AlcoholismFilter: Members of AA who “take what you want, and leave the rest”. How exactly do you DO this? What do you “take”, and what do you ignore? How can I benefit from the mutual support and encouragement of an AA group, and help others and myself, while there are many things about AA I disagree with? (Non-AA groups not available in my area).
posted by anonymous to health & fitness (14 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I first went to AA a couple of years ago and loved the social and personal support network I found there. I tried to practise the program as suggested, and had short periods of successful sobriety. After a couple weeks I began to spend time with a strict or so-called ''AA fundamentalist'' home group and sponsor, who had a very disciplined, rigid and time-consuming approach. Their whole lives were basically consumed with AA service and study (which I don't judge necessarily, however it's not the way I want to live) and they had no non-AA friends (people they referred to as "those normies"). I was required to synchronise clocks with my sponsor and call her not even one minute late; phone five newcomers a day; my character flaws were repeatedly brought to my attention and so forth.
Now that i look back on it, it was an instructive but also somewhat punitive and humiliating experience. I also met a few wonderful AA people outside of this clique who were far more relaxed and flexible, however I was persuaded to view them as "not doing the program properly". Ultimately I rebelled against all this, I suppose, and in general just couldn't be bothered with all the work that sobriety seemed to require. I take full responsibility for this, and am not blaming anyone else, by the way. I returned to my drinking lifestyle, drifted out of AA and moved to another city for work reasons.
Fast forward three years. I have occasionally had short periods of sobriety with the aid of therapy, medications, exercise and self-help books, but in general continue to struggle with my drinking. Since my AA experience I have actually become an atheist (not as a direct result, but for other reasons.) I have also developed a fascination for research on addiction and alcoholism, and have discovered that many of the so-called "truths" of alcoholism, as propounded by AA, are not supported by the evidence. In fact I think some of the things I learned there actually did more harm than good and gave me a somewhat warped perspective on certain aspects of life and self-identity. To this day I disagree with many facets of the AA program and also the idea of being “in recovery” forever. (This is just my personal opinion and interpretation.)
HOWEVER. I am SO incredibly lonely in trying to deal with my drinking. My therapist is great but obviously that’s necessarily a limited source of support. I live in a small Australian city in which all of my friends and acquaintances are heavy drinkers. In theory, I could do non-drinking activities with them and ask for their support with my problem, but deep down I don't want to as I suspect I don't actually have real connections or things in common with them, except that we enable each other’s drinking. I have thoroughly researched non-AA support groups for alcoholism, however there is not even one option available in my city. So it is with some desperation I realise that I can no longer do this alone and would prefer to be with AA people, than no-one at all.
My question is, how do I reconcile my current beliefs (and, IMHO, well-researched, evidence-based opinions) about alcoholism, addiction and “the recovery industry”, with all the stuff I hear in AA? I need these people’s support, and I would like to support them also, but I don’t want to “work the steps”, get a sponsor, or “put cotton wool in my mouth” and, quite frankly, I don’t believe that some “Higher Power” is what will stop me drinking. I really just need the human companionship and support. I’ve heard some AA people say that you can “take what you want and leave the rest” – my question is please can you suggest some tools and strategies I can use to DO this? Should I share in meetings or keep to myself? Should I tell anyone my true suspicion that a lot of AA stuff is [no offense] BS, but I need it anyway, cause the meds and the books and the therapy just aren't enough?!