I believe this is a characteristic we share with the alcoholic, an endless loop in our mind continually returning our attention back to ... us.
No matter where the conversation may roam, some people will always arrive at the destination of self.
Some of us are not very socially skilled when we come into Al-Anon, and this is one of the reasons that we can have trouble making friends - do you like to listen to someone go on forever about themselves? I know I don't, and never have, but that was who I was years ago, a person unable to wrench my mind from my own troubles, worries, stresses, etc, for long enough to allow for any space in a friendship for the other person. It was all about me. I wasn't much, but I was all I thought about.
This is why 12-Step encourages us to work with others - when we are giving of ourselves to another person, not only are we passing on this wonderful program, but we are also granted time out of the madhouse between our own ears. Being a good listener requires paying attention. Paying attention requires that we listen. Not sit in silence waiting for them to stop talking so that we can start up again, but really listen. Engage our entire self in being present for this person. Listen for what's being said, and what's left unsaid. Learn to read facial expressions so that we may be even more available. Be loving in our gift of our time, and our attention.
Yes, there are going to be times when we'll be taken hostage by another newcomer totally absorbed in themselves, but this is the ebb and flow of a relationship - some days it's more for me, some days it's more for you - vulnerability and strength shifts and moves. I'm not always feeling full of patience, and there will be times when I have less to give my sponsees or another program friend who calls, but the very least I can do, is listen, and stay in the moment with them, and that much I can do even when I'm feeling depleted through fatigue and physical discomfort. When I really have not a darn thing left to give, I don't answer the phone. I know they have the phone list, and they can find another member with whom to share.
I'm clear on what's mine, and what isn't. It's not up to me as someone's sponsor, to keep them entertained. I can walk beside them as they take those first scary steps into being more social, and I can be there afterwards when they need to figure out what happened and how they felt. I can rejoice with them when they begin to get newcomers calling them for help, and the cycle begins all over again.
This week, I went to visit my old sponsor in the last place we lived, and then for tea with another friend, and when I was driving the hour or so back to the city, I was content. I have so much for which I feel a boundless, leaping ,joyful gratitude. Life is good.