Sunday, July 31, 2016

AA, it's personal

AA, it's personal 

I love the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. Most of the friends I have made in my adult life I met in the fellowship. It was in AA that I learned to make friends again. AA didn't get me sober, but it helped me stay sober. Does AA help people? If you ask my wife and daughters they will tell you yes. Lacking a higher power it was often their voices that told me I needed a meeting. They were very aware of the transformation that occurred during the time I went to a meeting and the time I came home. AA helped me be a better version of myself.

The 12 Steps... I'm not so thrilled about. I'm a nonbeliever and white I can manage "higher power" as a metaphor I don't believe in the power of prayer. I love books, but I don't like to live my life according to the contents of a book. If I do it's by chance, not design. I have multiple copies of AA's Big Book, I haven't touched any of them for over a year. I went to AA for 7 and 1/2 years and will likely hit a few meetings in the future but I never did the 12 steps. Maybe step 1, but I've since reconsidered it. I learned from the steps, I learned to try and make amends and that doing so requires more than saying "I'm sorry." So what is my problem with AA?

This was/is my personal experience. It's an experience colored by my life situation, socioeconomic status, education, and white male privilege. Even as an atheist I found I was able to be an open atheist surrounded by believers yet I didn't feel like an "other" or "outcast." Because I have supportive parents, because I have a supportive spouse, because my children are heathy and I could get financial support when I needed it I was able to approach AA at my own pace and on my own terms. 

Luck, really good luck played a role. My first sponsor didn't stick but my second (hope he's still reading this) was a perfect match. When I said I wasn't comfortable with the Big Book or with all 12 steps he said "if you don't like 12 Steps, do 3. 1) don't drink, 2) don't think, 3) go to meetings. This 3 step approach worked very well for me.

So though I may sound critical of AA in some of my posts I don't really have a problem with the program itself. AA kept me alive for years, it was there for me when I needed it and it gave me what I needed.

What I have a problem with is this:

1) Court mandated AA. I think the founders would not have liked mandatory meetings either.

2) no training for sponsors. I had/have a great and ethical sponsor, but that is not always the case. Sponsors that are not ethical answer to no one.

3) AA in a clinical setting. AA is free. Anyone in any city in the United States can get free 12 step work. So why would 12 step work be part of  a $50,000 treatment stay? 

4) The rejection of medication assisted recovery. I don't think AA has an official position on methadone. However, the influence of the 12 step movement has been a barrier for people who need methadone and other medications in treatment. Again this is not AA's fault, it's the fault of treatment programs.

If asked about AA in a professional setting I treat it like church. Are you going? Do you think it helps? If yes, keep going. It should always be a choice.

The reason I rarely attend AA these days is also personal. Where I lived in Minnesota AA was pretty much all that was available. SMART Recovery meetings existed but they were few and far between.* after moving to Rhode Island and checking out several AA meetings that didn't quite feel right I went to my first SMART Recovery meeting. I've been going to SMART for a year now and I find it better meets my needs. If things go right I will soon be facilitating my own SMART meeting soon. I also don't have a problem with using SMART tool professionally. They are REBT tool that are very appropriate for a clinical setting and will work for people of any or no faith. Still I know I haven't attended my last AA meeting.


  1. Hi Ken

    I like this post a lot and think it is the best one to ask this question on. Well actually it is my blog post because the whole post poses the question better than I could in a sentence. I was wondering if you could try to muster up some kind of answer! PS I have done some more inquiries into SMART because it sounds like the best one for me and here it is not properly brought in. Is there an online type of one? Are you still setting one up in your area and if so are you doing and online add -in type of thing? If not does it have notes generated each meeting that I could read or subscribe to? Sorry for all the questions...
    And today's one:

    "I have read so much and spent ages researching. I know there is not definitive answer but I am wondering how long does this last?

    For me and, I have read others experiences also, in the early stages I/we:

    Dread the evening time because it's drink o'clock
    Dodge all bottle stores and shop sideways through the supermarket like a crab, avoiding all wine and beer displays and get out as quickly as possible (I used to like shopping)
    Drink some concoction of sober liquid and say "oooh this isn't bad" but really deep down hate and resent it
    Hope the night will come to an end quickly
    Wake up and say YAY no hangover, then by around midday we are back up to point one
    This isn't fun living. Drinking was fun. (I know it was 10000 x more shit that that but my brain is saying this)

    Is this alcoholism? Is this a diseased mind with all the bounds of quitting? How can people or some just say that it is a "drinking problem" and not alcoholism.
    I am confused and angry grrrrrrr I don't want to spend my life yinging and yanging about this. I would rather be an alcoholic.
    Ok no. that sounds awful.

    Does it kind of stay like this forever?
    I gave up smoking years ago and if was hard for about a month (like a record going from 75 RMP "have a cigarette, have a cigarette" to finally 33 "haaaave a cigarette..." then "haaave aaaa ciga.." until it stopped). Forever.
    What is the difference? Or isn't there? Why is this so hard ?

    1. I'm sorry it took me so long to reply. First off, if you go to there are online meetings available.

      As for whether or not addiction is a disease, that is a controversial question. I personally think the Learning Disorder model is a better one than he disease model. But the good news is the stuff that works does so if you think it's a disease or not. As for why it's hard that is also complicated but you are not alone. It's hard for all of us in the beginning. It gets easier.

      Will you always have it? Maybe. I dare say probably. But even if the chances are 50/50 it is probably safest to live assuming you will always have it but like I said it gets a lot easier.

      Hang in there. The courage are showing by continuing to try is an inspiration.

  2. Hi Ken
    Thanks so much for the reply and - like any desperate addict :) appreciate you time.
    The timing of your answer is awesome because I have been checking into the AA and Smart options around here. I even called a number for a local meeting - then the person called back and left a message on my phone. Crap, it is someone I know and actually fired from a job a year back. Shit.
    I am going to try the only smart idea.
    thanks Ken so much for your support.
    8 weeks today


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