I remember the weather was cold, but I don’t remember with precision what year it was; 2015 perhaps. Let’s go with 2015. The year is not as significant as the experience. I was, after all, reluctantly coaxed into my first AA meeting. The first and last AA Meeting I would attend for my recovery.
I said “yes” to the AlcoholicsAnonymous meeting in order to get out of being in trouble with my second wife. I am sure I had been on some benders and things got out of hand as they typically would, and I landed into a self-painted corner. The ultimatum was that I go into a rehab facility or go to AA. I chose AA.
Regarding the first choice, I never had sugary feelings when I thought of in-patient treatment for my program, but I know it is necessary for some. So I chose what I believed to be the easy route and one would not disrupt my job, family, time or livelihood despite the fact that indulging my alcohol intake was helping me do that already.
We walked up to the church building on that crisp night and into the meeting room. There were a lot of people in attendance. One man was the “father figure” and took it upon himself to smell everyone’s water bottles when they came into the building. He also handed out candy, which made up for the lack of refreshments. Naturally, I thought this was invasive but looking back, this fellow was simply helping to create a safe environment for everyone.
We read over the 12 Steps and one by one began to share an inventory of our week. It was hard not to size up everyone in the room and somehow compare me to them. It was derogatory thinking, but I chalk that up to me having a very human moment. After experiencing the low end of low with addiction and getting clean, with an understanding of addiction, I don’t do that anymore. That is the stigma within the culture and anthropology where I live. It’s a bit facetious, but the collective mentality is that murder is the worst and the next trespass is being an addict. I digress, but this is why we should all take the time to understand the addictive mind.
Previously, I had only witnessed AA meetings on TV or in movies and was hoping the part where you say: “My name is (insert name) and I’m an addict.” Was not an actual moment; mainly because I didn’t want a crowd of people all saying in unison: “HI (INSERT NAME)!!!” But they did, and I laughed. I still do when I have attended other groups outside of my recovery program. I promise it’s not juvenile humor.
When it came around to me, I pretentiously shared what I thought I needed to in order to get in good graces with my then-wife. By doing so I got nothing out of the meeting because I put nothing into it. Most everyone else shared and I thought “I am way better off than everyone here. Jeezo, and with fewer problems.” That thinking is both selfish and dysfunctional.
The takeaway I had was “look, that was weird. AA is not for me I’ll shape up so I never have to do that again.” My then-wife, the epitome of an enabler, took what I said as truth and we went home.
By the next day, I was already off the wagon. An addict will always find a way to get what they want. Recovery, however, is uncharted waters and I believed AA would help me stop drinking with one meeting. The truth is that I wasn’t ready to stop indulging in my addictive behaviors. Also, my mind was made up of AA; it isn’t for me. Ultimately, no program was going to work for me until I mended some serious emotional fencing.
That one AA meeting helped me understand that my program would need to be different; it was an unconventional choice so to say. I refused AA and I refused inpatient. Outpatient would be one my choice but I lacked the courage to go; that’s hurdle number one. The second obstacle is getting over how much it will cost. I found that when I wasn’t spending $400 a month on booze or substances, a byproduct of that choice was it put $400 back in my pocket. What are the odds?
Aside from the cost of time spent in attendance, AA is free. But I knew AA, the atmosphere and feel, was not for me. It still isn’t. I appreciate the program to no end, especially after learning of its origins and impact; my outpatient program informed me of the lives AA has touched and still does. But it wasn’t for me. I used to feel bad saying that but my program needed to be individualized and tailored to who I was.
So my first AA meeting was also my last, that is until I began to attend with friends and my wife after being clean for some time. I am not endorsing this as the behavior to follow; I’m just telling my story. My recovery had many dry runs, AA was one of them but I also belly-flopped with outpatient too. It’s hard in those moments of failure. It’s hard not knowing what to do; it creates hesitation and a hesitated, addicted mind, will not make great choices until it is trained to do so.
So what if AA isn’t for you? Is AA always the answer? Do you keep going or give up? I was given suggestions just to keep going followed by more ultimatums, but I don’t do ultimatums very well. And like anyone else, I find it hard to stick with something that I’m genuinely disinterested in. I believe it is OK if you believe AA is not for you, but you better find what is. I say again, you better find what is! Have a word with yourself and find it.
My experience (and effort) was lackluster but I gathered a few insights from the whole ordeal, enough to make my mind search for other avenues/programs. So does AA work? Is it an all-encompassing program for everyone? Well, I like the answer in the first linked article below. The answer is “It’s Complicated.”
It is complicated because individuals are complicated. The push for recognizing a “higher power” will not appeal to the atheist. Nor does it appeal to someone that has had a religious zealot pushing doctrine down the addict’s throat (this would be my case in my previous marital situations). Hoax, scam, fraud, etc. are names you will find on the internet about AA; you don’t have to look far. Leave it to the billion of internet users to find complete polarity between any subject. Why even mention all this? Well, life isn’t the Disney Chanel. What I mean is that it isn’t safe and happy all the time. It is good to know differing opinions to stay informed but you best get your own through your own experience. Follow the gut, heart and mind as a compass to betterment.
In 2015 I read the good, bad and horrific of every program I could find. Out of my personal experience, it would be negligent of me to fail in mentioning that there is good within the AA program and what has blossomed out of its conception. This is a whole rabbit-hole of a subject but I bring it up to address the “AA hate” I have heard with one rebuttal: If it (AA or any other program) will bring good to a person, if it will assists in their sobriety and bring about happiness with a new claim on life, then leave well enough alone and let he or she heal along with their family.
There are so many factors that make us unique individuals that one solutionizing program cannot firmly exist. I stand unswayed in the choice of taking the good from every program possible; couple that with learning about the addicted brain while altogether honing in on guiding interests and you have a great horizon ahead. Those guiding interests are the hobbies and activities that help people be themselves; find themselves.
A person can’t give up after one meeting or one program. Like I mentioned earlier if you feel there is a better way, be willing to admit your not above suggestions and programs but “have a word with yourself and find it!” Find what you need to get your mind healthy again.
This may sound like a contradiction, but the AA or “Big Book” is a wonderful and cherished guide to my recovery, however, the meetings are something I skip. That isn’t to say I get nothing out of them when I do attend, but it’s like anything else when the task is over: “aren’t you glad we went?!?!”
But that is how I am wired for operation as a pensive and complex introvert. Everyone has a method that works for them; I applaud others when theirs is discovered. The key is finding that working solution, unique and fitting to the individual; it needs to click for the individual.
Everything clicked for me when I understood how addiction and the brain go together. Read, do your own research. Just don’t approach it like the comedian Bill Burr once said, by going to http://www.iamright.com. If you have a knack for studies and wish to analyze findings, have a look at the links below. Each is within the vein of topics in this post but have unique takes as well.
Several of the studies note that AA is successful to the individual “over time.” Being an addict, I like my results now, thank you very much. With that being said, I see many similarities from my experience and others that have not stayed in the AA program. I truly like to know what works for the individual; that is fascinating to me.
At any rate here are the links:
Circling back to my experience, my next attempt to clean up was an outpatient program. No surprise here, but I was reluctant to go. More of that to follow…
Does AA work? Go. Invest some time into the program. I can firmly say it won’t work after one visit. It may work for you or simply nudge you in the right direction; into better paths. It is all up to the frequency of the person seeking the program. AA nudged me in the right direction and I’ve seen nothing but betterment since living sober. I have been given healthy relationships, made memories of time-well-spent with my wife and children, and am confident knowing they can depend on a husband and daddy that is present. These things bolster my efforts and conviction with my effort of recovery each day.