This will likely be the toughest post I’ve ever written. I am beholden to steer clear of controversy related to AA and the 12 Steps, but this is a hugely important topic that doesn’t get enough of a proper airing. I’m going to try to walk the tightrope.
Let me start by adding a disclaimer; the following is my opinion and my personal understanding. If you want to know exactly what’s in the Big Book, look to the forward and the first 164 pages. I highly recommend reading that rather than basing your opinion on someone else’s opinion. Especially when trying to make a determination on what the book does or does not say.
With that, I’ll begin. Are meetings needed to stay sober? No. And yes. One of the biggest misunderstandings about the aforementioned Big Book is whether or not other forms of recovery are acknowledged. Many mistakenly believe that those in AA believe “the program” is the only way to recover. This is entirely untrue. It’s a fabrication and a pervasive myth. AA does indeed embrace the idea that it does not corner the market on recovery. The idea that “AA” as a whole only recognizes its own “brand” of recovery is simply false (page 31, 38 & 39, bottom of 94, last paragraph of 95, and finally, 103). As I go, I’m only worried about my own recovery and passing on my experience, strength and hope that it might help others. Our stated goal, and I fully embrace this, is simply to be useful to others.
Where this gets tricky is that our brand of recovery happens to be very thorough. We “leave no stone unturned” when it comes to rectifying our past and making amends for our misdeeds. We learn to change how we think and live down to our very core. We look at everything that we are and seek to rise from the dregs of society to become productive members of society. Better, we do this without trained professionals and at little cost, beyond a Dollar to help with coffee and rent and a few more to buy a Big Book.
Put another way, if cancer could be fixed the same way, there’d be a line around the block to get into a meeting and no one would complain about having to work a few simple steps!
Happy and Recovering
That out of the way, I have two very close friends who lead perfectly happy lives who stopped going to meetings decades ago. One found God and happiness in church and the other simply got the message and changed his ways long, long ago. Both are fine, upstanding members of society and have more “clean time” than I do by more than a decade each. Those two alone show beyond a shadow of a doubt that recovery is attainable without meetings.
The trick is, each of my friends are mindful of who they hang out with and what they do with their free time; they’re every bit as vigilant as I am about my recovery. They also worked some form of program in the past where they transformed their life to break the cycle of addiction. These items are a must if one hopes for peace and contentment.
Dry Drunks and Popcorn Farts
Now we’re going to wander into dangerous territory. If I were to have sworn off alcohol for good and managed to quit on my own, cold turkey as they say, well, I’d probably be dead or drunk today. I simply couldn’t do it without the program and live with myself. I had to fix my stinkin’ thinkin’ and everything that came with it in order to sober up. I also needed the companionship that only comes with being a part of AA. And therein lies the rub – but that’s me. I can’t fairly say what someone else needs, I can only share my own experience.
However, where we get into trouble is when well intentioned people lack the ability to honestly assess their situation and become irritable discontents. Within the program these people can get help. Outside, without professional help, they languish, forever placing the blame that belongs on who they’re looking at in the mirror on other people, places, and things. Things they have no control over. These are your dry drunks that we often refer to as “drier than a popcorn fart”. They quit drinking by sheer will alone, and they’re not happy about it.
I don’t know what the answer is for people so afflicted. It’s a horrible condition indeed. I just do my part to be useful to my fellows, wherever possible.
In the end…
In the end, it’s all about happiness and contentment. Call it “quality of life”, a fantastic buzz-term for this topic. I continue to attend meetings because they better my quality of life. I’ve said for a long time (after someone passed it on to me), it’s a lot harder to fall off the wagon when you’re sitting in the middle of it, surrounded by 50 of your closest friends. It’s easier to fall off if you’re sitting on the edge, all by your lonesome. All that wagon needs is to hit a bump and you’re flying through the air, waiting to land in the mud.
Meetings and steps isn’t the only way to sober up. It’s a thorough way. It’s a useful way, and when done with gusto, a way to sober up that leads to an exceedingly happy life. I continue to go because going makes me happy.
But that’s just me.