The most important member of a 12-step meeting is debatable. Many would argue that the people who are coming to meetings the longest, or those who have had the most extensive exposure and experience with addiction recovery, are the most valuable assets to the meeting of Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholic Anonymous. Those, it may be argued, are the people best able to cut the curve of learning and show others the pattern of behavior that has yielded the best results. While there is truth in the statements of their value, I disagree that they are the most important members.
I have the greatest respect for the long-time members and learn volumes of meaningful information, which I credit to them, as well as a great deal of my growth. But I have found over the years that the most important member of the group is often the newest member. Yes, the person who has little or no experience.
I think back to Jewish heritage and to the Passover Seder, where the topic of asking questions is raised. The story of Passover speaks of four sons: a wicked son, a wise son, a simple son, and a son who doesn’t know how to ask. The correlation to recovery is clear; the beginner is like the son who doesn’t know how to ask because they haven’t experienced enough to know what to ask for. So, their questions often seem odd or incongruent. But where the question leads us is often a new and special place.
The beginner asks things the rest of the experienced people take for granted. We tend to forget the origins of our journey and the trauma that accompanies the journey. The newcomer brings us back and reminds us that we all are alike in so many ways.
The beginner is seeking answers to unknown questions. They seek healing, and they want to save their loved ones. Their minds are open and absorbent; they even sometimes ask stupid questions and given time and effort, they can heal.
The more we learn, the less we question what we learn. We become more rigid over time, closing our minds to new ideas, thoughts, and approaches. We who are long-timers often forget that recovery is a process, not an event and that there is no single answer to any question. As a beginner, you enter the room with an empty cup, longing for information and answers to fill it. And through those questions, we all grow.
The strongest words for learning begin with, “I don’t know.” We have to admit our ignorance and willingness to find out more. Lack of knowledge may be a good thing in certain circumstances; however, when you’re dealing with an addict, it isn’t so.
By opening our minds, we begin to hear the steps, we begin to hear about the power we lack, and we begin to understand that we can’t always use common sense because everything we need to do is the opposite of what common sense tells us to do.
The greatest risk of a beginner is fear. Fear can destroy the strongest person and drive them to do everything wrong. Don’t be afraid to learn something new. It can make all the difference. Be proud to be a beginner, and know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel with hope and promises.