In this blog, William Charles shares his personal experience with Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
I want to disclose upfront that I’ve only been to a little over 2 dozen AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings and didn’t obtain a sponsor or go through the steps. Now, I already know upfront that many will dismiss my point of view (which remains positive and open minded) or what I have to say because they believe the Big Book of AA is an authoritative source on alcohol and drug addiction, treatment and recovery and that Alcoholics Anonymous is the “only way” to sobriety. I have always disagreed with this and still do. I believe there are multiple ways to get addiction treatment, help and maintain one’s sobriety and long-term recovery. I do however, believe that Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are valuable tools that can and maybe even should be used by most people in recovery – possibly even me. I will explain more in this blog. I encourage you to keep an open mind and also remember, that this is only my experience.
My First Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Meeting
Some of you may be wondering why I chose to attend AA and not NA given that I am a recovering heroin addict rather than a recovering alcoholic. The truth is, it was very difficult (for me at least) to find NA meetings and AA meetings were all over Philadelphia. So I chose AA. Moreover, I’ve heard from many in recovery who have been to both that AA is more “serious” – whatever that means. So to AA I went. Now, onto my first meeting.
I walked in – not nervous at all to be honest because truthfully – that’s just the way I am. I’ve done videos in front of thousands and millions have seen my content and know who I am. So I walk in, sit down and wait for the meeting to start. I sat at a large table with a lot of other people and other people sat behind me in other chairs. There was no assigned seating. I said hello to a few people at the table who were sitting nearby. There was a person upfront, which they call the “chairman”, the person who runs the meeting (different every time). They say a few words (which I found out later are repeated by every chairman at every meeting) and then he passed the meeting onto the speaker for that meeting who was to tell their story for 20 minutes.
I could tell the speaker wasn’t trained or overly eloquent with their words however, he didn’t appear to be nervous. He told his story like he was speaking to a group of friends, which I found comfort in. However, I couldn’t really relate since he continued to talk about alcohol. Now, it’s possible he did other drugs, but in AA, you are only allowed to discuss alcohol and if you did heroin, you have to replace the word with alcohol, which is one of their traditions. Traditions are never broken, at least, they’re not meant to be.
After a 20 minute story, the floor was opened up to everyone else who raised their hand in turn and would share something they could identify with that they heard. Occasionally, I would hear someone mention heroin or another drug but you could tell the room started to become uncomfortable so the discussion went back to alcohol. I decided I was going to speak. I mean, why not. I wanted to introduce myself but I didn’t mention this community. I just identified with everyone else just as a recovering addict. That said, I did feel a bit uncomfortable speaking, not because I was nervous but only because there was so much I couldn’t say as a recovering heroin addict who used medicine assisted treatment and counseling to leap into my recovery rather than AA or NA. People were very surprised to hear that this was my first meeting after almost 2 years of being clean and sober. I kept it short, people thanked me for introducing myself and that was it.
The meeting ended and a lot of people stayed to talk with one another. The smokers grouped outside to smoke and talk while others stayed inside. A lot of people already knew each other and I felt like an outsider. One person stopped to talk with me and we spoke for a few minutes. After that, I left.
Other AA Meetings
For the next dozen meetings or so, I found the process very repetitive with very little room for sharing and identifying with others. I’m sure if alcohol was my true choice of drug, I could identify more, but given everything I went through, I really couldn’t say much. Because of that, I felt like an outsider for the majority of meetings. Nobody came up to talk to me other than a few hello’s at the beginning of the meeting. I did go up to speak with the primary speaker or chair person at the end of a few meetings and that led to some discussion. Most of it was positive, but some seemed to want to rush me so they could talk to people they knew and had personal friendships with.
For the first dozen and a half meetings, I found the repetition annoying, but for some reason, I started to find a little bit of comfort in it after that. Somehow, I felt a part of it because I knew what they were going to say. And I found some truth in the words (though not all). But it didn’t change the process and I never got any more than a hello from anyone else except for that first meeting.
AA is a support group that is designed to help people stop using alcohol and possibly other drugs. In my opinion, it is not the only way but it is a helpful tool. I barely scratched the surface in the program and I’m sure if I was more proactive in trying to meet people or get a sponsor, I would have gotten a lot more out of it. Without a sponsor, you can’t really go through the steps, so that’s something that I haven’t gotten to do yet. Perhaps I’ll go back and try and do that. After all, it can’t hurt.
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Written by William Charles, Owner and Publisher for Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide™, Heroin News, and the National Alliance of Addiction Treatment Centers (NAATC)
We are a community for recovering heroin addicts providing support and recommending the best treatments and clinics to people interested in conquering their addiction.
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