8 months, 11 days

I was stunned this morning to receive a phone call from S, one of the people from my home group, thanking me for my chair last night. S and I went on a date at the end of last year, when we were both a lot newer to the fellowship. It was a lovely date but we both seemed to realise at the time that it was a mistake to get involved in a relationship. Since then we haven’t spoken much with each other. I hadn’t seen him at the meeting at all since then, until yesterday. It’s a shame because in the very beginning when we first met, we got on really well.

Hearing from him today was a pleasant surprise, especially since I thought he didn’t like me any more. It seems he does still like me after all, and I’m thinking maybe we can be friends again. I have to admit that there’s still a part of me wanting to get into a relationship with him. I find him very attractive physically, and I know from our date that he’s a lovely guy with a lot to offer. Now that I’ve been sober for the best part of a year, I’m wondering if maybe I’m more ready for a relationship than I was last December, when we dated. I probably am, but I don’t think S is – he’s only four months sober. I’d like to ask him out again, but in all likelihood it would probably be better to wait a few more months. If it’s meant to be, I suppose there’s no rush to make things happen. I’m going to trust my higher power on this one.

Tonight I went to the theatre again with C. This time we saw a play about the history of Alcoholics Anonymous, called ‘My Name’s Bill’. Most of the scenes featured discussions between Bill Wilson and his wife Lois, in the days leading up to the first ever AA meeting between Bill and Dr Bob in Akron, Ohio. It was a fascinating insight into how the fellowship started, how and why the program was created. The scenes between Bill and Lois were painful and touching, as the characters talked to each other and to the audience about their history, their traumas at the hands of alcoholism. A lot of it sounded like the stuff you would hear in any modern AA meeting anywhere in the world. Those two people were no different to anyone else of their time, they were an average American couple in the 1930’s, but to all in AA they are Gods, because they created this fellowship, by simply talking about their feelings. They started something truly miraculous, something I believe in as much as everyone else who was in that theatre tonight.

The other day I was having an online discussion about AA, which I am mentioning now because it seems to have become important. You know about the social networking website which I’ve mentioned here many times before – sometimes the discussion forums can feature some pretty heavy discussion topics, and this week someone was asking for advice about their drinking problem. They said they’d been to AA before and didn’t like it because of all the talk of ‘powerlessness’. They felt that it was like a cult, and said that all the religious stuff had put them off after a few months of sobriety. They went back to controlled drinking but it’s now not working, and they’re stuck for what to do next.

I suggested trying another AA meeting – obviously the person must have found something worthwhile in the fellowship to stick at it for a few months the first time. Their main problem is the ‘powerlessness’ that you have to accept. I spent hours trying to explain in the easiest terms possible why this acceptance of powerlessness is actually the most empowering thing an alcoholic can do – but in the end the person couldn’t accept that it was the right thing to do. I wanted to reach out to this person, to help them as I was helped eight months ago in exactly the same way. But I feel like I’ve failed, because the person is sticking to ‘controlled’ drinking, to the misery that it brings.

I know AA isn’t for everyone.  I know there isn’t one single treatment which can work for every person that tries it. But to begin with I felt like I might have been getting through to that person. What upset and frightened me the most was the talk of AA being a ‘cult’. It felt like AA was being attacked, so in turn I felt attacked. People outside seem to think it’s a cult that brainwashes alcoholics, because we’re told that we will die if we don’t keep going back. I don’t think I’ve been brainwashed, but what if I’m wrong? What if all of it is a big lie?

In the end I’ve kept my trust in my higher power, and ignored the comments about cults and brainwashing, because I know in my heart that AA has saved my life. Even if I’ve been brainwashed against alcohol – so what? I don’t need it to survive. I don’t need alcohol any more, thanks to AA. I’ve experienced nothing but benefits since I joined the fellowship eight months ago. All the joy and love I felt last night at my home group, after giving my chair, wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t worked a program of recovery this year. If I’d never asked for help last year, I simply wouldn’t have the life I have now, a life which I know is immeasurably better than it was eight months ago. AA doesn’t brainwash anyone, because we are constantly reminded that we have the choice to leave at any time. Yes, we are told that leaving would put us in peril – that’s because in our hearts we know that no true alcoholic can deal with the illness alone.

In AA you only have to not drink one day at a time. No one’s pressured into doing anything for the rest of his/her life. Of course there are some in AA who try to practise it differently, to tell others what to do, but thankfully those people are rare. The freedom of choice that I’ve been given throughout my time in AA is how the Big Book says it should be.

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4 thoughts on “8 months, 11 days

  1. Oh dear, I’ve just made it sound like anyone who leaves AA will die. I didn’t mean it to sound that way. No one’s actually said to me ‘if you leave AA and go back out drinking, you’ll die’. It’s not that dramatic. What they do say is that if you leave and go back to drinking, it will probably be worse than before, and you risk losing everything. This I trust in because I know my drinking was getting progressively worse in the last year. So I keep coming back to meetings because I don’t want that to happen. Without the meetings, I’d have enough time on my hands to start drinking alcoholically again very quickly. What I like about AA is that it gives you CHOICE. This is why I don’t think it’s a cult. As I already said, no one tells me what to do in AA. I can choose to go to as many or as few meetings as I like. I can do the steps and work the program in my own time. It might sound like we’re not really given a choice when we’re told we’re better off not leaving the program – but it’s still a choice. The main philosophy is that no alcoholic can treat the illness alone, but with the help of AA, I believe they can.

  2. You were actually pretty clear I think in getting your point across and the addendum wasn’t really necessary. Thanks tho =)

    I’ve found myself to have a problem with drinking actually, nothing outrageous, but enough to have my girlfriend bring attention to it. And that was enough… I just hope for the courage and strength to never touch it again =)

  3. Brainwashing – my brain needed to be washed. It was quite polluted. People do all kinds of things to cope, and AA is a very healthy one. It doesn’t ask you to give up going into the world, and to give over your material possessions. You’re not thrown out if you don’t verbalize the program lines. There may be other answers for other people, but really most alcoholics don’t stop drinking in AA or anywhere else. The fact that someone is trying to moderate tells me that person has a drinking problem. Moderation may work, but it may not. Would you like to share the road with a moderate drinker? AA works for some few very lucky people. These people participate fully in their families, communities, workplaces. They do not shun these things because AA says they’ll stray if they do. For people who say AA is no answer, they must be saying it is no answer for them. It’s an answer for me and many others. Who can tell me that is wrong?

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