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Stuff Oldtimers Say

We all know that addiction is a disease that doesn’t discriminate. Addicts and alcoholics are of all different racial, ethnic, cultural, and religious groups; are rich and poor, young and old. Though not all of the older folks are actual “oldtimers” (you know who I mean, the people with double-digits – the ones who have been in the rooms of AA long before we even started drinking and drugging), it isn’t too difficult to spot who the true-blue oldtimers are – they’re the ones who know all the AA sayings…and use them, a lot.

With all the usual stuff oldtimers say, it’s no wonder that the court-ordered folks, newcomers, and outsiders alike think AA is some kind of cult.

So, here they are, typical AA phrases that oldtimers just love to say.

“Sick and tired of being sick and tired” – you know this one, I’m sure. We can all identify with this saying – for most, if not all of us, it was this sentiment that got us to finally get help. I guess oldtimers like this one so much because it has a sort of clever ring to it and really expresses how it feels to be stuck in the rut of addiction.

“What it was like, what happened, and what it’s like now” – another way to put this one is: experience, strength, and hope. It’s a sort of formula for how to go about sharing in meetings. For some, though, their share never quite gets to the “what it’s like now” part – they get caught up in a war story or a current dramatic event without moving on to the solution.

“My worst day sober is better than my best day drinking” – hmmm, I have heard so many people say this one as well as a lot of people who say, “really? ‘cause I had some pretty good times while I was out there getting messed up.” I get it. Yes, life is much better now that I’m sober but, it’s arguable that say, a sober day that involved getting in a car accident, running over the neighbor’s cat, and getting a root canal was way better than that time in college when…

“Let go and let God” – frequently given as advice by 12-steppers who are simply feeling good and aren’t quite sure why, or more likely, those who are stumped by whatever is thrown at them. Basically, it’s just something to say when a situation seems impossible.

“Have an attitude of gratitude” – this just sounds cheesy. Don’t get me wrong, gratitude is the key to being happy in life but, this rhymy saying detracts from the importance of being grateful.

“Keep it Simple, Stupid” – OK, who are you calling “stupid?” I think most of us who struggle with addiction are actually too smart for our own good and that’s why we get into the predicaments we do. I get it – we shouldn’t overthink stuff like the steps. But you don’t have to sound so damned condescending!

“If you hang around a barber shop long enough, sooner or later you’re gonna get a haircut” – ugh! This is probably one of the most annoying things that oldtimers say. Why not just say, if you are around the same people, places, and things as before, you’re gonna keep using like before.

 “You’re only as sick as your secrets” – it’s true that if you hold onto the dark sh*t you’ve done or that’s happened to you, it will eat you up. Sometimes, though, I think oldtimers say this just so they get to hear the juicy tidbits of your story.

“You’re either moving towards a drink or away from one” – really? I think there is a lot more going on in life than drinking/not drinking.

“Take the cotton from your ears and shove it in your mouth” – yet another really annoying thing that oldtimers say. It’s true, as addicts and alcoholics, we often think we know best and so being open to suggestions is a good habit to get into. But, just like “keep it simple, stupid,” this one is a bit condescending in tone.

“I’ve spilled more alcohol than you drank” – said to the younger folks in AA. A quick way to shut this one up is to say something to the effect of: “well, obviously you weren’t a very good alcoholic if you spilled your alcohol; I made sure I drank all of mine!”


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