I am not a very lovely and tolerant person. I’m just not. I try my darnedest, but… no. Quiet, though, I have improved upon. Pausing when agitated. Walking away. Not engaging. This morning, though, I woke up to yet another email explaining to me the fallibility of AA. Ugh. When I posted last week that this conversation bores me, a man called me a coward. He said that since his opinion differed with mine, I was scared to acknowledge him. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am sorry he feels spurned or neglected or failed or whatever it is by AA. I know such feelings exist. I just… I don’t know what to say about it.
I know there is a lot of hostility towards AA out there. And I know some people feel the need to express their dissatisfaction, but let me set something straight, once and for all. This is my blog. I write it. I draw the pictures. Its about my life, my perceptions, my recovery. I make no bones about it. I’ve have my reasons for breaking my anonymity. I wrote about them in in my post Part Three: Why I Write about my Alcoholism: (https://annkroger.com/2014/09/26/part-three-why-i-write-about-my-alcoholism/) But this, this is not a Celebrate Recovery blog. It is not a SMART Recovery Blog. This is not by the sheer force of willpower blog. And I do not feel in the spirit of equanimity that I have to give equal time to any of them because my blog is not about the many forms of recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. It’s about my recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. And I’ve chosen AA.
With that said, I have never once said any other approach does not work. I never would. I have no basis on which to judge anything. I have not looked into them. I do not know what their methods are. I do not know what they teach. I’m not a coward; I’m just busy. I have two jobs, two dogs, this blog, my art, a family, a wedding to plan, and a fiancé who just had open-heart surgery. I have neither the time nor the interest to participate in a discussion that affects my life in no way whatsoever.
Furthermore, I find it odd that anyone would even engage in that discussion. The Big Book tells us, “In all probability, we shall never be able to touch more than a fair fraction of the alcohol problem in all its ramifications. Upon therapy for the alcoholic himself, we surely have no monopoly,” (xxi). I have a more than a couple friends in Celebrate Recovery. I have friends in SMART recovery. I, as well as most of my friends, engage or have engaged in some form of therapy/ psychoanalysis. Many AAs are on some kind of medication for anxiety or depression or any number of things. AA says some of us may need outside help. It encourages hospitalization when needed.
Well… the sun is nice and high. I’ve had a cup of coffee. Writing this has cleared my mind and my mood has drastically improved. So, here is what we’ll do. I will make a one-time offer. If you send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org summarizing your program of recovery, regardless of what it is, I will post it. Explain the program’s advantages or why you like it. Whatever you want. I would prefer it if you did not criticize other programs, but simple tell us about yours. I will not edit it. I will not voice an opinion. If you want to send original artwork, I will post that as well. This is your chance to voice whatever it is you want about whatever it is you are doing.
I will accept emails until hmmmm… April 5th and I will post the blog on April 12th. I hope everyone has a great day.
When I got sober, I was a mess. I had no idea if I was coming or going or what was happening in between. I had no idea about the Big Book, meeting, or steps. I didn’t understand the role of the “chair” versus the “lead.” I didn’t understand what crosstalk was or why some people could talk about drugs but others couldn’t.
Early sobriety is hard enough without the additional confusion of whether one is following the rules or lingo of AA. I know what it feels like to be vulnerable only to have some “Old Timer” reprimand me for doing it wrong. Because of this, I tend to ask the new woman if she has any questions about the details of AA that I might be able to answer. I am not talking about the big questions: how do I make contact with my higher power or what is the meaning of life. Jeeze, no. There are other people more qualified for that sort of thing. I just wanna make sure they know the difference between a closed and an open meeting.
Big Book and Twelve and Twelve: The Big Book, whose proper name is actually Alcoholics Anonymous, is the basic text of AA. It was published in 1939 when AA was approximately four years old. The book is general divided into two sections: the first 164 pages and the stories. The first 164 pages contain the specifics of AA. In a relatively short amount of pages, Bill W. addresses the disease concept of addiction, spirituality, and identification. The Big Book explains the Twelve Steps as well as instructions on how to “work” them.
The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions is an addendum that Bill W. and AA published in 1953 after the Traditions of AA were approved at the first AA World Convention. The Twelve and Twelve feels different that the Big Book. When it comes to the steps, the Twelve and Twelve is less instructional than the Big Book. Instead, it focuses on the spiritual principles that make up each one of the steps. The second half of the Twelve and Twelve addresses each one of the Twelve Traditions that guide AA as an organization.
Sponsors: One of the main focuses of AA is sponsorship. Most of us have a sponsor or a spiritual advisor. While some AAs say that the only role of a sponsor is to walk one through the steps, there are as many different ways of sponsorship as there are sponsors. Some are strict; some are aloof. Some will only work through steps; some will be friends. I think everyone would agree though, look for someone who has what you want, and then do what he or she does.
Meetings: There are open meetings and closed meetings, discussion meetings and speaker meetings, and book studies. Open meetings are open to anyone interested in learning more about AA. There may be nurses and doctors or family members present. Closed meetings are for alcoholics only. The purpose is to ensure anonymity. We ask that the public respect the open/closed format. Thank you.
