In AA one size does not fit all

By LaEglantine 08/19/18

I’ve read a few commentaries by friends of people who tried AA and did not like the way they were spoken to, the slogans and the 12 step approach [method?] And the ever present issue of sexual harassment known in house as “thirteen stepping”. This may be obnoxious, but I really have a problem when writers talk about surveys and interviews with AAs. First, the only people in AA who will talk to you are people who didn’t like being in AA. We ourselves don't know how many sober alcoholics are in AA because each group all over the world is autonomous.

For example, when I visited a group in the Caribbean there, the chairperson pointed to a person to share. On another island, everyone was shouting at the same time and it felt very much like a riot in a small room. I'm a retired social worker and i’ve done graduate work on chemical dependency training [ha ha] and I know that no one knows why AA works for some people and not for others. Other people do meditation and prayer and that works for them, other people go to church or mosque and some people just wake up one day and don't want to drink anymore.

In my opinion, no one should join AA until they have absolutely exhausted any other method of getting sober. No really. Despite the media, courts and many rehab programs, AA doesn’t work for everybody. It is not easy or pleasant. You will meet folks and go to meetings you will not like. The saying that it works if you work it is a literal fact. 

AA is for those who want it not those who need it. If you don't want to be this extreme, there will be any number of reasons that it won’t work for you. Attitudes, harassment, erratic behavior like the literature says, “we are not saints”. When I came in 23 years ago, I was a director in a city agency, I owned a house and a car. I had a graduate degree. The first people I saw looked like they have been scraped off the sidewalk and I just knew that I was not staying. Then it came to me that if these guys could stay sober so could I. When I sat down I wanted to change the way things were done in a meeting. With literally days sober I corrected the think, think, think, sign that was upside down, I bought a notebook and took notes and raised my hand during people's shares to question them, and I fully believed that in 90 days I would have learned everything I needed to learn about not drinking because the bottle was my only problem. Fortunately for me some women adopted me and even though I blew them off, cursed them out and was generally pretty rude, they adopted me and taught me how to be sober in all my undertakings. PS 23 years later I'm still learning.

AA does not work with people who have not yet come to that point of surrender where they have no plan B; if AA is not the last house on the block. Otherwise why would anyone associate with drunks in various stages of sobriety?  You choose to go and choose to stay because you’re desperate.  I question the efficacy of forcing anyone to participate in AA. If you have the kind of money that will allow you to go to a fancy spa type retreat for a month or two, do it. If you use an acupuncturist or hypnotism or come-to-Jesus whatever works for you do it. Good for you. If you see someone successful in AA, their story was horrific enough that they stayed.

There have been a spate of articles talking about what's wrong with AA. It seems to boil down to the newly sober newcomer who was not ready for the rough-and-tumble AA meeting. Sometimes they wanted to rewrite the 12 steps and leave out the God stuff, otherwise they wanted to have a sponsor who's a little more social worky and less drill master. Or the commitment to service or not being able to be around their old friends or all the things that people do when they're trying to detox from something that is killing them.

There is also an AA expression that if you get a drunk horse thief sober what you have is a sober horse thief. So, you'll begin to need people who you would not associate with any other place. And that's as it should be. I'm often amused, probably inappropriately, at the blogs that talk about what happened to their friend in AA, not realizing they're being told what happened by a person who isn't entirely sober who may not have stayed long enough to know how AA works.

There's some confusion with that and the justice department where they legislate people to be in an AA program. If the person is not convinced they probably think I can do it if I want to and they'll be worse off afterwards. Just saying that discussions about AA by people who don't go regularly, have never been there or have never stayed long enough to learn sort of sounds to the air like somebody who was not at the end of the rope yet. Fine.  When they are we will be here for you.

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