Wednesday, March 9, 2011

More than one way....

As usual, The Walking Man made a thought provoking comment on my last post.  Here is some of what he said:
I tried the AA way and what I found in every single meeting I ever went to was a clique that if you hadn't been a part of it for a few years at least, you were ignored, no one came up to me and told me about the "how this thing of ours works." Maybe I wasn't wearing the right clothes or didn't know the secret handshake. So I personally have no respect for AA but I do not condemn it either because for some it is their religion. their way to salvation. 

I can't address the cliques in AA, but would like to write about whether recovery programs like AA and Al-Anon are the only way.   For some, like me, Al-Anon is a salvation.  I tried therapy, and it didn't bring home the message to me like Al-Anon has. Yet, I do recognize that there are other ways to deal with alcoholism.

Sometimes there is confusion expressed in meetings about not drinking versus recovery. These are two separate issues for me.  Being sober is but a step in managing the disease.  It stops the physical deterioration that alcoholism brings. Sobriety in and of itself is a huge step, but the disease is in the thinking and actions of the alcoholic and those of us who are around them.  There are those that I know who go to meetings and have 20 + years sober, yet the diseased thinking and "isms" are still there.

What is equally important is learning a new way of living and thinking.  That is what I believe the 12 step recovery programs provide. Al-Anon is working for me because I wanted to change my behavior: the anger, the fear, the judging, the nagging.  I did not feel happy but desperately wanted to change. Until a person is ready for that, I don't think that change will happen.

I believe that AA and the Big Book state that if you can find another way,  then that's fine.  But for those who are "beyond human aid",  then going "cold turkey", toughing it out, and having a will of steel to make it so may not be enough.  The spiritual solution is what many have found to be the solution for them.

Even though I am not in AA, I have been to enough open meetings to hear that many have tried all kinds of ways to stop the disease: religion, family, relationships, sex, drugs, etc.  But what I hear in meetings is that it wasn't until they reached that utter surrender to a deathly bottom did they finally give in and give up to the God of their understanding.  At that time, they were willing to go to any lengths to achieve sobriety, serenity and sanity.

It is a cunning, baffling and powerful thing. And maybe for those who are spiritually sick,  12 step recovery programs such as AA and Al-Anon are a starting point to address the low self-esteem, behavioral and coping problems that alcoholism brings.  No matter what, I believe that the individual has to give in to the process whether it is Al-Anon, AA  or "Sober Valley Lodge".  If something works to bring about the peace and serenity in your life, then stick with it. 

I think that a great part of 12 step recovery is helping others.  By doing so,  I help myself.  What is of most importance is that if works for the one person choosing to work it for one day at a time with one reason in mind, then that is incredible. 

For me, Al-Anon has helped me to find friends,  have a bigger "family",  get acceptance, understand humility, lose fear, and share experience, strength and hope.   I have not received this from any other entity that I have been involved in before or since coming into recovery myself. 

For sure, there are other programs that work. There are other ways that work. When I think about how many people are affected by alcoholism, it is staggering. I have heard that for every one alcoholic, there are 10 who are affected by the disease.  Where are these people?  Maybe they are toughing it out like I did for decades. Maybe they have found a solution in couches and pills some of which will point a hurting person into the doors of AA and Al-Anon and some that will just give the pain another appointment and another bill.  Maybe they write, paint, exercise, cook or have some other passion that is fulfilling.  It is our choice to investigate and discern what is right for each of us.

Each person has to find a path to recovery.  To say that it's the AA way or nothing, or the Al-Anon way or nothing is unfair.   I remain open minded about opinions here.  I do have my own but defend the right of others to express theirs.  Thus, I don't condemn or put down others who choose a different way.  All I can do is share what has worked for me. We all wander in this life. All I am doing is shining a little bit of light that I have. If it helps, I am glad.


  1. nice retort...i think the behavior you find that WM did you will find in every they reflect on all the others....

  2. I have to say, I was happy when my alcoholic stopped drinking. A lot of my problems went away. AlAnon helped me through those sober times by reminding me it was nothing I had done to make this sober time happen. I was so grateful for this. I'm sure other programs work. I just don't know about them. The best and most important thing I've learned is the "didn't cause, can't control and can't cure. I remind myself of this more often than I like to say. Crazy how the mind forgets so quick. Thanks Syd.

  3. I am happy that it works for you so much and I am sad that someone has found cliques.. I never did. I don't go to Al-anon but I will never shut the doot on it either. I share your wandering through life and the light you show me through your writing is the reason I follow you.
    Thank you for your strength and honesty. It's the simple things in life that I appreciate the most.

