The frank and honest post…

… I’m thinking of dropping out of active AA membership.   I never thought I’d feel like this but recently I’ve felt disconnected, the  few chairs I’ve given (i.e. the speaker sharing their experience, strength and hope at the start of a meeting) helped reaffirm my recovery from alcoholism but I’ve a dissatisfaction with AA that is sticking and I’m feeling increasingly difficult to shrug off currently.

Why you ask?

Firstly – 12 stepping.  I’m happy to talk to a newcomer if they ask me.  I’m happy to share with them as I can remember what it was like for me in the early days what I tried, what didn’t work, what did.  However – I believe AA is about attraction therefore I’m not going to be in the newcomers face about being at meetings and doing what I suggest they should – it is their choice.  I see no point in this zealous over promotion.   I’ve been openly criticised recently on that but I’ve re-read the big book etc. regarding this – I don’t get it and I don’t agree with it.  If someone comes to AA and listens to the members and want to work it my only advice will be “Don’t drink, come to meetings and listen” – I strongly feel that is the best advice I can give for the first while.  Also where in AA “rules” does it say I have to be on the local meeting 12 step lists?

Sponsorship – I don’t sponsor people overtly.  I’ll advise anyone who asks and I’ll listen as I can but I don’t impose anything on anyone.  I really have an issue with again the over zealous nature of some sponsorship relationships.  I hear people saying “my sponsor tells me to do this and that… I just do it”… Really?  Where is it in the AA programme that you forgo responsibility for yourself?  I feel it is the opposite that should be true.  My “sponsor” (i.e. the person actually people I look to for advice) give me advice about my alcoholism, that is why I turn to them for advice.  Hearing someone say “I agree with my sponsor about my depression medication and he advised me to hire a new secretary… amazing his sponsor is not only a recovering alcoholic but a doctor and an MBA qualified business consultant apparently…  Funny, when I need new glasses I go to an optician I don’t ask my sponsor…   BTW – no step or tradition in AA mentions sponsorship.  It is mentioned in Living Sober but it is not a requirement it is a option and I really do fear vulnerable people being manipulated by others for the wrong reasons.  I was recently asked if I had a sponsor when I discussed a vacant service post, I will not be allowing my nomination to go forward since again I see no requirement for having a sponsor being in any of the service guidelines but it seems others do.

Egos – sick to death of them. 

I thought the only requirement for membership was a desire to stop drinking.  I’m getting the feeling that for too many people around that isn’t enough and I’m not prepared to move to their interpretation of the AA traditions. 

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About furtheron

Music and guitar obsessive who is a recovering alcoholic to boot
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12 Responses to The frank and honest post…

  1. I’ve often wondered if AA necessitates (demands?) permanent membership. Can you simply decide that you’ve accomplished what you set out to do and move on, or is it more complicated than that? I’m in no way relating the two, but people go into psychoanalysis for a specific problem and stop once things are under control. Of course, there are some for whom analysis is a lifelong commitment, but not everyone. Is there an unspoken rule that says you shouldn’t stop?

  2. Yeah…I hung up my AA shoes after 90 days. I felt all the things you’re talking about within the first few weeks, and frankly (if we’re being frank), the constant focus on all this other stuff besides Just Not Drinking (for now) was HUGELY distracting. Annoying. Depressing. Meetings and the people in the positions of “”leadership” made me want to drink. It just felt inauthentic/made up, so I stopped going. None of the couple of women whom I thought I’d befriended–you know, as people and not necessarily as “alcoholics”–returned my texts once I stopped going. It felt like high school–worse, even, if it can get worse. I wish I hadn’t wasted my first few months in AA, as it was nothing but counterproductive. Is “fellowship” supposed to be embodied by AAers coming up to you on the street, and insinuating that they’re shocked you made it “out there” on your own? Or, when you encounter someone who was SUPER-nice to you in meetings, and they glare at you, or make almost-mean chitchat? Anyway, sorry for the rant, but I feel you on everything you’re talking about. Make the decision that feels right, that opens up your world instead of the opposite! xx

  3. furtheron says:

    I can’t deny that for me AA was the life saver – I really couldn’t have made it through, esp the first couple of years. Now I worry if my dissatisfaction with it is just my disease telling me I’ll be ok and I won’t.

