Tag Archives: AA meetings

Pretend AA Meeting Video

Hi guys –

A new-to-sobriety friend suggested I try making a vlog (video blog) – so I recorded this.  Don’t worry, I won’t stop writing regular blogs!  This video is intended for people who are shy of attending an AA meeting, to demystify what happens and what is spoken of there.

Let me know what you think!

.The

The book I read from is Alcoholics Anonymous. https://www.aa.org/pages/en_us/alcoholics-anonymous

A directory of AA meetings can be found here:
https://www.aa.org/pages/en_US/find-local-aa

Online meetings can (I think?) be accessed here – though I do believe they are a make-do substitute for (i.e. not as good as) F2F meetings.
https://www.aa-intergroup.org/
.

57435722_10108926357494928_2209609447993507840_o

All clear – told we can go home ❤

3 Comments

Filed under AA, Meetings, Recovery

Meetings on the Road: No Matter What

When you’re on vacation, you know what’s a great idea?  Going to AA meetings.

Traveling for work, what keeps you grounded?  You guessed it, meetings.

Visiting out-of-town relatives?  Are you fucking kidding me?  MEETINGS!

I’ve attended AA meetings in Greece, Hawaii, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Spokane, Boston, and New York — at least, that’s all I can recall offhand.  Especially when I’m traveling alone, the rooms feel like home.  In Athens, Greece, for instance, I walked more than 2 miles from my hotel (which featured a lush tropical bar) to track down a small AA symbol partially obscured by ivy on tower centuries old.  Climbing to the room, I was met with posters of Bill and Bob on the walls along with the 12 Steps & Traditions, in English.

That meeting united accents from all over the globe, but the first share came from a weeping American woman who feared for her job.  A flight attendant, she’d screwed up the landing cross-check and inflated a slide, delaying the next flight by half a day. ‘Coincidentally,’ though, she’d been my flight attendant.  Chucking the cross-talk taboo, I spoke up, recounting for her everything she’d done right on that flight, along with all the extra demands placed on her as the only attendant fluent in Greek.  Tears streamed down her face as she listened, and she was certainly not alone in that.

Just three months sober at the time, I’d not planned on sharing.  But the that experience — along with the fellowship afterward at an outdoor cafe where the whole rollicking group wrote on my tourist map about where to go and what to see — cemented the meeting policy that has served me to this day: JUST GO.

At 22 years sober, I still go to meetings out-of-town.  Yes, I have an awesome life.  The craving to drink is long gone. Parts of me blighted by alcoholism have blossomed.  Scars from childhood are healing in the sunlight of the spirit.  Whereas it used to suck abysmally to be me without alcohol, drugs, and/or the highs of obsessive infatuation, today my mind and heart feel like a comfy, cheerful place to hang out.

Hokey as it may sound, I’m just back from a travel adventure commonly known as a college reunion.  Thirty-five years ago, I was lucky enough to have parents who sent me to a “seven sisters” college (Vassar).  This past weekend, I was a lucky enough to get a reunion “scholarship” to revisit the place.  So off I flew to New York.

The vast contrast between who I was at 21 and who I am today struck me every minute I was there.  For example, only a few of my friends showed up, which in the past would have posed a disappointment.  Today, it meant a chance to get to know classmates I recognized but didn’t know personally, all of whom had aged, of course, but also matured into better selves — without 12-step work!  “I get nicer every year,” remarked one of my normie friends, reflecting on the effect of life’s losses and tears, “and I hold back less.”

I re-explored the grand library’s “secret” spiral staircases, subterranean stacks, and lofty tower with a new friend, giggling and chatting about the fertility ordeals by which we got our kids.  With another, shopping near campus, I shared the shock and pain of lost relationships. I’d somehow imagined that everyone else from Vassar was living ideal, tragedy-free lives, but was reminded yet again that being human is painful for all of us.

To me, as an alcoholic, growth is a huge deal: trusting others with the truth of my inner experiences was, in my youth, a risk beyond my limits.  Trapped by self-conscious awkwardness and social fears, I needed alcohol to cut me loose.  For 14 years, daily drinking halted my emotional growth so thoroughly that by age 34, when I finally hit bottom, I was still literally going to keggers at which I tried to act cool.

For me, the difference between the selfishly miserable person I was for so long and the outgoing, happy person I am today comes down to one factor: god.

It’s my awareness of a god that loves me no matter what, the one I found in AA, that grants me the courage I need to reach out to others — courage that has emboldened me to live large and build a beautiful life.

An Alcoholics Anonymous meeting was posted in the reunion schedule for Saturday afternoon, competing with four tempting lectures (on Vassar’s art, theater costumes, diversity tactics, and… Trump).  I skipped ’em.  I went to the meeting.  I’d set an alarm on my phone.  I left all my friends.  There was no question in my mind as I crossed campus to find it.

Sure, booze — free booze, mind you — was flowing everywhere, and friends unaware I’m sober were constantly offering to grab me drinks. But that’s not why I went.  Saying “no thanks” is as easy for me as turning down arsenic.  Rather, I went to the AA meeting because that’s where my god shows up.

The fancy parlor held five of us – two newcomers, two with 20-plus years, and an Al-Anon with two.  Hearing the shares of the newcomers — their feelings as if they were walking a balance beam of their commitment to life and integrity while their old tactics of escape clamored for them to hop down, and their amazement that they were actually doing it, miraculously passing up drinks — reminded me that I am still and will always be missing the crucial piece that god provides.  My wholeness is granted to me one day at a time by a power outside me.

Normie friends, for the most part, can’t understand this.  One chalked up my lengthy sobriety to “grit and determination.”  The fact is, I tried “grit and determination” about 1,753 times, and it never worked!  But god has.  That connection is all I jones for these days, and I know I can always find it at meetings, no matter where I roam.

