The great struggle for people with some time sober is to avoid becoming what the AA literature calls a "Bleeding Deacon." (And welcome to my nightmare. I have a powerful fear of going that route without even realizing it.)
The goal, according to the literature, is to eventually grow into a comfortable "Elder Statesman" status. (There's a very old business expression called "The Gray Eminence" which I think alludes to the same role in an organization -- sort of the person who is available to advise, and who's experience is relied upon at forks in the road for both the individual and the organization, but they are not trying to be in authority over anyone, and their role is perhaps quieter than it once was).
In my AA adventures I've met some folks who, in my opinion, were doing the deacon, and others who seemed like wonderful examples of being the elder. We learn from each others' behavior in this regard -- and we have to -- because the "main" AA literature (The Big Book and the 12 & 12) was written before anyone had the kind of long-term sobriety many of us are blessed with today. In my circle of acquaintance I could rattle off two dozen names with 20 or more years sober without even trying -- and my circle isn't all that unusual in AA in 2010. (The Big Book was written by the "first hundred alcoholics" -- give or take a body or two -- Bill W. acted as 'chief' author -- someone had to pound away at the typewriter after all -- but he had very strong input from the group as a whole, especially for the first five chapters -- and how they survived writing by committee is a miracle unto itself, I wager. At that time, however, if I have my facts straight, no one was even five years sober. Bill himself later wrote the "12 & 12" when he was about 13 years sober. This does not mean the literature is lacking anything, it's just context.)
Time is not a tool -- but I might be, if I'm not careful. While we are all sober just for today, and I personally do not give great weight to "time sober" as any special measure of wellness (after all, it's not how long you've been sober which determines your spiritual fitness, it's what you are currently doing that makes all the difference -- bit more on that here), there is a truth on the other side of this point as well. Time is not a tool, but obviously some of the problems and challenges which assail an alcoholic in their first 30 days are substantively different than the ones which must be faced at 30 months or 30 years. Same disease, same medicine, but some different challenges along the way in addressing the former and implementing the latter.
All of which leads me up to a few thoughts on How To Avoid Becoming A Bleeding Deacon:
1. Alcoholism is serious, but recovery is funny. If you lose your sense of humor -- especially about your sober self -- that's heading for Bleeding Deacon territory. Maybe another way of saying that is if you lose your humility you will lose your sense of humor -- and boy then won't you be fun at parties.
2. You know a lot, but you don't know everything. Lots of sober experience and lots of time working with the literature and other alcoholics can give someone a broad knowledge base. But that doesn't make you an expert. No one is an authority in (or about) AA, and those that play at it are just waltzing their egos around the room. (And it's possible to play at it very, very subtly. One must really watch for that over time.)
3. There is a difference between rigid and disciplined -- and the short answer I believe is that the difference lies in what motivates us. Rigidity comes from fear of doing things wrong. Discipline hopefully is sourced by an attempt to do things right. (And a bit more on that here). Being rigid about AA flies in the face of the open-minded and balanced tone found in all of the AA literature -- especially the Big Book.
That's it, really. All the men and women with a good many years sober in AA whom I hope to emulate seem to have those three things going on.
One day at a time I try to too.