Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Doing It My Way: Not AA’s Way

Let's just get this out of the way because if I ever do get any readers it is sure to come up. I think AA is a wonderful organization. I believe most if not all of its beliefs. It has saved millions of people including my brother and several of my friends. So why not me? I don't do well with organized activities. I'm not good at you have to be here at this time, this many times a week, and you have to do these things in this order. If you could see my thighs, you'd know how well my organized Pilates class worked out for me. Does that mean I'm not committed to my recovery? I don't think so. I've just always done better doing things my way in my own time. A member of AA might say that I'm not ready to admit that I have no control over my drinking. And they might be right. But they could be wrong, too.
I've written other blogs and I know one of the ways to get your word "out" is to start doing the message board/forum circuit and casually mention that you have just written about yada yada yada on your blog or to add you website to your signature on your posts. Pretty soon the hits start coming. So I went to one of these boards yesterday to lurk. It scared the hell out of me. I'm doomed! Not because I don't believe what they are saying or that I don't think the "steps" are important. I believe! I believe! But I'd fail because I hate meetings.
Let me try to explain my problems with an illustration. Years ago I was the head of a department at a college (you can substitute any organization here because it happens in them all). We were required to attend a number of meetings a week. My program was a new program that I was developing and I had a lot of work to do and when I could have been accomplishing something I was stuck in meetings. Some people love meetings (I guess they have all their work done). In the years I was there we rehashed the same issues over and over and over…you get my drift. While I was looking at my watch the meeting lovers were arguing their understanding of the issue and how things should be done. If one capitulated I would think I was home free but then the other one would say, "You know you might have been right." And then they would switch sides.
I want to find a solution and act on it even if it's wrong, not talk it to death. When I worked at the college I had a secretary. She had the easiest job in the world. I never gave her anything to do. I figured by the time I explained what I needed her to do, I could do it myself and it would get done the way I wanted it. Hell, if I joined AA, I'd probably try to rewrite Bill's Book in the first month. "Can I get a vote on a color change here? Don't you think blue is so last year?"
Anyway I digress (I usually do), but you can substitute any organization in the previous scenario. Including AA. I lurk on several alcoholics blogs and you hear it on all of them. Squabbles and disagreement at AA meetings between the people that already have their "work" done. Not about the message but about the interpretation or the way to deliver it.
Another problem I have with some recovery programs is their "Our Way is the only True Way to Salvation" attitude. I am a nurse and just like there should be no "cookie cutter" medicine, there should be no cookie cutter recovery. The other day I was reading an article about Anthony Bourdain, the chef, and after the article there was an area for comments so the same 7 people that have nothing better to do with their time can tell us how they feel on everything from genocide in Darfur to the state of Lindsay Lohans hair extensions. And of course, I have nothing better to do with my time but read what these enlightened few have to say. Anyway one of the anointed 7 said that he had read that Bourdain, a recovering heroin addict, sometimes drinks at special events. This soothsayer went on to predict a swift and fiery downhill slide for Bourdain because he, the commenter, had himself gone through a 12 step program and he knew that this was the fate of any recovered addict that takes a drink. Who says? Where did that blanket belief come from? Bourdain was a heroin addict. Do I believe that for some people that one drink might be the trigger that hurls them back into addiction and alcoholism? Sure! I think I might be one of them. But I'm not going to make a sweeping judgment and a one-for-all verdict for everybody. Speaking of Lindsay Lohan, in the middle of her jail debacle, an addiction physician made the comment on the Today Show that maybe it's time to step away from the total abstinence thing and start teaching other behavior modifications because, obviously, for some people the total abstinence thing isn't working. She got shushed pretty quickly. But maybe….she's right.
My point after all this is, there are a lot of us out there that are not cut out for the AA ride. That doesn't mean we are hopeless. That doesn't mean we don't want it bad enough. That doesn't mean we're doomed. It just means we haven't found "our" ticket out yet. And we're doing the best we can today.


  1. You wrote this so long ago, and I have no idea what modifications you have made in your belief system, so I am really just talking out of my arse here.

    I totally get it in terms of AA "program" versus inner exploration of issues and the potential for their resolution to decrease my need to drink, drug, eat etc.

    I had this debate with myself for 15 years. Yes, 15 YEARS. And nothing has worked but the 12 steps in CONJUNCTION with therapy and yoga and running and whatever. I really am irked sometimes by the program. It annoys the shit out of me at times. But since, it is the ONLY thing that has gotten me to put the booze down, I'll take it. I also, unlike those business meetings you mentioned, find them comforting. Sure, sometimes I am tapping my toe or rolling my eyes. But at this point, chances are, if I go to a meeting, I won't want to drink that day.
    Also, one day at a time means that tomorrow I can decide, "Dear God, what a bunch of baloney this has been. I think I shall become a vegan yogi and have a glass of organic wine now and again." But today, JUST today, I know that I would end up a dead vegan yogi.

  2. Catherine,
    When I wrote this, I think it was somewhat fear that kept me from going, but to be honest, I think it was mostly because the cap'n hadn't reached a level of comfort with my quest for sobriety and he was, and still is, very paranoid about what repercussions this all could have on both of our careers.

    Now I frankly don't care what anybody thinks, I am very proud of myself and so is the cap'n, but he still is uncomfortable with going "public" and I honor that.

    The funny thing is, I agree with everything AA says, especially that "Higher Power" that seems to give so many people a stumbling block. I think I am following AA's traditions in my own way but at this point I am very happy with my recovery and probably won't be adding meetings to my plan.

    However, if I relapse, I will run, not walk to the first meeting I can find.

  3. "The path of the Warrior is lifelong, and mastery is often simply staying on the path."
    - Richard Strozzi Heckler, In Search of the Warrior Spirit

    Finding the right path, however, that's another story!

    Thanks for sharing on MM, where so many starfish seek to find their own path.

  4. Your welcome, my fellow starfish lover. It's hard to find starfish up here in the mountains but in three weeks I'll be back walking the beach.