Why You Don’t Really Hate AA
(page 2)I have been told, by a woman who was sponsoring me, that I wasn’t “really sober” because I was on anti-depressants, and asked to immediately get out of her car.
I have been ruthlessly shamed by another sponsor, because she put me on “dating restriction” for a year (not my first year of sobriety, by the way) and, nine months into it, I kissed a guy. She told me I hadn’t surrendered and “fired” me outside a meeting as I sobbed.
I have listened to women preach from podiums about how determined they are to help everyone they can—then had them not return my calls after they’ve agreed to sponsor me.
I have shared deeply personal things in meetings and had people approach me days or weeks later to give me unsolicited, offensive feedback about what I was doing that had caused me to feel the way I did.
The program is what you find in the Big Book—not the people who make up the fellowship.
I have been pulled aside by old ladies after I’ve shared and told that I was sharing “wrong.” And I’ve heard about even worse things: AA icons sleeping with newcomers, sponsors giving sponsees drugs—you name it.
But not one of these things has caused me to hate AA.
Maybe that’s because I was lucky enough to meet some genuinely, ridiculously amazing people when I first came in. Maybe it’s because I got sober in LA, where there is, arguably, less shame and more cheer about sobriety than anywhere else, so that the overall joy made it easier to overlook the sicker folk. Maybe it’s because I was so desperate when I got to AA that I couldn’t afford to think any differently.
Yes, there are assholes in AA. But you find them everywhere. And while AA, by the very nature of what brings people to the rooms, may have a higher percentage than some other places, that doesn’t make AA the asshole. If those people weren't in AA, they would just be somewhere else, doing their best to give that somewhere else a bad name. The program is what you find in the Big Book—not the people who make up the fellowship.
Hey, you can still hate AA. But if you go there, and encounter someone who tells you that you have to get sober his way, or shames you for not doing exactly what she says, I just ask that you consider going to another meeting or reaching out to another person—to consider that this individual might be the problem. The people in AA whose lives seem to be working are, from what I can tell, those who remember that good AA’s don’t tell anyone how to do anything; who reinforce the fact that the steps are merely suggestions; who don’t say you must believe in some almighty God, but just ask you to consider that perhaps you’re not the one in charge of everything.
All of which is to say that maybe, just maybe, your hatred is misdirected. At the very least, now you can direct it toward me instead of the program. After all, I’m the one telling you that you don’t feel the way you say you do.
Fix columnist Anna David is the author of Party Girl, Bought, Reality Matters and Falling For Me. She served as The Fix's Executive Editor for over two years, and has written here about sex addiction and gambling addiction, among many other topics.