s why there’s a general one year + and 12 step knowledge sponsorship suggestion – we need to know if you can really live it.

  9. I arrived in AA in the 1970’s. In and out. Ran into a lot of people who wanted me to do 90 in 90 and run my life. Call me everyday. Call me before you drink. Call me before you make any decision. Meetings seemed to be the same thing as the treatment center group sessions. I thought that was what AA was. I thought the guy with 15 years had know what he is talking about. I even go sober from 1994 to 2001 with the help of a counselor who should me how to do a 4th step and said I needed to make amends. I did some half assed step work and I had arrived. Hung around AA a couple of years and left AA because I “Got It”. I got the car, the girl, the house, the job, the money …

    For those who really know the book know I was doomed. I drank again and “it” all went away in 18 Months.

    In 2002 I was finally approached by a recovered alcoholic who actually followed the directions in Chapter 7, “Working With Others”. For the first time in 25 Years I learned about the disease. The Obsession of the Mind, The Allergy, The Insanity that leads to the first drink. Why lack of Power was my dilemma. Because will power, fear or self knowledge will not stop me from taking the first drink. I learned that I was to IMMEDIATELY to embark on vigorous course of action if I wanted what he had, a mind that was restored to sanity as a result of doing the work. I learned Step Takers Make It and Step Takers go to meetings to carry the message that is in the book and to find the next alcoholic to work with. I learned that there are a lot of people in AA who do not know what they are talking about not matter how long they have been sober. I am now an unabashed Big Book Thumper and I make sure that no one has to wait 25 years to understand the problem and the solution. Until an alcoholic understands the problem and the solution little or nothing can be accomplished. That I know is a fact. The great fact is, God has entered into my life in a way that is miraculous. He accomplished for me the the things I could not do for myself. God has restored me to sanity when it comes to the first drink and because of that a new world came into view with endless possibilities.

    I had a spiritual awaking at about 4 months, as a result of the steps and started sponsoring immediately and I have been doing so ever since. There is no need to change what’s not broke. The founders got it right.

    I am a grateful recovered alcoholic.

  10. Grateful for one more day of Freedom, Freedom from alcohol. I was 16 years sober, sponsored, and sponsoring, service work commitments had a homegroup. I had worked all 12 Steps and I was restless, irritable and discontent. In 2014 there was a Big Book Step Study workshop, as worked by Fourth Dimension groups. All my selfish, self-centered egomanic reared it’s ugly head and said “You dont need no workshop. My God said “You better go!” I did! And have been rocketed into a whole new “vital spiritual experience!”. I shared the “clear-cut directions and the time tables as they are laid in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous with my sponsor who had 37 years in 2014.
    I am ever so grateful for this journey as a revcovered
    alkie. I try to share with others- and yes come up against those time bullies. I dont waste my time, I look for another suffering drunk to help. The website for the Fourth Dimension Group in Dayton, Ohio –

  11. I avoid meetings where a few dominant personalities control the group and especially where those types have to share every single meeting and hold the group hostage for long winded, repetitive shares. A group where 2 or three members get to speak in a 30 minute or more discussion period is not a group. It is a controlled dog and pony show that has no recovery in it. I do not tolerate, for one second, and threats or violence. This ‘magical kingdom’ view of 12 Step meetings is bull. If someone engages in threats or acts of violence, I will get up and call 911. The group, if it will not deal with such behavior, has no say over me protecting myself from out of control members who are violent and threatening.

  12. Thanks heaps for al tbe replies and tbe first post. I know that this is not an exciting post- its just thanks so much thanks. So reasuring and informative. Frim Susan

  13. Just witnessed a newcomer get beat down by an “old timer” who is a self absorbed windbag. The newcomer is a young female who has been attending our home group for two months. The progress she was making was remarkable. Her appearance, her attitude, her self respect and confidence was returning and refreshing to watch. She had just started opening up and sharing her experiences when the old timer interrupted and told her we weren’t interested in her pity party and to wrap it up. She stood up and left. The entire mood of the meeting had shifted to an awkward feeling of disappointment.

  14. I’ve been attending 12 step programs for the last few years. I got the big book (and read it) attended meet and watch the other members with an eye to find someone that could be helpful to me and show me how to work the steps. The BB suggested that the 12 steps could be worked in a few months. So I found a sponsor/guide and told him what I had read and he agreed to guide me. Over the next few months he “suggested” and I did the work. I was amazed how better I felt by the time I got to the 9th step and I was even willing to help something I don’t normally do. But I had a goal An other 12 step program, that I knew did not have sponsor/guildes, or very few and the few were controlling. I knew I had to work the step by my self. I was very fortunate to find a group that used a work book to go through the steps.

    My problems came when I finish the work books and tried to be part of the social functions. Was I suprised, I really had to be careful about what I said and did around these people. Not all but a majority were not very well and did not seem to notice how sick they acted towards me (can’t say how they treated others). I mean 30 years and still feel the need to control others.

    I’m now at a cross roads, I get a little support and there are meeting almost any time of day, but I feel all alone and left out, I don’t want to help or share. I tend to stay in my room these days. The problem I have has always been relationships. I don’t want a relationship where I have to give up myself in order to please any others, in fact I will not do that. But I have not found a support group to repace what little I do have. My thinking is I need to find a church that will be my support system and a place I can help.I am a believer and lets face it if your higher power is a door knob or any other not-god we will not be conpatable on a spritual level. Maybe it is time to stop this and move on. And then there is the whole fake Tony A. that started ACA and wrote the Laundry list. It mades me wonder if any of the A. programs are real or just a composite of lies.

  15. Hi everyone. I’m from Russia.I’ve been sober for 2.5 month and doing 4th column of the 4th step, practice 10,11 and 12th step on a daily basis.

    So, when I came to my first ever meeting the room was full of alcoholics with at least 5 years of soberity. I raised the hand when they asked who’s seeking a sponsor.They made fun of me and suggested to complete 90 meetings in 90 days.I’ve been extremely fortunate there was a person who is famous in local AA community and he ended up being in a room by accident.He caught me after a meeting, invited to other group where everyone is talking about the spiritual experience while or after the Steps.So,I found a sponsor and immediately started the work.

    I’m currently not able to travel to other groups and attend the meetings where 80% have never done Steps as they explained in BB or just say I’m not ready yet.In the future I may try…So,I feel anger and bullying every time I share the experience.One person with 10 years of soberty just laught at me when I said I’m on my third month of recovery.He told me try to stay sober for at least a year and we talk.They keep saing euphoria and pink clouds….They just cannot believe I already don’t understand all the BS they talk.They come to the meetings for years and complain about the things that actually disappear by themselves If you work on 12 steps.

    To sum up, exactly the same problem in Russian AA.We who work on Steps now feel the strangers in our community.I definitely have doubted myself and my little spiritual experiences while I progress due to comment of other members of the group.

  16. Interesting concepts. I like what I’ve read though I have quit fitting anything, even alcohol (trying to allow this concept into my life anyway)

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