If everything goes according to plan, this Saturday, May 8th 2021 I will celebrate 27 years of continuous sobriety.
I spent 22 of those years in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), attending a meeting at least once a week. Raising my hand to volunteer, reaching out my hand to newcomers and reading the literature. I would even pray at least once a day, usually I’d recite the 3rd Step and 7th Step prayers each day, and as the day would progress I might say an extra prayer here or there. At night I might thank the sky for the day and ask for certain people to be watched over. I was a Big Book Thumper! I quoted the book, practiced the book and preached the book. I was a hawker or the 12 Traditions and their importance to making meetings and AA work.
As an atheist I struggled with the concept of a “higher power” and or “god” and despite what the book or the traditions say, most meetings I went to pushed a need to believe in something greater than you to achieve and keep sobriety. I did as I was told, I ‘faked it til you make it’ til I was blue in the face, but I seemed to get sobriety without ever achieving a belief in a higher power. Made me kind of a hypocrite when I would preach the steps and not believe key parts were necessary.
In 2016 I had a bad depression cycle and was in a dark place for several months. Nothing AA had taught me was helping, I was stuck. I didn’t know how to get out of it and didn’t know if I wanted to get out of it, it became comfortable and the new normal. I was actively planning my own death and looking forward to it.
My primary care physician listened to me and prescribed some medications that helped me. I got out of the dark place and started to feel better and started to think that I didn’t want to go to AA any longer. I don’t know that they were connected thoughts I just know they happened around the same time. So I came to a decision to leave meetings. I’ve been to two meetings since and they didn’t inspire me to come back to the groups or give my heart aches.
It’s interesting, my sponsor at the time noticed I was moving away from AA before I did. He mentioned one night after we met that it seemed like I was pulling away. I was having issues with the service structure of AA and not enjoying any part of meetings, not the people, the time or the activities. I was moving away and didn’t know it. When I told him I was leaving he wasn’t surprised and thankfully he didn’t cut me out of his life or anything, I still chat with him on occasion and count him as a friend.
So what’s different if you don’t go to AA meetings any longer Jamez? – well not a lot. I still believe getting out of self and helping others is a key role in sanity and sobriety. I still meditate on occasion. I still don’t drink or do drugs. Basically I took the meetings and readings out… and doing ok, as far as I can tell.
AA gave me a great foundation, tools to live a normal life and now I’m living it. AA is a great resource if you’re looking to find a new life and they can help you get there. I appreciate what AA gave me and how far it got me, changed me for life I hope.
So Saturday, I’ll be 27. I’ll be spending time with an old friend for the weekend in Philadelphia, I don’t anticipate attending a meeting, just doing normal things that normal people do. Hope you have a great weekend too.
Organizations that help you find sobriety:
LifeRing – Secular Recovery
SMART Recovery – non deity based recovery