We get a lot of different reactions to our blog. Most are positive, some are negative, and some are downright lunacy. The most interesting ones come from those who have either left AA, and are looking for some validation of their negative feelings toward the organization; and, those within AA who have fully bought into the program, and cannot fathom what our motives are in creating such a site. The reaction from the latter is almost formulaic, and we are either: failed AAs who are bitter because AA did not work for us, not real alcoholics, did not properly work the program, dry drunks who are expressing their anger, etc. Often times the reaction comes laced with some sort of personal shot against us – asking if we have jobs or a life or if we are living in our parent’s basement. Those are the most fun, and don’t really bother us. They can be both entertaining and insightful, because they tell us a lot about the person asking the question. Then we have some legitimate and thoughtful comments from AAs, which we appreciate for the civility, but dislike in a way because it kills the stereotype. If you have a question or a comment to make, email us. We promise not to disclose your name or make you look bad, even if we were to eventually post it to the main page. The only exception to this would be if you make a jackass of yourself in the comment section, which is a public forum.
I have thought about responding to some of these comments, but have put it off because there always seems like something better to write about, but yesterday Emily asked us this in the comment section:
“i guess i’d like to see an essay from the authors of this blog detailing their personal experiences in the rooms, because it seems SO hostile that it’s almost… jihad, only directed toward AA. i get the ha-ha-AA-bash aspect, it’s not an entirely popular one, but if you get off on being against the grain, this is the perfect avenue for it. it just feels very superficial, being different (or difficult) for the sake of being different…. it’s not that y’all aren’t well researched, you most certainly are, but there’s a human aspect missing.
so why are you all so angry with AA? what happened to you there? where are you from, that i can avoid the kind of AA that preys on women and drives off folks that are intelligent and capable?”
So, what the hell – I’ll answer this, as well some of the more inane ones with which we have been presented.
I’m not an addictions expert, although to some I am qualified as such, because I am a stockbroker who once had a nasty drinking habit. Unlike Bill W, I never failed at what I do for a living, and have been able to carve out a pretty good life for my family and me — this, despite the fact that I drank virtually every day for over twenty years. Still, my addiction impacted both my work and family lives, as it was difficult to manage either while drinking myself into a stupor multiple days a week. Like most functioning alcoholics, booze was the centerpiece of my existence; so my work, family and social life were worked around my drinking schedule. All of these things, as well as my psychological wellbeing, suffered as a result of my drinking. I’m not going into an entire drunkalog. All of us, including myself, have had enough of those for this lifetime. Suffice it to say that I had an addiction, and I had it bad.
My first exposure to AA was when I was in college, and I worked for a charity bingo hall that supported AA, and was held in what was called “AA Hall”. Basically, it held meetings there throughout the day, and two bingo sessions per night. I used to arrive to work early to set the place up for that night’s bingo session, and would get there about the time the last meeting of the day was starting. I would listen in on the meetings, both open and closed. It struck me as overtly religious and ritualistic, and I thought at time how lucky I was that I was not an alkie, and would not be subjected to that type of thing. The main thing that sticks out to me from those days is the old-timers, who were, as a rule, the most crotchety bunch of know-it-alls I had ever seen. Those with whom I worked were subjected to it, as they were all part of AA. Most of those around me, including those in the meetings, assumed that I was AA, as well (which is why I guess they allowed me to listen in). The only reason that I had the job there in the first place was because my girlfriend at the time’s father owned the building, and was an AA. I had co-workers come and go, most leaving after falling off of the wagon. I also kept up with the AAs in the groups, and even then I noticed the revolving door of slippers and new members. Still, I considered AA to be the solution to alcoholism, and I had anecdotal examples all around me that showed that it works.
Eventually I graduated college, and moved on to a real job, and away from AA. Still, having spent two years around that AA fellowship, I saw and learned a great deal; and though I thought it was not something I would ever enjoy doing, I assumed it to be the way out of alcohol addiction. Twice I have been involved in interventions, and both times the person we were convincing to receive treatment was asked to attend AA. One flat out refused, and I cringe when I look back the things I told him, spewing out AA dogma and using manipulation tactics I had learned from my time around AA. It flowed out as naturally as my first language. The other friend took our recommendation, and I drove him from our intervention to an AA meeting, which I sat in on. By that time I had recognized I was an alcoholic, but I had hidden this fact from virtually everyone around me, except my wife. That was an uncomfortable meeting, as I knew that I belonged there more than the person I had taken.
