We say it over and over: The newcomer is the most important person in the room. For years I thought that was a kind of generous or gracious statement, kind of a Junior-League-ish way of making an especially gushing welcome. Later I thought it was philosophical; a reminder that those of us with more time need to put ourselves aside and attend—with businesslike determination to the new person in the room.
Yesterday I was reminded that our focus on the newcomer is neither of these. It is in fact stunningly selfish and deeply rewarding. Again, the paradox of this program: a selfish program requiring selfless service.
In yesterday’s meeting we addressed the concerns of a woman with two days sober. She spoke of her physical discomfort and the flooding of emotions she was experiencing. One after another people with sobriety ranging from three months to 27 years spoke to those feelings, memories and crucially the strategies they learned in AA and used to manage all of that. It was a fabulous tool kit for anyone with any amount of sobriety. I took it all in while feeling the collective love in the room pulling for the newcomer and in awe of the collective wisdom available in a room full of drunks.