  4. I have spent my life feeling like I was on the outside no matter where I went. When I came to Al-Anon it was no different everyone seemed happy and together that was certainly not my experience. It was my wall not theirs and staying long enough mine started to crumble. Feeling like you don't belong for me is part of the disease. My problems were different I thought I was special. Why is the problem always in the mirror?

  5. I fucking told NA I had bipolar disorder and kind of apologized for my bad behaviour and do you know not one fucking person had one single thing to say to me afterwards. I wasn't expecting lots of congratulations or anything like that just some tiny little hint of acknowledgement. That's all. And I got none. In fact I got treated even more like a weirdo AFTER saying that than before so they can fuck off I've had it. I went because people told me to go and I know I'm a self-deceiving addict but my gut feeling turned out to be right they do NOT understand where I'm coming from we are NOT all in the same boat and yeah I'm an addict but I'm patently NOT like them so fuck it I'm not bothering. I will do one meeting per week but that's it. I'm pissed off with them.

  6. Man- you are a GREAT light in this world. You will probably never know how many people you help daily with your words, Syd.
    Just wanted to tell you that.

  7. I can't help but wonder how many meetings in how many neighborhoods, cities, states, countries he visited. It seems awfully biased to judge an entire fellowship from one street corner or two. There are quite a few meetings I don't care for either, but I'm fortunate to live in a large city and easily find another one.

  8. I agree with Grace- I often feel like I am on the outside but I recognize (now) that the walls were put there by me...

  9. I totally understand how Walking Man feels, been there, done that, and still go to meetings where I feel uncomfortable and unwelcome. I go anyway, but mostly I find and attend meetings where I get something for me. It doesn't matter what I feel anymore. What matters more is what I learn and what I can carry out of that room and into my life. And yes, once I get past me and learn to look at the fact that you are just like me, uncomfortable and afraid too, I usually find a friend.

  10. I tried a local Al-Anon meeting, but also found that they were reluctant to let someone "new" into their group. So, I read blogs instead. I have learned an immense amount on my own.

  11. Seeing as the only goal I have is to outlive every other living being on the planet and thus far I am accomplishing that goal, I would say that in any case my way works for me so far.

    Be Well All and Find the path that brings you to a place that the one who created all things can see you a bit clearer.



  12. Going back to the guy at the first part of your post, I wonder how many meeting he tried.
    I do know this -- at our recovery center, many of us go out of our way to meet and greet anyone we don't already know.

  13. I sat through several meetings where an angry drunken man cleaned and loaded his rifle. Most meetings I get to aren't in English and last three or four hours because of translation into five or six vernacular languages. My take is that out here in the global south/Third World I need meetings and they are what they are.

  14. Accepting I am powerless was the beginning of recovery for me in the program for codependency. My hubby had already been clean and sober five years by then so I was seeing how working the steps worked in his life. I attended different meetings such as Al-Anon and the thing I had to keep in mind that they are real people working on their stuff at those meetings. I didn't want to judge the whole program on any individual meeting. I do know the twelve step program works if you work it. I also respect that each of us has our own choice for everything in life.

  15. That was outstanding! Thank you for the reminder, I am not God and I don't know what is best for anyone else. (I have enough trouble searching for God's will for me.....and DOING that) Wishing you God's peace~

  16. You are right. Everybody has his/her own unique path to follow. Thank you for sharing yours with us.

    You are very dear to me.


  17. Having moved from a big city to a small town, I can sympathize with The Walking Man. Many of the groups I have attended have the same people there, and they reference conversations they had with each other by name during meeting sharing, only call on people they know by name, and rarely open it up for anyone else to speak. Most of them grew up here and have lived here all their lives, perhaps been in the program 20+ years. So I get it, but it does make it hard to break into. I just had to keep trying, and did finally find a group I like. Also, I started going to an additional (different) group that is more open.

  18. I have observed in my ex-partner's journey, that she had extremely high standards for recovery groups that she did not have for other aspects of her life. The people in AA were not going to wreck her car, beat her up till she blacked out and drop her at home with no memory of the evening, leave the stove top on all night, nearly burning the apartment complex down. The AA's were not going to make her sleep in her front yard with her bicycle on top of her after a night of partying. All of these things, and more, alcohol did to her. AA may not be perfect, people are not perfect, but it's a hell of a lot better than what alcohol will do for you. And it works, IF if you work it. If you don't, it doesn't.

  19. it saddens me to hear stories of people who say they were excluded form being a part of an AA meeting or group. Folks shouldn't have to press their way into our fellowship. I am reminded of the importance of being very welcoming to the newcomer, as the AA were to me when I arrived.

