***Submitted by Diana, who is a regular contributor to Crying Out Now
Forgive me Bill W. for I have sinned. It has been almost two years since I attended my last AA meeting. That meeting was at Blogher ’09 with three or four other attendees and was actually one of the highlights of that conference for me. (I wish that I could have attended in 2010 when there was a Serenity Suite and more “out” alkies.)
I feel as if I have to come clean here, I don’t attend AA meetings. I believe in AA and think that it is an amazing program. It is a source of strength and guidance for people who want to stop the madness, including both my parents (doesn’t that make me a “double” winner?). And to be very clear, I am not saying that it is never going to be a part of my life. It just isn’t now and hasn’t been for some time.
I don’t profess to have all (or any) of the answers. My recovery plan has worked for me, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it. I am actually very envious of those who have found relationships in AA and who have that fellowship that evaded me. I tried AA. I went to all sorts of meetings five years ago when I first got sober. It didn’t take, but sobriety did.
I didn’t feel the warm embrace that others talk about in AA. I felt “other than” in the one place where I was supposed to be connecting. Everyone was polite and nice, but I felt that social awkwardness that has followed me around my whole life and without a glass or three of wine to help me through it. I went to a number of different meetings at a number of venues and I liked some more than others. I almost felt like people didn’t think that I was a good (or bad) enough alcoholic to take me under their wing. I didn’t know how to connect. I was prepared to feel this way at a cocktail party, but not at meetings.
The well meaning, but overzealous AA members who encouraged me to get a sponsor further tainted my experience with Alcoholics Anonymous. They encouraged to the point of badgering. I wasn’t ready. I hadn’t met anyone who I felt comfortable asking or with whom I might entrust my sobriety. The people that I met just insisted that I didn’t have to marry my sponsor, just chose one. I understand the program and how it works, but the inflexibility that some members showed alienated me. I didn’t need to feel like I was doing AA wrong. I also didn’t get to speak enough in AA. I enjoyed speaker meetings, but I wished that there had been speaking meetings. I didn’t want to be the speaker; I just wanted more of an exchange. Some said that happened over coffee after meetings, but not for me.
Some may say that I am a dry drunk. I don’t know what that means. Others say that I am white knuckling it. I am not. I read about recovery. I write about recovery. I see a therapist. I also attend group therapy with six other members, one of whom is also a recovering alcoholic. This venue offers the free exchange (I get to talk more) that AA doesn’t and allows me to work though my issues with a group of people who support me unconditionally. I don’t take my sobriety for granted ever. And if there comes a time that I feel that I need to head back to the rooms of AA, I will run, not walk, there. My program, such as it is, is just that; mine. It works for me. It makes sense to me. I don’t judge the journey or path of others. We each have our own way of getting where we are going.
The bottom line is that I have more peace in my life than I could have ever imagined, my marriage is stronger than I might have hoped and I haven’t taken a drink in more than five years, so I must be doing something right. Whatever the path, sobriety is not an easy road and any program that helps you stay sober is OK by me.