I felt the need to share after seeing many disappointing replies to comments lately in a group I participate in on facebook in regards to programs that can assist in sobriety. Please keep in mind that this is my personal experience with AA and is not indicative of every other person who chose not to follow AA’s program.
Nearly 5 years ago I was drinking nearly a gallon of vodka a day. I have no idea how I survived during that time, but I did. I was struggling with everything in my life. In and out of jail because of stupid decisions while drunk, losing jobs because I would carry around my water bottle full of vodka, a failed suicide attempt when I felt there was no other option, and eventually deciding to do something about my life because I wasn’t going to survive much longer if I kept on.
Like most, I read a little bit about AA and watched and attended a chat room meeting because I was in no position to leave my house at that point. The reason I gravitated towards AA in the beginning was because it is the most well-known sobriety path. It is ingrained in popular culture and is the basis for many (not all) programs for sobriety and shows up in virtually every movie when it deals with alcoholism.
I took that AA self-defined first step to sobriety and admitted I had a problem with alcohol. However, this isn’t unique to AA (nor created by AA, simply just a piece of a much larger puzzle put into their program) and is the basis for virtually every problem solving technique imaginable.
After attending the online meeting and observing without participating, I decided to attend an in person meeting. From the first moment I walked in I could get a sense of exclusivity and cliquishness. I have never, and will probably never, be a fan of groups who set themselves apart from others as if they are somehow better. We are all human. I decided to stick it out and sit through the entire hour. I said hi to a few people and had small talk conversations. The common thread through all of the conversations was that if I didn’t come back and follow AA I was destined for failure and would never live a life of sobriety.
This is no way sounded right or acceptable to me. Like most everything else in life, there is not one path to anything. Everyone takes their own journey. So I asked about what other programs there were during my second visit to see if I could supplement my recovery because I wanted to build an awesome toolbox with lots of resources alongside AA. This was met with immediate disregard to my desire to stay sober and use everything I possibly could to maintain that.
I was told the all too common statements;
- AA is the only way.
- You must not be working the program or you wouldn’t question it.
- You need to go to more meetings.
- AA has worked for everyone who has tried it.
- If it has worked for everyone else, you must not be committed to sobriety.
As you can see in the snap judgement nature of those statements, it would turn off any sane and logical person who wants to be sober. Aside from that, questioning someone’s integrity and desire to become, and stay, sober is an absolutely disgusting way to try and win someone over to your side and see your point of view.
I know AA has worked for many, but it’s just not for me. Nor is it the sole path to sobriety. Because I was basically bullied and questioned, I decided it was not a program I was willing to endure. If anything, constantly trying to appease others by not mentioning I wanted to explore other routes is enough stress to drive someone to drink anyways. It defeats its main purpose, to help people get and stay sober.
I also know that not everyone who attends AA or ascribes to their way of life is the same as the people, and many others, have come face to face with. However, it is a very prevalent attitude for many people in AA, and not worth it to me to deal with in my path through sobriety.
I am certain Step 12 of AA’s created program does not mean to go forward and badger people into believing AA is the only way through sobriety. It also doesn’t seem like Step 12 means question others integrity simply because they don’t agree with you. This is why I don’t take the AA path in my sobriety.
So, all that being said, I will share what has worked for me.
I combine a lot of my regular life into my sobriety and incorporate my daily activities into awareness of my disease so that it is always at the front of my mind. I am a spiritual person who believes in God (as AA refers to as “higher power”). My spiritual life has played a huge role in my sobriety. I have also modified my diet to help me feel healthier. It is amazing what a healthy diet can do to your mental state as a whole. Having a grounded mental state keeps you aware of your triggers and temptations. I also incorporate exercise into my daily routine to have time to reflect on my life and ground myself. Taking the time to look inward is crucial to my recovery. I also love to write my feelings out and share them with others. It is therapy on its own. I can put my life out there and not hold onto it. All while having the though tin mind that my experiences may help someone else struggling with alcoholism.
I am not unique in my experiences. Others have been exactly where I am. It’s both good and bad. I just ask that whatever path you choose, you don’t promote it as the only way. Your path may work for you, like mine has for me, but it may not be for everyone. Instead of berating someone for not taking your path, celebrate their ability to get sober and support them in their journey through fellowship and encouragement.