Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Who needs cliques?

Graphic borrowed shamelessly from Sobriety is Exhausting

I've always viewed the Fellowship realistically, I think. I haven't expected it to meet all my social needs (I have many friends outside recovery), and while I have close friends in the Fellowship, there are a lot of people I don't hang with nor do I want to. And guess what? They don't want to hang with me either.

I had a gal come to me a few nights ago from a city about 30 miles away, referred by a local member. Her problem? Despite having 12 years in our camp, she is often excluded by people in the Fellowship, even those on whose committees she's serving. I didn't know what to tell her except I understood because I, too, experienced it; that she's probably not crazy; and offer my view on the matter. I didn't come to NA to win a popularity contest.

One of the things I've disliked about the NA Fellowship here in Missouri is the "cliques" that form and seem to almost delight in excluding people. I have thick skin in that regard. I developed it early because when I got clean in Arizona, I wasn't embraced by the "in crowd," most of whom, I might mention, aren't around today. No matter what "hot stuff" they were when they were here, they ultimately were part of, as Red in Phoenix used to say, "the passing parade."

I don't delight in that fact; I'm not judging, just reporting. It's just that even though I had my own pals I loved, as I watched those people in early recovery walk around like they were the "it" crowd, it was still slightly painful to be ignored.

I remember one night we went to see a band in Arizona called Killer Pussy, headlined by the vivacious Lucy LaMode. I went with my group of friends and was all dressed up in a tight black miniskirt and I thought I looked mahvelous (I did, I have pictures!). As we were standing in line, the NA "in crowd" showed up in a gaggle (they always went everywhere in a gaggle, like they were afraid to be alone with themselves) and one of the leaders of the clique looked at me like I was dirt. She is long gone, by the way, in and out for almost twenty years.

I heard a speaker the other night say that people complain to her about the cliques in NA. "Clique with those you clique with," she advised. I find that good advice. If I keep expecting people who clearly don't want to bother with me to pay attention to me, then I'm repeating the same action and expecting different results, which we all know as our version of insanity. An expectation is a premeditated resentment.

When I worked for World Service, now that was a clique. I was working on literature for the Fellowship, and yet when our members from Phoenix came in for their conferences or whatever, they barely spoke to me, made sure they didn't invite me to dinner, and many times I went home to a lonely house knowing they were having fun and didn't care that they'd excluded me. It was extremely painful and humiliating.

It's difficult when you feel excluded, but there are several answers. First, keep hitting meetings until you find ones that you like. Second, be there for the newcomers who come in the door. Focus on giving away what you have.

While we're human and it's natural that we congregate in our mini-tribes (recall that tribes were founded for survival), I find it absurd that we form these tight cliques for several reasons.

  1. Many of us starting using in high school precisely because we didn't fit in with the "in crowd." Why would we perpetuate this dysfunction once we get clean is beyond me and extremely shallow and selfish behavior.

  2. I never know who will save my bacon when I'm tempted to get loaded. In my case, it was one of the ringleader of the Phoenix cliche who happened to be home the day I thought I was going to get loaded when I had seven years clean.

  3. The program, in its original form when it was founded by Bill W. and Dr. Bob, was based on Biblical principles, and the basis, as I understand the Bible anyway, is love. Love to me extends to all, the geeks who wear pencil protectors, those with funny teeth (I'm not talking just the English here), Blacks, Hispanics, Jews, Lesbians, overweight people, Gays, well, the list goes on and on, as I'm sure you can see. I doubt that the Apostles would have thought of themselves as a clique.

So if the Fellowship cliques are bothering you, turn it over. It probably isn't going to change because I'm on a rant about it. Find those you love and those who love you and remember, stick with the winners, most of whom aren't in cliques, in my opinion, anyway.


Meg Moran said...

Killer pussy? Lucy LaMode? Isn't life rich?

Anonymous said...

I was taught from jump that what other people think about me is none of my business. I internalized that and it has saved my bacon on many occasions.
I refuse to "clique." I hug and speak to everyone that I possibly can because, as you said, it is about LOVE.
I think because people can SEE me doing that, they think twice about "cliquing" around me.
Peace and thanks for a good post (again),

lushgurl said...

Very well said. I too started using in high school in some vain attempt to 'fit in'. It is sad but true that these cliques are formed everywhere ( reminds me of a post by a friend...Bitch Olympics by Stay-at-home-mayhem).

I do my best to welcome all into the rooms, but try to stick with the ones who are there for the same reason as I am-To stay clean and sober, and to carry the message...

An Irish Friend of Bill said...

cliques are NAFF. Only people with really bad social skils do 'exclusivity'. -In my opinion! There is implied SUPERIORITY when people do that. Thats what I find it so unappealing. I always stuck with the 'inclusive' types as I HATE snobbery of ANY kind. 'Hate the sin and not the sinner' and all that!
There will always be people like this in aa, but I've never met anyone I really liked who was cliquey. They CERTAINLY don't 'have what I want' thats for sure. Good post!