It’s been a little over five months since I published my story “Walking Away from AA” where I talked about my decision to leave Alcoholics Anonymous after almost 22 years. I stated then that I didn’t have a desire to drink, but I had a desire to be more honest and truthful with all aspects of my life.
Being sober – living a life without drugs or alcohol – is for me. It’s a cheaper life, more enjoyable and less messy… things I need and want. Belief in a “higher power” or “faking it until I make it” aren’t for me, I can’t live that lie anymore. I gave it a fair shot – lying for AA, lol.
So what’s changed really?
I’m actually angry less often than I have ever been. Granted I’m the judge here so it may be a skewed study… but I find that I’m less irritable, grumpy or pissed off in general. Now some of that I’m sure has to do with not having to think about going to, then going to and then escaping from a meeting… lol
I would dread the day before having to go, then dread being there early, dread being at the actual meeting and then regret having gone on the way home… that was 2 – 3 hours of wasted time I could have been reading, writing or playing with myself. I don’t have to pretend to be interested in conversations, people or places besides those people I have to fake it around work (not everyone at work, a select few). I resented having to go to meetings, pretending to like people, or even pretending to listen (more often than not). So I have less of that… which is a good thing.
I still talk to people from AA, some of them, many of them dropped off which is kind of what I expected really. The people I talk to don’t pressure me to go back to the rooms, nor do they ask me about urges or desires to drink. I haven’t had any, if you were curious, doesn’t cross my mind – hasn’t for a long time, not even any drinking dreams.
I was thinking about about quitting smoking and that process just today and how difficult that was at first. Similar to drinking – at the beginning it was all I could focus on and the only answer I knew of. But eventually that craving/desire went away – like alcohol – I separated myself from it and put structure in place and it’s better.
I have unfriended some folks from Facebook recently but that’s about political or religious nonsense not AA or being sober.
People dropping off reminds me of the people from the bar when I sobered up – they were uncomfortable about being around me when I wasn’t drinking the kool-aid anymore. I haven’t really picked up the phone or email myself – so it could be just me, I’ll take that on.
I have started therapy – but I have a plan to complete treatment and leave. It will not be an ongoing part of my life that I will grow to resent and regret. I’m not talking about alcoholism, drinking or AA – I do reference AA principles that are ingrained in my frequently in my daily life and in therapy. AA’s not all bad, it helps some people, it helped me… and I’ve taken what I could use and left the rest. lmao
In therapy we’re dealing with a particular issue from my past and using EMDR therapy… which is different but good. Part of that has had me look at some other things from my past and how those types of things affect me today – it’s been illuminating really and healing – I’ve managed to change my way of thinking about some really old behaviors. Check out EMDR therapy to learn more about it. It’s for PSTD, trauma, stuff … It’s giving me some tools that I’ve implemented into life.
I don’t sit around and bash AA either – that’s what I didn’t like about atheist/agnostic AA, they were all very angry at AA for being god centric. I’m not angry at AA – they helped me for a good long time. It’s just not for me.
I will say that AA is rather narrow minded in it’s insistence that they are the best way to get there, which generally comes across as “only way”. I’m a spouter of it myself – “we have a better success rate than any other program”. But the system is flawed – treatment centers, though teaching psychology really, are entwined with the 12 steps of AA, that program and how that program operates. No other options are given really – you wont find a directory to Life Ring, S.M.A.R.T. Recovery or other non-theistic way to find sobriety in most of those places. It’s hard to grab on to that “flimsy reed” when you don’t believe and don’t ever want to be coerced into believing.
Fake it til you make it, doesn’t seem to feel right to me for an “honesty program”.
My favorite part of not going to meetings really … is the alone time. It’s something I was constantly advised was bad for me in the rooms… but it’s so much nicer this way. I do have a roommate, she’s very quiet and does her alone time too… so I’m not totally alone, and of course I spend countless hours at the office with people.
Time alone though – to think, to write, to read… it’s so precious and special to me. It’s so noisy out there and the peace I get alone is ideal. When I was drinking or newly sober – the committee would follow me everywhere and start having arguments with myself… but it’s been a long time since that’s been the case. Mindfulness meditation, deep breaths, scanning my body for tightness and stress… and I can zero in and change it with minimal effort. I like it.
For me it takes some preparation and consideration before I go off and do things with other people – it’s disturbing the silence I enjoy and I never want to do it. That was true in AA too, but I muddled through with the belief that eventually it would improve and I’d start to “love people” or some other cheesy thing.. but it’s not true for me. (there is a similar theory about exercise creating endorphins that make you happy – never happened to me… hate, hate, hate exercise… always will).
I was talking about hate the other day – the Big Book I frequently took literally. “The Grouch and the Brainstorm are not for us, the are the dubious luxuries of normal men” or something like that… Bill’s original writing was “Grouch and the Sudden Rage” which makes more sense to me and I could relate better…
It was in my head that we weren’t supposed to hate, or fear… that we were to move beyond that through the practice of the 12 steps and program of alcoholics anonymous. Somehow I would wipe anger and fear from my consciousness – but I think that’s crazy (even though I still interpret the writing that way). Fear and anger are a part of what makes us human and help us protect ourselves and those around us… like Spider-Man says “with great power comes great responsibility” and so we have to use those powers for good…
Just yesterday I raised my voice at my boss… he said to me “are you yelling… at me?” and I wasn’t “yelling” but it’s a matter of perspective I guess… he’s the boss and I don’t get to raise my voice at him (later on though we were both swearing at one another with the other boss… they started it). I still value and integrate tools form Alcoholics Anonymous.. the ones that make sense to me. I apologized to my boss, the set in my head that this is something that I don’t want to happen again and I set about changing my behavior.
