Oldtimers Disease

This is from an old NA WAY, circa 1989(?)

Oldtimers Disease

Time of Onset

At any time during recovery. The disease has been observed in its beginning stages as early as a few months into recovery (when it's sometimes referred to as, 'the ninety-day wonder condition.') It is more common among persons with many years in the program. Some researchers suspect that the longer people are in recovery, the greater the risk of the disease occurring.


Among those who have contracted the disease, certain behaviors and attitudes routinely occur. Since no single one of them necessarily indicates the presence of oldtimer’s disease, but may, instead, point to some related or associated condition, the following list should be used to diagnose oneself rather than other persons.

Principle symptoms include:

- Infrequent attendance at NA meetings.  Excuses: meetings are not the way they used to be, or are even boring, or do not have good recovery because of the presence of so many newcomers.
- When speaking at meetings, reminding those present of the length of one’s time in the program.  Such reminders can be obvious or subtle. They may even be preceded by assurances of gratitude to those who helped one to achieve recovery.
- Refusal to get, or to use a sponsor. This is often explained by the observation that no individual can be found whose recovery is longer than one’s own – which indicates a confusion between quality of recovery and quantity of recovery.
- Complaints (privately expressed) that NA is not as it used to be, or has been watered down, or is in serious danger of becoming ineffective, in part because of all the new people coming in.
- The belief that one is the definitive interpreter of and authority on the Basic Text, the Steps and Traditions, and thus is the savior of NA from it’s less enlightened members.
- Preaching the message (often with the index finger upraised) rather than sharing experience, strength, and hope. This symptom can show itself in a variety of ways. For example, frequently beginning sentences with, “You should” or “You need to” instead of , “I did” or “I am doing."
- Resentment if one is not called upon at a meeting, and resentment against those who have been called upon to speak. Special resentment is reserved for the person chairing the meeting.
- Referring constantly to one's past struggles, defaults and triumphs. Only in the rarest of instances is there any reference to present problems. Behind this lies the belief that, granted one's years of recovery, one ought not to have any current problems. There is, in addition, the fear that admission that one's life is not always wonderful and joyous might damage the effectiveness of NA in the eyes of newcomers.

Cause of Disease

Pride and Fear

Depending on the severity of the individual case, one or more of the following will probably prove effective:
- Frequent meetings. Daily for one to three months, if possible
- Involvement with a strong, insightful, available sponsor, especially one with extensive experience working with newcomers or potential relapsers.
- Re-working the Steps, beginning with Step One, with special emphasis on Steps Three and Eleven
- Listening carefully at meetings. The practice of listening is greatly enhanced by the decision not to speak at meetings, even if called upon, thus freeing one from having to prepare what one wishes to say while others are speaking.
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I have been afflicted by this disease many times in my recovery. The suggested treatment is very effective.
I need to keep reading this to remind myself of where I am in my program, because the alternative...

Keep The Faith*