    Sorry for your experience DDG but that wasn’t and isn’t how I’ve found it. I recently stood and had a chat with a girl who used to regularly come, and was a serial relapser. She’s found another way and it 2 years sober now. Great – I have no issue with that. But AA has worked for me so why would I walk away from it really?

    Interesting your comment on “leadership” – there isn’t any that is the point. Although I was at a meeting last Saturday (one of the catalysts in all this) where someone kept saying “We should tell the groups to do this” etc. I just got fed up putting my hand up and saying “Tradition 4″… Maybe the answer is I just pull back from service and let them get on with it but I’ve always considered service important as part of recovery.

  4. sherryd32148 says:

    I had a huge bias against AA prior to going myself. It stemmed from my experiences from the outside with my sister and her abuse of the rooms. But once I gathered my courage and entered the rooms, I found acceptance and love and, most importantly, no shame. All things I was desperately seeking at the time.

    I’m somewhat of a do-it-yourself-er but I got a sponsor because everyone said I should. She was great and she took me through several of the steps which ushered me into recovery. But she could see what I already knew – this form of recovery wasn’t for me.

    I never liked the “our way or the highway” feeling. I was in a closed meeting once when a couple came in and sat down. The leader asked if he could help them. They said he was with her to help her through her first meeting.

    Guess what happened?

    You got it – they were asked to leave. Well not both of them, she could stay but he had to go. They both went and I couldn’t help feeling that we may have “lost” one. It was sad. He didn’t refer them to an open meeting down the road or counsel them on when our chapter would be having an open meeting…he just kicked them out.

    That’s when I started thinking that AA was too rigid, too stuck in the old ways, and too “closed” for me. I didn’t want to hide. I didn’t want to be anonymous. I wanted to talk, in a open way, about my alcoholism and what it meant to be sober. That’s when I left the rooms and started blogging.

    HOWEVER, I see the huge benefit this organization is, especially in the early days, to many, many, MANY alcoholics and drug addicts and I would never say anything against it. It is what it is. So I took what worked and I left the rest.

    You have to follow your own path Furtherton. It may be possible that you’ve outgrown AA and it’s time to move on to something different. If I were in your AA rooms, I’d follow YOU.

    Just sayin’.

    Sherry

  5. Rob says:

    Thanks for your post and for your site. I haven’t commented before, but I read it often and like your take on things, most importantly (for me) in relation to recovery and AA. I have been sober for a little over 20 years and have been in AA all that time – without AA I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be sober now.

    I like your take on AA – it seems similar to mine and the things that are winding you up about it can certainly get me going as well. I tend to be fairly liberal in my approach to my recovery and that of others, as I believe the programme should be. “Live and let live”, “Easy does it” and all that. I’m really not a fan of the fundamentalists who seem determined to hold the big book up as our own version of scripture and of the various other brands of idiots who seem to miss (or misunderstand) the basic principles.

    That said, I’ve always stuck with it and kept going, for 2 main reasons. The first is that I’m an alcoholic who can rationalise the most idiotic things into logic. I fear that if I stay away and listen only to my own head, eventually, given the right combination of circumstances, I’ll persuade myself that drinking again is a valid option. I sincerely believe if I drank again I wouldn’t recover again.

    The second reason is that I feel I owe it to AA and to newcomers to be there, presenting (what I hope is) a rational, logical, liberal flavour of recovery to those that want it (like I did). If I abandon AA to the lunatic fringe, that’s all people will have. I would never have recovered unless I met people who thought in a fairly similar way to me.

    Ultimately it has to be your decision, but I would ask you to think about it and reflect over time. As Al-Anon teaches, it’s possible to learn to “detach with love”. Often they’re sick people, and sometimes (hard to admit !) it’s us that’s sick. If nothing else, they are lessons in tolerance !

