Back in the Folds of AA

By Martina 09/15/16

AA isn’t perfect, but it is indisputably my tribe.

Back in the Folds of AA
via author

Wow. I’ve done a complete 180. Never in a million years did I think I’d become an AA enthusiast! Up until a year ago, I’d been an unrepentant AA basher. 

My fierce objections against the program were the usual standards: that brainwashing occurs, AAers are forced to give up their individuality over the group, and AAers instruct others to not take their medication. However, one I’d heard frequently but couldn’t agree with was: AA is a haven for sexual predators.  

I don’t think AA is an unsafe place to be, considering the types of places most of us were hanging in before we got here. Even before this go around, I still had to grudgingly admit feeling “safe” at meetings. Sure there may be sexual predators, but the ubiquitous suggestions you hear everywhere have to have some effect on newcomers—unless they’re deaf! No matter what type of meeting you’re at, you’ll relentlessly hear, “The men stick with the men and the women stick with the women.“ Or, “Do not get involved in an intimate relationship your first year.”

I also have taken Klonopin, and yes, some sponsors were categorically against it—even telling me they wouldn’t sponsor me as long as I was on it. But because they weren’t aware of my personal history, and didn’t know what a lifesaver it had been at the time, I relied on a phrase from the BB, contempt prior to investigation. I just went ahead and found a sponsor that was more understanding of panic disorders. And as for typical anti-depressants, yes, years back, some AAers were staunchly against them.  But now, that is extremely rare.

In fact, most AAers will tell you: “I’m not a doctor; I have no business telling you what medication you should take. As long as you’re not drinking, or becoming ‘mood altered’ and are taking pain medication as prescribed, I have no opinion on it.”

Sometimes I have to balk at myself for all the slogans and expression I repeat constantly—before I viewed people that spoke in AA vernacular, as people that had lost their ability to form their own thoughts or opinions. But now, after this last relapse, I’m happy to use the expression: “I got the gift of desperation.”

I’d been doing the harm reduction model for a while and was relatively happy. I drank moderately, popped pills only recreationally, and smoked pot to let my creativity flow as a dancer.  But then, someone very close to me died, and it was on: around the clock drinking. 

My husband ended up putting me in a fancy rehab that pushed AA on me. I pushed back hard. No way was I going to listen to their bullshit—I was in there to detox off oxy and alcohol and that was it. I insisted that most def, I’d be smoking weed when I got out. My excuse was, “Everyone smokes weed!  What’s a matter with y’all?  I don’t know a person that doesn’t have a script!” I remember one counselor assuring me that most def, not everyone smokes weed—and that I was delusional in thinking so.  And now I know she’s right.  Since I’ve broadened my circle, I realize that there are probably more people in California that don’t smoke weed than do.

I realized—for the first time--the die-hard AA counselors had what I wanted: a certain calmness. Even in the face of lots of stress in their personal lives, they weren’t freaking out, and were using humor as salve to get them through. Before, when I’d see AAers having what I thought of as “ostensible” fun, I’d think: Look at all that artificial cheer and laughter—don’t these people get tired of choking up yet another perfunctory laugh at an AAer’s good-clean-fun joke? You might be able to ascertain I was quite cynical. But no, these counselors joked around, and I found myself laughing for real.  

One in particular really got through to me. She was an intellectual extraordinaire and quite young. She told me, “You know, Martina, the only reason I do all this stuff is not just to stay off heroin, I’m doing it because I couldn’t live the way I was—sober or not. I knew I had to change my thinking. And the answers are here in this book.” Normally, I would have barfed, but just the way she said it, with such sincerity, and clearly not looking brainwashed, was my first little aha moment.  

But that didn’t stop me from relapsing once I got out. And when they say it only gets worse, they’re not kidding. My drinking put me in an inexpressibly macabre state. I was so sick physically and mentally. I only drank to pass out and when I awoke, drink more to pass out again. But the last day of my drinking, was the day my dear exhausted husband found my bottle and threw it out.

I slept until about three in the morning with a dreadful case of the shakes. My whole body twitched uncontrollably. The fear and anxiety that coursed through my veins were terrifying. I thought I was dying of a heart attack. Right by side was a bottle of pills; I wrestled with taking them so I could just end it right there. But I did that prayer that all of us that have hit bottom know only too well: “God, please help me.”  

Suddenly, a subtle, very subtle calm came over me and I went back to sleep. Now, normally, sleep would be an inconceivable achievement while having the shakes. When I awoke, it was 6:03 am. Usually, I’d hit the liquor store. But something told me to get dressed and head for the nearest AA meeting. I went and shared what had happened. The love and acceptance I felt in the room was undeniable.

Before I would have cynically thought: Oh it’s all fake. It’s not real love and acceptance because it’s contingent upon me becoming another dogma-ridden AA cadet. But that morning? Nah ah! The love and acceptance felt pretty damn real to me. Here I was in a place that was far more understanding and accepting of me than any other place I could have been at the moment. I knew, without a doubt, I was in the right place. 

So in conclusion, I have to say, I’m back in the fold and am incredibly happy for it. AA isn’t perfect, but it is indisputably my tribe. I just have too many similarities to the people I hear speak at meetings to know I’m no different and need their help. If others can learn to moderate, quit on their own, or find relief another way, all the power to them. But for me? I think I’ll just stay in the middle of the herd. And not feel like a sheep about it either.

Martina is from Bonita, California and is a student and dancer.

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