Discussion meetings generally have a “chair” and a “lead.” The chair runs the meeting (announcements, preamble, etc) while the lead chooses the topic for discussion. Different meetings have different vibes so you will want to choose one that feels right for you. Some leads open the meeting to volunteers to share on the topic; others like to call on people. When we speak, we usually start by saying, “My name is Ann, and I am an alcoholic.” If you are not ready to self-identify as an alcoholic, you do not have to. Just state your name. If you do not want to share, just simply say you’d like to listen. The leader will call on someone else. And don’t worry of you stray off topic when you share. We all do.
Speaker Meetings generally have one speaker who speaks for the length of the meeting on how they came to get sober.
Book studies start at the beginning of the Big Book or the Twelve and Twelve and work their way through. One person will usually read a paragraph or two and then comment on that section. Step studies do the same thing. They start on step one and work their way through. These meetings can really support one’s sobriety. It is interesting to hear how others read the books/ work the steps. If you are uncomfortable joining in the middle, just ask the chair. They usually have a feel for how long it takes a certain group to get back around to the beginning.
Crosstalk: When people share in a meeting, their share ends when they finish talking. What they spoke of is not be acknowledge, praised, or countered. Advice should never be given across shares. AAs should not speak across the room at each other.
Talking about Drugs: AA has a singleness of purpose. Therefore, AA meetings focus solely around alcohol and alcohol related problems. This keeps meetings from meandering towards smoking, gambling, or food, but this also means some meetings would rather people not talk about drugs. If you are want to speak about drug addiction, you may wish to find a more liberal meeting. Also, CA (Cocaine Anonymous) is very clear that they are not drug specific. Anyone is welcome, alcoholic and drug addict alike.
Birthdays: At the end of meetings, AA celebrates “milestones” in recovery. 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, etc. Then the chair will ask if anyone has a birthday. This is not one’s birthday, birthday. It is his/her sobriety birthday; people who have been sober for a year or longer.
AA is an amazingly complex culture, with its very own set of rules and vocabulary. I’ve shared this story before, but I will do it again. When I was newly sober, I remember a meeting where a young woman shared about, “Growing up in public.” I did not know what she was talking about, but I figured she was a child star. I spent the remainder of the meeting trying to figure out what TV show she was on. Then, just last week, I egregiously crosstalked (more like cross yelled) at a friend of mine. When he said, “I don’t have to be right…,” as part of his share, I blurted out, “Yes, you do!” before I could stop myself. Luckily he was a good sport. My point is we all make asses of ourselves sometimes. It’s a learning curve. If you don’t know, ask. One of us will be more than happy to fill you in. See you at a meeting soon!
If you have a funny story you’d like to share regarding an AA misunderstanding, please share below. We could all use a laugh on a Monday morning.
I tell my students, in the event of the apocalypse, do not try to save me. I’ve watched enough movies with natural disasters, post nuclear fallout, and aliens to know that a mild manner hero inevitably steps out from the rubble to save the day. That is not me. I am the woman screaming and running as the building comes crashing down on her. I am the red shirted lieutenant that never gets beamed back up. So, do not give me the back pack of provisions or hand me a gun. Just shove me in the path of the nearest zombies and save yourself.
I do not deal well with life, and it doesn’t have to be zombies. In fact, its usually the small things that seem the most insurmountable at times: work, bills, chores. And when life hits, I like to run and hide. I use to think if I just shut everything out, nothing could hurt me. By the time I was thirty, my inability to deal resulted in my daily drinking, hoping that my life would simply resolve itself of its own volition.
But then the worst happened. My drinking turned on me. Alcohol no longer became my means of escape but became the catalyst for new and prolonged damage. In my final days, my life was very bleak. I was broke, unemployed, unemployable. Even then, it was only when it became impossible to ignore the disaster that I put down the drink.
Those first days of sobriety were insanely scary. I was terrified. Knowing that living alone would result in my drinking again, I made the drastic decision to move into a halfway house. A couple weeks later, an AA gave me a job as a counter girl in a bakery. I fumbled my way through life for the first many weeks and months.
And every night, I would go to a meeting. Up there on the wall was the saying, “There’s no problem so big that a drink can’t make worse.” And I believed that. I believed that because my new life was so tenuous, one drink and it would all come crashing down around my head. One drink and I would be asked to leave sober living. One drink and I would be fired. One drink away from catastrophe.
And I think that is what people with time tend to forget. We get real jobs and real housing, and then all of a sudden life hits and we revert to our former habits. We forget that drinking makes everything worse. We start thinking that maybe we can escape reality just for a little while. All we would need is one tiny, little, sippy bottle of wine or a couple of beers.
Yesterday, life dealt me a blow. Though I had no desire to drink, I could feel myself wanting to retreat, run away, isolate. And I did, a little bit. Instead of cleaning my house and working on my writing, I crawled into bed and took a nap. When I awoke to a dark room and absolute quiet, I stayed there for an extra hour playing Trivia Crush unwilling to break out of my cocoon.