    • furtheron says:

      Thanks for the comment Rob. I suppose that is one reason this is a post that poses the question (to quote the Clash) “Should I stay or should I go?”

      I’m posing the question since as like you I have a huge debt of gratitude to AA, I also worry about not being a potential role model to others … I hate the “you have to get on your knees to pray” type fixations… I do share back saying that isn’t my experience I’m over 9 years sober and never bent my knee in prayer – if it works for you fine but it works for me not doing that and finally truthfully…. if I leave will I slowly slip back in my sobriety and find that a drink one day does seem more attractive than not drinking and would I have another recovery in me. If AA has worked for 9 years why fix something that is working…

      So… I’m still thinking….

      Thanks

  6. I agree with much of what Sherry wrote. I haven’t been back to AA because I found there was too much dysfunction in the meetings I attended and loads of judgmental people. However, I am hugely grateful to the organization and would go back in a heartbeat. I believe in much of it and I don’t know how I could’ve gotten through my first 3 years of sobriety without it. But I too felt I outgrew the rooms. I felt that many of the people there clung to it out if fear rather than a positive reason, and it troubled me.

    AA is a lifesaver, but I don’t think it was meant to be a substitute for living, just a way to get back into being alive and not drunk.

  7. daisyfae says:

    It seems reasonable to me to acknowledge the value that it has provided to you, and know that it certainly helps others – especially through the start of sobriety. At the same time, if you’re not ‘feeling it’, it does seem reasonable to move aside… for today. If you ever felt the need to go back, i’d like to think that would be a possibility…

  8. Pingback: Where am I with AA? | Guitars and Life

  9. I am going to put my cards up on the table right away – I am an AA dude, and while I am not an iron fisted thumper, I would probably call myself a liberal, touchy feely thumper…lol. What that means to me is that while I do not worship the BB, or venerate it to the point of idolotry, I do feel that it is important. As Sandy Beach says, it’s a treasure map…not the treasure. So I do believe in the suggestions and the process. I don’t feel that one has to be chained to it, nor do I feel that the whole thing about worshipping at the feet of the fellowship holds much water either. In other words, I believe in the program, and yet understand that it’s not a one-size fits all. People incorporate a lot of other spiritual values and if it works…then it works. And it doesn’t suit everyone…so that’s groovy too.

    So, having said that, I understand your points about leaving AA. (I know this is old, and I know where you stand now, but just wanted to comment nonetheless). I think a lot of the issues people discuss (and have discussed here) are issues with the fellowship. The men and women at the meetings – feeling left out, or preached at, etc. Not many people have major issues with the program itself. The whole “God” thing – i get. Some have a hard time with that part, and either people start to get it, or they don’t. And again, hats off. We are all on our own paths. I am a huge fan of the program, but not always a fan of the fellowship. I don’t hit a lot of meetings, but rather practice principles in my affairs. I do miss the people when I don’t go for a while, so I know that for me, I need the fellowship. But I haven’t been to my home group in like 4 months. My schedule isn’t kind to meetings, but I know I avoid too.

    As for sponsorship, I agree – this whole thing about “do as I say or else” kind of thing isn’t for me. For some, it might work. I am not a sponsor like that. I don’t chase sponsees down. My own sponsor and I speak maybe twice a month. More, if things are going on with me. I have some other guys I call now and then too, but I am a bit of a loner that way. I do need the fellowship though. And sponsoring is important to me, but not the be all end all. But it’s important.

    You made your decision, and I would have respected it either way, Graham. You are well read about this, and you have found the way that it works for you and I really admire that…and you. the longer I am in this (I don’t have anywhere near the time you do), the more I see that there is room for movement in all of us in this program. I may be a fundamentalist in some regards, but at the same time, I see that if someone is sober and happy…then that’s the most important part. I am not to judge or start sticking labels on others. not my job.

    Anyway, thanks for this – you really have me thinking today.

    Blessings
    Paul

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