 

3 Comments

Filed under AA, Alcoholism, Meetings, Recovery, Sobriety

Six Reasons I “still go to those meetings”

Sometimes if I share that I’m 21 years sober, people unfamiliar with AA will ask: “You don’t still go to those meetings, do you?”

The answer is, hell yes!  Yes, yes, YES!!!  And I hope I always get to!

The fact is, I’m talking about something completely different than they are.  They’re thinking of whatever bullshit AA they’ve seen on TV and in movies.  Yuck!  The actors always use this solemn, self-deprecating tone of confession, or else they blurt out horrific embarrassments that cue mindless laughter.  I’m always angered when I see these depictions.  They have nothing to do with the AA I adore.

Here’s a photo of my most recent AA meeting (that preserves anonymity):

Tiger AA

We’re all former loners and shy people who’ve hiked to the top of 3,000′ Tiger Mountain for a meeting that happens there every Sunday morning in all kinds of weather.  Coffee’s in the middle – people bring big thermoses – and treats of every description, from lemon bars to fresh baked calzones, circulate in plastic containers.  Why hold an AA meeting up in the mountains?  Because it’s fun!  Because friendship, exercise, nature, and recovery are all great things!

Last week before my old homegroup, a friend and I met downtown for coffee, which was tremendous fun.  The two of us differ drastically (he’s half my age, Korean-born, and hip), but because of our shared disease and the way of life that cures it, “there exists among us a fellowship, a friendliness, and an understanding which is indescribably wonderful” (17).

When this friend, back from relapse with about a year sober, chaired the meeting of 150-200 recovering drunks, he called on a young woman who raised an interesting question.  She said, “I don’t understand why, even though I have 11 years sober and I’m a yoga instructor with my own spiritual practice and I read spiritual books and meditate and pray, I still get crazy if I go too long without a meeting.  Why is that?”

Answer: Because she’s still an alcoholic.

Six Reasons I’ll Always Go to Meetings

  1. Treating fear and ego: Alcoholism is a dis-ease of maladjustment to life, a suffering in selfhood and social interaction that we tried to alleviate with a dopamine-boosting neurotoxin – until that strategy began to kill us.  But even after we’ve stopped drinking and worked the steps, whenever that maladjustment crops up – whether as anxiety, resentment, or self-loathing – ego volunteers (“pick me! pick me!”) to fix it.  Ego puffs us up as “special,” turning us away from god and love, which brings on all the old feelings.  In meetings, as we connect via others’ shares, we remember the common humanity our stepwork revealed.  Hearing others lay out their inner experience, a privilege we find nowhere else in our culture, reopens our hearts.
  2. Reminders of what it’s like out there: Only in meetings do I witness this story in a way I can’t doubt: “I was doing well so I tapered my meetings.  I decided I had my act more together now so I could drink normally, and I did great for a couple weeks: I’d have a drink or two and stop.  But then it took off, worse than ever, and I had no brakes…”  The person isn’t just saying this.  You can see it.  You can hear it.  My friend Carl came back a near skeleton.  Others end up in the psyche ward.  And some just plain old wanna die.
  3. Chances to help others, to be of use:  Meetings give an opportunity for service work, whether by making the coffee or reaching out to someone who’s new or hurting.  It’s a spiritual axiom that when I give, I get.
  4. Learning from others: At almost every meeting, myrolodex internal Rolodex of AA wisdom gets updated with cool stuff – like this Rolodex metaphor!  Last spring I learned of Drop the Rock, a great book on Steps 6 and 7.  A month ago I heard the excellent term “awfulizer” for that part of my mind that jumps to worst case scenario.
  5. Laughter: Succinctly stated truths of experience we’d thought to be ours alone are what drive all great stand-up comedy.  My fellows are fuckin’ hilarious.  And laughter heals.
  6. Love, love, love:  At that big meeting, another friend responded to the young woman’s question about why we need meetings:  “It’s the love. This room is full of it.  We know each other, we love each other.  We’re family. We’re like a good mafia.”  He pointed out people here and there, naming memories that connected them.  To my friend, the chair, he said, “We saw you when you were out there, man, and it hurt my heart.  You were ridin’ your bike, you had this big ole abscess on your arm and your eyes were dim and you’re all like, ‘It’s cool!’  But we knew it wasn’t.  I’m so glad you made it back, man!”

Threads connected me, too, to so many in that room.  Over there was the young woman with multiple sclerosis I called from a parking lot in a panic at my cancer diagnosis, who comforted me and has miraculously cured her own symptoms.  Here was that wise-ass guy I thought would never make it, whom I just saw at Starbucks reading the Big Book to a teenage junkie – also present.  That suicidal girl I sat down with on those steps twelve years ago, who now has a beautiful marriage and toddler and sometimes cuts my hair – I sent her a smile.

rainbow_heart

As for the “good mafia” part – it’s true we take care of each other.  I’ve edited cover letters, resumes, and financial aid requests that helped people move ahead in life.  Alcoholics have built my deck, given me (amazing) facials, fixed my car, rewired my home, split my firewood, built my website, changed my locks, fixed my sink, and more – much of it for free.  And what’s more, all borrowed when I stood atop the 14,380′ summit of Mount Rainier the first time were my ice axe, crampons, helmet, harness, gaters, shell pants, and goggles – from alcoholic climbers.  Who else does that?

We’re not drunk.

We’re not dead or wishing we were, as we did for years.

Because the truth is, alcoholism made only one mistake: it’s the same for all of us (Rolodex item #557).  By meeting and sharing our stories, we call out this disease on its cunning, insidious lies and take steps toward a higher power that kicks its hoary ass.

scroll

9 Comments

Filed under AA, Addiction, Alcoholism, Meetings, Recovery, Sobriety