After a while, though, I did. I just swung my feet from the over the precipice of the bed to the floor and rejoined society. Because as much as I want to revert to my prior behaviors when times get tough, I know the old behaviors are just that, old. They do not work. Its not just that “There is no problem so big that a drink can’t make worse,” its ” There’s no problem so big that my mind can’t make worse.” Today I know I cannot run from life or isolate from pain. I have to face my monsters head on. So, as much as I hate it the idea, hand me the wooden stake and the garlic. I’m ready.
New Years is one of my favorite holidays of the year. I think it is about the closest normies ever get to working the program. I mean, let’s admit it; there’s the reflection on past, the admission of shortcomings, and an somewhat earnest attempt to change the negative aspects of their personality or physique. From a young age, I was drawn to this idea (or maybe I was just drawn to New Years because it’s the only holiday based on the self-centeredness.) Anywho, when I got sober, I thought the days of the New Year celebration was over. Little did I know….
So, without any further ado: five ideas for New Year’s celebrating, old school style.
Go Dancing!: I heard a great story once when a friend of mine was getting married. The wedding planner, a woman baffled by sobriety, made the comment that no one was going to dance if there wasn’t any alcohol served. My friend answered something to the effect of, “Well, you haven’t met my friends.”
I honestly think dancing sober is high on AAs list of fears. It only took me one boy-girl dance in middle school, awkwardly dancing in a circle with my friends, to know that sober dancing, for me, was never, ever going to happen. I was a club hopper in my day, but it always took an insane amount of liquid courage to get me out on the floor. So, when I got sober, I naturally thought I had to hang up my dancing shoes.
But then I went to a sober dance. My friends dragged me over to North Wayside on a Saturday night. I was amazed by the sheer number of people out there in the dance floor, cutting a rug, and having a great time. It immediately took all the fear out of the situation for me.
Many AA clubs sponsor sober dances for New Years, and many of those are free. So, grab your nearest sober buddy and have a blast!
Movie Marathon: This one stemmed from a recent conversation I had with my brother. I have never seen Star Wars 4, 5, 6 (Or is it 1,2, and 3? Whatever, the new ones). I feel this is a major gap in my cultural education. I can’t tell Mozart from Bach and I haven’t ever seen the new Star Wars. So, this New Years, I am going to sit down and see arguably the greatest movie I’ve never seen. So, I pass this on to you. What movies are on your bucket list? The Caine Mutiny, The Godfather, Gone with the Wind? Put your feet up, pop the popcorn, and watch away.
Clean House: In my super early days of sobriety, I kept hearing people talk about the importance of “Cleaning house.” I didn’t really understand it. I went home and thought, “They want me to clean my house?” I spent the rest of the night scrubbing down my apartment. Since then, I’ve clearly learned that “cleaning house” is a metaphor for the spiritual inventory that comes from getting down to causes and conditions. But still, in my head, the two cleanings are linked.
My mom always says, “If you haven’t worn it in a year, you’re not gonna wear it.” Throw it out. Donate your clean, slightly used clothes to a women’s halfway house. These women often need clothes befitting their newly sober lifestyles. Additionally, I’ve seen first-hand what perfume and nice bath products like Bath and Body can mean to a newly sober women. These items take on a whole, new level of luxury because many of these women have been struggling so long just to survive, that they have forgotten entirely about small gifts of beauty. Clean out your bathroom closet. Make a nice care package and deliver to a woman’s shelter. This may not be the funnest thing on my list, but I promise you, you’ll feel great afterwards.
Get a Makeover: It’s 2015! Halfway to 2020. Time for a contemporary haircut and some fresh makeup to get you ready to tackle new adventures. Don’t go for the same old same old. Don’t stick with the usual. Go to a new hairdresser and let them choose the style they think would be the most flattering on you. Let go of the control. Then walk over to the Mac make-up counter and ask for a makeover. It’s free. This is not time to play it safe. Let the girls to do it up, and while a Mac makeover can be a bit much for everyday wear, I guarantee you by the time it is over, you will feel awesome. Then buy the florescent blue eye shadow, even if you only wear it in the house on Sundays. Afterall, just because you are sober does not mean there isn’t still a little rocker left in you.
Game Night: Game nights are an opportunity to get together with one’s closest friends and make complete fools of ourselves. Over time, I’ve come to the decision that game nights not only work best with an even number of people, but one needs a variety of fun games and ridiculously junky food. So, call your friends up and invite them over. Tell each one of them to bring their favorite game and their junkiest appetizer (Remember! Resolutions start the next day!) Proper game nights are not for the faint at heart. Get the mini frozen eggrolls and fried cheese. Put the RedBull on ice. Have the stogies at the ready). My favorite games for groups are Taboo, Pictionary, and the old standby, Trivia Pursuit.
There is a total misconception that once we stop drinking, fun has to end. The truth is, AAs are by and large a ridiculous fun and stupidly adventurous group of individuals. Whether its New Year’s skydiving or Polar Bear swimming off Galveston, someone’s bound to be doing it. All you have to do is make a few phone calls. And the greatest thing about whatever it is you do this year? You’ll remember it Jan 2nd.
Happy New Years!