The second intervention, where the person took our suggestion and started attending AA, was for a co-worker and friend. He and I spent a great deal of time together, and our families went on the same vacations with each other. His initial success with AA was amazing, and he seemed transformed. A few months after he started attending AA, I was on a committee to help set up a policy for our firm’s Canadian division’s drug and alcohol treatment policy for employees. This person was held up as an example of what ‘treatment’ can do for a person (he entered a 12-Step treatment facility for a month after our intervention, and returned to work his steps through AA). Alcoholics Anonymous and 12-Step treatment became the centerpieces of our firm’s rehab policy, and I was an instrumental part in putting it together. I was not an AA, but I was a true believer. I’m not sure if you can call what I had an open mind, because I excluded any other option as an alternative. AA did not have to prove to me it worked (I already knew it did), and they did not have to educate me on the steps (I knew them well, and had in fact read the ‘Big Book’ and the ‘12X12′).
Of the two friends who were intervened, one has remained quit, and other (the 12-Stepper) fell off the wagon about two years into sobriety. He has since gotten a divorce, and he married a woman who he had met in AA. Sobriety remains a struggle for him, and he has re-entered AA twice, the last time leaving because his group had shunned him. The last time I talked to him was about six months ago, when he called me at three in the morning. He was drunk at the time.
My last experience with AA, and my personal experience, was after I had already quit drinking. It was recommended that I attend, so I did – but looking at AA through the lens of a participant, with clarity that sobriety provided me, I found it to be much different than what I had previously believed, and after witnessing the abuses and harm that it has caused so many, I began to see it for what it truly is, and what it is not. FTG already said this, but I’ll repeat it here – every post is an example of some of the things we have witnessed firsthand. One day the cork popped, and we decided that we couldn’t watch others being harmed and manipulated by this organization without saying anything. Our motives in doing this are a mixture of frustration, selflessness, selfishness, and the need for an outlet (this blog has been quite cathartic).
I quit drinking on my own. No fanfare, no intervention. I even kept it from my wife, telling her that I had gone on a low carb diet, and could therefore not drink alcohol. I think she detected my duplicity, but she said nothing. A month went by, and it was very difficult for me. The thoughts of drinking consumed me, and I found some support from an online community of quitters. Two months went by, and it became easier for me, as I began to fill the time void that was once taken by drinking, and though it was not always easy, it became easier. Three, six, nine months and year passed; and my life became much easier, and even serene. It is amazing what the absence of alcohol can do for a person, and I learned that the promises offered by AA are the result of gaining control one’s self, and taking back control from the addiction.
One thing that might surprise a reader of the blog is that I am not an atheist. I have a higher power, and sobriety brought me closer to Him; and though others here, including my co-author here who I happen to respect a great deal, will say that I am deluded – I am comfortable with myself, and comfortable in my own skin. I don’t feel the need to defend myself, or to rationalize to others how my faith – my religion – is something other than what is obvious and apparent to the casual observer. It is spiritual, religious, Christian. My God, my higher power, loves me and cares for me as much as anyone’s higher power, and he cares about me whether I am in AA or not. He loves me enough to have given me the freewill, and the potential to be what I choose to be, what I want to become. I took a hiatus from work and went back to school to get my Masters Degree – from Harvard. I finished in January, and two weeks from today I walk across the stage accept it, knowing it was me, with the support of my family – my real family – who got me here.
Sobriety offered up to me clarity of purpose, and a re-evaluation of what is important. In my case, it has driven me from being money driven, to looking at doing something more altruistic. Not because I am told it is the right thing to do by a spiritual guidebook, but because altruism is inherent in me, and you, and in every individual – and though alcohol can take the goodness that lies with us all, sobriety takes it back. I have no idea what I will do now, except roll up my book of clients and end my broker career for good. What is exciting is that the possibilities are endless, and they are governed by me. I have a lot of choices to make, among those is the choice to stay sober and not drink.