Not-So-Horrible AA Cliches

By Alex Porter 07/20/11

Ok, it's true. Some A.A. sayings are ancient and annoying. But others are still relevant today.

I'm not much but I'm all I think about Photo via

Ever since Bill Wilson founded A.A. in the early '40s, members of the fellowship have passed down hundreds of helpful hints and pithy sayings to successive generations of addicts and alcoholics, many of which are now mounted on faux parchment in faux-gothic script in church basements across the country. For some people, these well-worn bromides still prove incredibly useful.  Others dismiss them as outdated cliches. But for every old mantra that may seem a tad too churchy (Let Go and Let G-d,) or patronizing (“Keep it Simple, Stupid”), or plain crazy  (“Fear is the darkroom where negatives are developed”), there are others that are still funny, useful and wise. Alex Porter shares five of his favorites.  

1. Resentments are like stray cats: if you don’t feed them, they’ll go away.

Huge chunks of AA literature, and several of the 12 steps, dwell on the topic of resentments, and the importance of excising them in our quest for happier, more content lives. Many of us nurse grudges from kindergarten well into old age, dulling our disappointment with oceans of booze and benzos. Instead of than allowing your your resentments fester to like septic sores, you're much better off airing them with likeminded fellows. It's not easy to share your innermost feelings with complete strangers, but trust me, you'll feel a lot better when you do.

2. Bring your body, and your mind will follow.

 Soul-searching, spirituality and meditation are essential to good mental health, but addiction affects your body as well as your brain.  Exercise, nutrition  and a well-balanced routine will go a long way toward improving your attitude and ensuring your sobriety. So eat right. Take care of yourself. Drag your sorry ass to a gym. Recent studies of recovering alcoholics and addicts have found that those who engage in regular physical activity are ten times more likely to remain sober than their couch-bound compatriots.

3. Sober Romance: The odds are good but the goods are odd.

People in early recovery often feel tender and lonely and eager to make connections with like-minded fellows. Unfortunately,  most 12-step programs advise new members to forego romance for at least a year. Why? Because by and large, newly clean addicts and alcoholics are compulsive, pleasure-seeking, obsessive and often kind of nutty.  Drugs and drink tend to dull our ardor, and isolate us from friends and lovers. When the fog begins to lift,  we tend to jump into other relationships at the slightest provocation.  When you look better and feel better about yourself, you tend to feel more . Certain AA meetings seem like single bars without the alcohol.   If that's what it takes to get you tpo a meeting, carry on. But keep in mind that meetings are a great marketplace for victims as well. Consider this slogan a slightly updated version of the old-school politically incorrect maxim “Under every skirt is a slip.

4. When I go to a wedding I want to be the bride. When I go to a funeral, I want to be the corpse.

Even people who have achieved long-term sobriety acknowledge that their minds sometimes delve into toward some egomaniacal, self-destructive shit. The addictive mind is often rife with  envy, grandiosity, and self-loathing.  But regardless of the wreckage we've left behind, many of us persist in the belief that we're wiser, cooler, more sensitive, more deserving and  more misunderstood than anyone else. The DSM. the bible of the medical field, used to classify this syndrome as "narcissism," (But the most recent edition of the DSM no longer classifies narcissism as a "medical disorder." In a culture dominated by the Hiltons, the Housewives and the Kardashians maybe its become the norm.) But disorder or not, the great paradox of the narcissistic mindset  is that for most sufferers, inflated self-esteem is usually accompanied by periods of intense self-loathing. It’s an absurd and bitter cocktail (sorry) of extremes that most addicts and alcoholics ought to watch out for. Of course, we're not suggesting that you're not the cleverest, coolest, chicest, most maligned person in the universe. You are! But still...

5. If you’ve got one foot in yesterday and one foot in tomorrow, you’re pissing all over today.

For most of us, the path to sobriety is marred by missed opportunities, obnoxious behavior, and ruined relationships. Even once we are sober, many of us fret over the mistakes we've made in the past,  or worry about events, real or imagined, that await us in the future. EWither way, it's a  The fact is, none of us has any control over our our past. AS hard as we try, we have little control over our future. All we have is today.  Alcoholism and addiction are diseases of the mind, body and spirit. But even after we turn our lives around, it takes time to regain our  perspective. So when a dapper douche-bag blithely cuts us you off in his cherry-red  Ferrari and you feel like following him with an Uzi, you might consider going to a meeting instead. People who aren't prone to substance abuse may be able to handle a little road rage. But for the rest of us, unchecked anger leads to self-pity and resentment, and often back to booze or drugs. Attending a meeting may not seem as fulfilling as flipping someone the bird. But ultimately  it is cheaper and stronger antidote to a bellyful of bile.

Alex Porter is a Brooklyn-based writer and journalist who passes for well-adjusted most of the time. He previously wrote for TheFix about staying sober in the Facebook age.

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