Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Forgive Me Bill W.

***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.


  1. I don't usually comment here (always afraid somehow people will know who I am even when I post as anonymous) but I'm coming out of hiding to thank you for writing this post. I could have written it myself. I'm not anti-AA - I know it works for many, many people, but I have always felt on the fringes there. I live in a small town, so meeting choices are limited to begin with, and this made me go out and find other ways to stay not just sober, but fulfilled. It took guts, I think, to post this, because I also get some criticism and lots of funny looks when I'm talking to others in recovery and I say I don't go to AA.

    This is such an important message to get out there - and I'm really, really glad you wrote this.

    Thank you.

  2. Thank you for sharing this. I don't go to AA either but sometimes it scares me that I don't, like I am destined to fail in sobriety because of it (no one from AA has ever said that). I am grateful that AA is there and the doors are open but right now it is not a part of my recovery. You expressed yourself so well and are so brave because it is hard to sharethat you do not go and secrets are what foster the disease. Thank you for writing!!

  3. I thin you said it all here:

    "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."

    A. Men.

    I could have written this too, Diana. Every single bit of it (except only dad was in AA, mom was in Al-Anon). Thank you for putting this out there. Love you for it!!

  4. What a great post. Thanks, Diana. I am actually a committed member of NA (eleven years clean this last round) but I know quite a few people who have pursued other avenues of non-12-step program recovery and are currently leading happy and healthy lives. Anybody who judges you for where you are at and how you got there, might want to do a little more work themselves...

  5. Thanks Diana. This is definitely how I felt. I tried AA as well, but just felt like I was the awkward girl who really hadn't done anything "bad enough" yet. And the constant, though well meaning, badgering to attend more and more meetings! I work full time, am a wife to one and a mom to two kids! So while occasionally I feel a twinge of guilt about it, and I see the fellowship that others have that I never found, I still know that the best thing I can do today for myself is just not drink.

  6. Thanks so much for this, Diana. I could just copy and paste what other have commented here! I've felt the fear of failing because I'm "not doing sobriety right" and the more essays like this there are out there, the better I feel. There is not just "one true path."

  7. I am active in AA and am super grateful for my program of recovery. I finished my first 12 steps and am beginning to sponsor new members. Any AA that practices the steps,principle, & traditions knows that AA doesn't have the market cornered on recovery. The fact that you felt alienated and had to defend yourself is unfortunate, those offending people dont speak for AA, nor do I. The only people that speak for AA is the committee at world headquarters in NYC. It is great that you have more peace and calm in your life. Sobriety is a great thing. I just like the step programs because then i can help help others repair the damage if they are willing. For me its great that sanity has returned in sobriety but, I want to help others find this same peace and joy. The rooms of AA afford me that.


  8. I want to thank you for writing this as well. While AA has truly helped me find tools to stay sober, lately I've been feeling like "it's not all that" for me. I know it works for many many people and I'm exceedingly grateful that it was there for me. At the same time I'm beginning to explore alternatives in an attempt to find something that feels more like "home".

    Your post gives me the courage to keep going on that

  9. I am very grateful you posted this. As Rumi says; "Let the Beauty you love be what you do, there are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground."
    AA saved my best friend's life, and my father in law's life. But it didn't work for my sober brother (30 years), or me. While I thank God for AA and refer people to it all the time, I also come across some folks who are militant about it. Being pushy and shaming about not doing AA is so not helpful. Thanks for helping me feel not so alone.

  10. I realize this post is over a month old, but this subject is one worth continuing. I believe in AA, but I believe it is not the only way. And it seems that non-AA folks are in the minority or have less of a voice and I think it is one that needs to be heard. We are all striving to be sober and happy. The Rumi quote says it all. thank you.