But sometimes I get angry, I’m human – sadly.
What I never liked about AA – was apologizing when I really didn’t do anything wrong or when I didn’t really feel sorry – more dishonesty to practice. Change your way of acting to affect your way of thinking – wouldn’t that just teach me to lie to people so they feel better, why is that a good thing? So being creative (lying) about my feelings or intent, never sat well with me.
Recently one of my old – we’ll use an AA term – shortcomings cropped up and a friend was upset with me. That friend blew up at me for a separate reason and cited that character defect, even though it had nothing to do with the particular instance… I had to apologize to him in a way that allowed me to be honest but also secure the friendship… which is hard to do when you don’t think you did anything wrong. So I can apologize for the long term behavior and not consider the particular instance.. something like that. But the long term behavior (character defect) is a part of me… it helps me be who I am and at 45 years old I’m not going to want or need to change that.
I am still on an anti-depressant. It’s truly changed my whole world. It likely has been a significance in me being less irritable. It’s allowed me to not have the dark, dark days that used to come pretty regularly and there has been no return to the absolute darkness of last fall.
A friend was recently sharing about his depression – citing that he never took medication for it. It wasn’t a slam, it was just him sharing on his experience and how he got through it. It’s good and relatable to talk about depression so others know. Most people don’t experience it to the level that I did or others do – and it’s a hard place to get out of.
I don’t intend to take medication for the rest of my life, but we’ll see what happens going forward.
So that’s about it for me at the moment – I plan to continue on my present course, it’s rather pleasant.
2 thoughts on “The Journey Out of AA – so far”
Glad to hear things are progressing nicely, and that you’re finding things you like about running your own show. I also like the comment @beyond12step left on your original post about leaving AA – I know a few folks from my Sober Living e-mail group who’ve left AA and could really use some extra support from other people like you, so I’m glad to see there’s more and more support growing out there.
Thanks for writing,
I have been “Clean and Sober” for 26 years. I got clean when I was 27, most of my adult life has been “clean”. I am also an atheist in AA. My frustrations with the easy interpretation of The Big Book and the fundamentalist view of how it works has led me on an historical quest for how it all began. From the earliest abstinence groups like the Washingtonians right up until Bill Wilson. The history leads me to many conclusions such as, The “big book” is an impressive piece of work. It’s history is remarkable. It has some incredible concepts and ideas about recovery and it also has a lot of garbage.
Ultimately world and American history, WW1, industrialization, the roaring 20’s, prohibition… were all leading to some kind of recovery program for addicts. Bill Wilson through a series of circumstances started a fellowship by way of a Christian organization called the Oxford Groups. He was truly an extraordinary man. He wrote the book when he was 3 years clean. It is a compilation of as many spiritual practices he could get his greedy little hands on at the time. Lets face it. He wanted to make money. He wanted to do good but he wanted to make money.
He was actually wise enough and spiritual enough to get out of the way and let the so called “first 100 alcoholics” edit and debate the book. If anyone reading has ever been to an AA meeting, you may have seen how controlling and opinionated addicts tend to be.
The were crucifying poor Bill W at every turn.
The Atheists from NY AA wanted no God, The Oxford groupers from Akron wanted all god and really didnt want AA at all. Typical as conservatives go, they wanted things to remain the same, Evangelical Christian Oxford groups.
The moderates thought God was fine but not an exclusive god. The Atheist Jim Burwell is credited with “Higher Power”, “God as we understood God” and a few other concepts that allowed AA the be just inclusive enough to remain in existence in a secular world.
One of my conclusions about all this is, If Bill Wilson had been hit by a truck someone else would have started a fellowship for addicts. AA was not the first. It is only the most recent.
If Christopher Columbus hadn’t sailed the ocean blue in 1492 someone else would have. the western hemisphere would not have remained a blank spot on the globe.
There would be a different book with a different story.
I stay in AA. I want to be there for the Atheists who walk through the door armed with as many facts as I can. Prayer and meditation work for atheists too. Inventory and amends work and seem absolutely essential for addicts.
Addicts are people with a whole assortment of of brain anomalies. Mental illness? Yes, illness I suppose. But we are the geniuses, the artists, the poets, the rock stars, the politicians and mad men CEO’s who made the world what it is today. For better or worse…
Normal people don’t obsessively make art or work 100 hours a week, they make dinner and vacuum. I personally don’t understand them.
AA with all of it’s flaws has the real estate for addiction. If nothing else we prove every day that even the worst addict can get clean and lead a productive life. It is like the first time the 4 minute mile was broken. Doctors said it was not humanly possible. Once it was done, it was done more and more and now it is hardly a milestone.
AA is not fixed in 1938. It is an endlessly evolving entity. And you can do more good for addicts by being a part of it than you can by reading at home alone. Obviously we all need some alone time but I hope you come back and keep the atheist, humanist light on. People need you. Now more than ever. With industrialized addiction taking the world like a plague, We need you.
It is all about balance right?
Don’t be so stubborn or sure of yourself. Be a good atheist Buddhist or whatever floats your boat. Be an alcoholic in good standing! LOL!!
Chapel Hill NC