So, I went to an AA meeting down here on Sunday morning (yesterday) at 8 am. Wow. Haven’t been up that early in a long time, actually, and it felt great. Long day, though, of three beaches, a chili cook off, and friends over. 🙂
Anyway, the AA meeting was…good. I mean, I’ve been to meetings before, and my experience has been up and down. The first time it was to women’s meetings in [cold east coast city], the second, to a few meetings in [cold west coast city]. The meetings in [cold east coast city] were awakening and totally refreshing, unless I’m remembering them with rose-colored glasses. At the time, I was an AA virgin. I was a total hot mess, was barely hanging on during my second semester of grad school, and had NEVER gone so far and so bad let alone admitted to or talked about my drinking problem and increasingly horrendous blackouts and hangovers (started to have full-blown, trip-to-the-ER panic attacks). But, I thought the Big Book was ridiculous, and frankly, wasn’t willing to admit that I needed to quit drinking. That was in 2006.
Fast forward to last year, when I tried again to go to AA meetings in [cold west coast city]. They were horrible, just like a lot of social gatherings in that part of the country can be. I’ve lived there for a grand total of 8 years, and I’ve often felt that it is one of the most *superficially* nice places on the planet. When it comes down to it, though, people tend to adopt this holier-than-thou attitude, stay in their cliques, and/or are antisocial. I felt mostly unwelcome — sometimes actively so — at AA meetings there.
Long story short, however, it’s not really about the people or the meeting anymore, it’s about my desire to not drink. The people seemed way nicer at this meeting on Sunday, it really helped to have my boyfriend there with me, and well, most of the ex-drunks were older (like, 50s and 60s and 70s?) so I think the “fresh blood” element worked to my advantage. It’s a small community here, too, so maybe that made the difference in people being less formal and me feeling more welcome. Or, maybe I’ve just grown up a bit and gotten further along on my road toward/of sobriety?
The thing that struck me was not really why or how or whether AA works, or if the 12 steps are beneficial to maintaining long-term sobriety, but how similar these people’s problems with drinking were to mine and how similar the actual progression of the “disease” hit them. It’s the SAME EXACT THING for me, yet I STILL walk around feeling — after over a decade — that I’m the ONLY ONE. The only one feeling this way when I drink, the only one feeling horrible and guilty and *haunted* (one woman used this exact word to describe her feelings of remorse re: her blackout shenanigans) by what I’ve done while blacked out, the only one being reckless and self-destructive and not understanding why but doing it anyway.
I don’t know if I’ll go again, but my desire to quit is as strong as my fear of what will happen if I drink, so…
I had two issues with the meeting:
1. It does seem like every single person in the “room” ended their share (we were supposed to share on “service” and our concept/experience with service — I shared about volunteering in [beautiful island] and my sense of purpose down there practically killing any and all craving to drink) with congratulating AA. Like, they couldn’t stop talking about how great and fantastic and wonderful AA is. I was like, Come on, really? Then again, they talked of their own initial feelings of doubt, arrogance, and self-loathing at the beginning of their participation in AA, so…maybe I, too, just need to “let go and let God.” 😉 NOT!
2. I would not be not drinking if I didn’t want to not drink. I think what is different for me now is the fact that I really don’t want to drink anymore because, frankly, it doesn’t work anymore. It is simply NOT AN OPTION. AA won’t, in my perhaps ill-informed opinion, give you the desire to quit. BUT, what I now see AA as being good if not great at doing is giving you a sense of community, of belonging, of shared experience to help you keep convincing yourself that drinking doesn’t work for you anymore.
In talking with a few people after the meeting, I literally could have been inside their bodies talking about my drinking problem as they were talking about theirs toward the end — that’s how physically, emotionally, and psychologically the same it seems to be for not just us, but everyone who drinks to their end point. The truth is, I am so not alone, so not special, and so…relieved and hopeful to know this. I’m somehow sort of finally convinced that perhaps the confusion, panic/fear, and anger that overtakes me while blacked out is not ME but is, actually, the booze. Perhaps this substance just does the same old thing to everyone? It seems obvious, I’m sure, to nondrinkers, but…well, booze feels intertwined with my personality, my moods, my experiences and therefore, myself. Possibly I can untangle the two and move on with my life? So, yes, I think AA might actually be a good thing when it comes to fighting cravings and “hauntings” that only people who have reached the end of their drinking road can actually particularly relate to.
(We also spent a good amount of time at a chili cook off down here yesterday, and it was hot as a mofo on that beach. Yet, it seemed that quite a few peeps were getting drunk. EVEN IF I COULD DRINK, I can’t even imagine doing so in 100-degree heat…and then having to deal with the hangover and the sunburn? SO NOT WORTH IT.)
Thanks to my readers, I appreciate you guys listening to my ramblings…on day three and finally feeling somewhat not hung over. 🙂