Alcoholics Anonymous meetings attract people from all walks of life. Those who attend will also have different motivations for doing so. The majority are there because they want to escape their addiction, but there will also be people who feel obliged to attend or are ambivalent about their recovery. There are also some individuals who have been attending these meetings for many years but still engage in behavior that would be considered unwise – such people can be a bad example to newcomers. The only requirement of AA membership is the desire to stop drinking. With such a mixed bunch of people it is hardly surprising that occasionally personality clashes will occur.
To classify a person as difficult is not an exact science. This is because it is a subjective judgment. Each human will have their own quirks and oddities along with their own likes and dislikes. An individual that one person might find to be difficult another person might view as a joy to be with. Sometimes an individual will find another person difficult to be around without even being able to provide a justification for their negative feelings. Some of the most common reasons for why people become labeled as difficult include:
* The individual is viewed as completely self absorbed and shows no interest in other people. When they join in any conversation they want to dominate it and for the focus to be on their life and opinions.
* Those individuals who are arrogant can alienate other people by being too forceful in their opinions. Arrogance is a common character trait among addicts and it is a highly unattractive personality trait.
* Some members of Alcoholics Anonymous get negatively labeled as Big Book zealots. They spend a great deal of their time talking about the program, and may excessively quote passages from the text – some people are inspired by this type of individual but others dislike it.
* Some people can be overly negative and pessimistic, and this makes them hard to be around. Their presence can be like a dark could in a room.
* Most AA meetings will have at least one dry drunk who treats their recovery as being similar to serving a prison sentence. These individuals tend to be highly cynical about sobriety and will encourage other people to adopt similarly negative views.
* There are some individuals who are excessively demanding and who expect other people to do everything for them. This type of learned helplessness can be difficult to deal with.
* Some people who attend the meetings may still be drinking or have relapsed. Those who are newly sober may find it difficult to deal with those who are still in the midst of addiction.
* Not all AA members are good examples of tolerance. Some will hold views that will be considered sexist, racist, bigoted, or just plain mean spirited – there are even some old timers who hold such intolerant views.
One of the most common reasons for why one individual will label another as difficult is due to a personality clash. It refers to a situation where the personal characteristics of one person make it difficult for them to have a good relationship with people who have other personal characteristics. An example of this would be where somebody with a strong work ethic is put in a situation where they are reliant on another individual who has a more relaxed attitude towards work. In some instances a personality clash will occur because the character traits of both people are too similar. For example, two individuals who are bossy may find it hard to work together because they fall into a power struggle. Such clashes are most likely to occur when:
* People are forced into a position where they have to spend time with people they would not normally choose to be around.
* Where there are differences in power and authority such as in work.
* Where one person is dependent on another individual to get a project done.
Alcoholics Anonymous attracts people from almost every walk of life so it hardly surprising that personality clashes occur. Joining such a group means that the individual needs to spend time with people who they might not normally associate with. It is unlikely that they are going to get on well with everyone – particularly in early sobriety when they have not yet developed emotional sobriety.
If the individual fails to deal effectively with difficult people in recovery it can lead to all sorts of problems such as:
* Some people will use this as a justification to relapse back to their addiction. Addicts are expert are blaming others for their own bad decisions.
* In many instances the real problem won’t be the other person. By blaming such discomfort on outside sources people can ignore the real cause of the problem.
* It is impossible to get through life without encountering difficult people. If the individual does not learn to cope with such confrontations they are likely to suffer a great deal.
* These conflicts can harm a person’s career and make their work environment uncomfortable. It is best to get along with other people at work if at all possible.
* Those individuals who easily develop a dislike of others can find it hard to develop any meaningful relationships.
* Feeling bitterness or anger towards other people can be highly destructive forces in recovery. It can lead to stinking thinking and an inability to feel comfortable in sobriety.
Dealing with difficult people is just a part of life. The individual can deal with such encounters by:
* Viewing these difficult encounters as a chance to learn and grow. It is only when people are challenged in life that they have the real motivation to develop.
* In many instances the problem will be with the person who is getting annoyed and not the source of the annoyance. It can often be the case that this other individual has triggered something inside the individual that needs fixing.
* Sometimes the best solution will be avoidance. This is particular important if the other person is attempting to sabotage an individual’s sobriety.
* It is important to set clear boundaries and politely but firmly let the other person know when they have crossed it.
* Some meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous are so full of negativity that they can be fairly labeled as dysfunctional. It is best to avoid such meetings completely and look for a new group.
* Those individuals who are newly sober are likely to find it too difficult to be around active alcoholics. It is best to avoid spending time with those AA members who are still drinking and leave it to the more experienced members to offer help.
* If people find themselves getting annoyed with Big Book thumpers they should investigate what it is that is so irritating about them.
* It is never a good idea to allow these personality clashes to lead to arguments. It is better to walk away than to argue because such conflicts only lead to bad feelings.
* In a perfect world everybody would get along with everyone else, but this is not something that is realistic for those in early recovery. It is best to just accept that there will be people who are harder to deal with than others.
* Practices such as loving kindness meditation are excellent for helping people become more tolerant of difficult people. Such a practice means that the individual can develop compassion for even somebody they once viewed as a bitter enemy.
* Sometimes people have to fake it to make it. This may mean being nice to people who are difficult to be around.