When I walked into the local church for my first AA meeting, I thought the entire process was a joke. I had no intention of admitting my problem or changing my behavior. I made a youthful mistake and only went to the meeting to satisfy the court. I brought a friend for “moral support” but it was just someone to crack jokes with before we headed to the party later. I sat down and went through the motions. I even gave a fake name and talked about the time I drank too much and ended up in the hospital with alcohol poisoning. However, I never really gave the process a true chance. It wasn’t until much later that AA became a tool for guidance and support as I went through recovery.
What is AA?
AA stands for Alcoholics Anonymous. It is an organization with a specific mission to help people quit drinking alcohol. They host free meetings in most towns where everyone is welcome as long as they are receptive to the program. At the meeting, you can listen to other people’s struggles and accomplishments, and you can talk as well. You do not have to be perfect in order to attend AA. However, you do need to make an effort. The program accepts all genders, races, socioeconomic background, political affiliation, and Christian denominations. The foundation of the program is a 12-step process designed to heal your heart, mind, and body from the results of alcoholism. The 12 steps include admitting you have a problem, apologizing to those you have wronged, and give ourselves to a higher being. Visit a meeting to learn all 12 steps and how to make your way through them. Another way AA monitors progress is with chips that signify how long someone has been sober. Get your first chip at 30 days and hold onto it when you feel temptedabut to remind you of your hard work. You won’t want to throw all of your effort away.
Why it didn’t work for me at first
My first experience with AA was initially repulsive. I was young and happy and didn’t put myself in the same category as the miserable alcoholics who were also in attendance. The church smelled like a hospital, and they couldn’t even get brand name cookies. I also didn’t go out of my own volition. I went out of an obligation. I also brought someone with me who didn’t take the process seriously. Going into the process, I did not give it a true chance. Naturally, it didn’t work for me at that point.
Years later I took myself to a similar meeting just a couple of miles down the road from the first meeting I went to. I went by myself. I had missed work after drinking until 5 a.m. and was afraid my drinking was going to ruin this great opportunity I had in front of me. Suddenly, the people were my equals. I also had no desire to party after the meeting. I just needed someone to tell me that I could do it and that I was still on the right track. As people told their stories, I found myself relating to the other people. I wasn’t itching to get out of the meeting.
In fact, I was having a shockingly good time. The second experience was way more helpful than my first experience. The reason is that the second time around, I actually wanted to be there. I wanted to surround myself with people who weren’t at a bar on a Tuesday night. It was also cathartic to talk about some of my problems in a safe place and honestly feel like no one was judging me, even though I had been judgmental in my younger years. It became more like therapy, a support group, that I went to once a week to keep me on the right track. I still have friends from the program. AA is a very effective program for anyone struggling with alcoholism, especially if you could use support. However, it is only a helpful experience if you keep an open mind and actually try to make it work for you. If you are interested in learning more, call to learn about local AA meetings near you. Call us at 732-392-7311.