    By the same token, there are those who come to meetings looking for another excuse for it not to work for them. AA is chock full of sick folks, and it shouldn't come as a surprise to people when they discover some poor behaviour in meetings at time.

    I know that for me, I welcome the newcomer at every opportunity. But it is incumbent upon the newcomer to "serve himself or herself" as if in a cafeteria. We cannot carry the acoholi/addict, but we can and will sure help them.

    great post Syd!

  20. I have been to meetings where people don't approach me afterward and some where they do. Sometimes I am relieved no one talks to me because I am feeling insecure and in the mood to just listen and be anonymous and just take what I've heard and try to apply it to my life. Sometimes I go to big meetings so I can be anonymous and not be noticed and other times I go to really small meetings so I can feel less shy about sharing. Other times I just read the blogs and the literature. I think all of it helps. But I agree that everyone needs to find what works for them.

  21. Hi Syd I'm still depressed but not as pissed off as when I last commented.

    NA can fuck off. I'm still going, not chucking the baby out with the bathwater over a little issue called "bipolar". Thats my issue and it they can't take it it's their problem.

    I'm sorry I couldn't remember you'd recommended Bucket List but I am watching it now it's fantastic so thanks ;-)

  22. yes well put. im the same pretty much.. if ppl can find another way to die sober then i have no problem with that. each to their own. bc AA is only really for people that !!! want it, not people that need it, so theres no problem with other successful methods..

  23. Irish Friend of Bill...I wanted to stop drinking, wanted to get sober. It just turned out that AA was not a part of my path and because a couple of people asked-I tried somewhere in the neighborhood of 5-7 different groups going back to each one at least twice and at least one of them 510 times.

    But as Siddarta said on his death bed to his acolytes who surrounded him "...Find your own path."

    I do not considered those as wasted hours, I listened I talked I left and found eventually my own path is all.

    From reading through the comments I see some had a similar experience as mine and some had an exact opposite one. It's cool because I firmly believe that all things that happen in the way they do happen have a reason for the way they happen.

    In my case it MAY be that if I sat for two or three hours a week listening to people talk about alcohol and what it has done to them I may want to drink just to escape their memory. *shrug* I don't know why all I know is since late '99 every day that goes by I have less and less of a desire to even contemplate the thought of drinking.

    It has simply something I don't do anymore like drive way fast simply because I have a car that can.

  24. I haven't experienced too many cliques. some groups are more focused on beginners than some others. I am sorry WM ran into that; I know I watch and listen for newcomers and try to reach out to them.It was freely given to me and I want to pass it on. Thanks

  25. My sponsor told me that isolating and feeling that you don't fit in because you're so different is actually a form of arrogance. It's saying to the world "none of you could possibly understand me because my problems are so much worse, or I'm so unique."

    Sometimes if you want something in your life, you have to be the cause of it. If you want people to approach you after the meeting and be welcoming, try it yourself. Approach them. Say something like, "I related to your sharing because of xyz..." Don't hide in your arrogance and think "THEY need to approach ME!" Because the only one who's angry that they didn't somehow know to meet your needs is YOU. They are living in their serenity and it's time you realize the world really doesn't revolve around you!

    Also, I'm guessing in AA that many have their own sobriety to guard with care and may watch newcomers from a distance until they feel that person is not a threat to their own fledgling recovery.

    Luckily in Al-Anon we don't have that added obstacle in reaching out to one another.

  26. I care very much for Walking Man and for you, Syd. You're two completely different people. And to me, differences, quirks, diversity, and so on keep life interesting.

    WM has been through hell and back, I know from reading his blog. He has an inner core of steel and a spiritual strength. My hat is off to him.
    I'm an AA member for over 20 years and I stay because my disease is cunning, baffling, powerful. It is far bigger than I am. It has taken me out three times because my problem "centers in the mind," as the book says. If I don't faithfully do the things that got me sober in the first place, I forget how vulnerable I am.

    In the 12x12 book, the 8th step says we alcoholics suffered "violent twists" in our emotions that became the underlying cause of our whole pattern of life. If we don't address the core issues with the aid of a Higher Power, we will not know deep serenity or the change in character that allows us to live comfortably in our skin among other people.

    Self-centeredness is the root of my troubles, the Big Book says on page 62. We must be rid of it or it will kill us. God makes this possible, because God is even bigger than my disease. He/she/it provides the power, with my participation, that gradually brings rebirth to my sick spirit.

    We say in the rooms that you can take the alcohol out of the alcoholic but you're left with the "ick" and the "ism" (I'm Still Me). What grants me freedom from that is "the constant thought of others and how we might best meet their needs." I know long-time sober people who apparently have forgotten that. I myself at 15 years of sobriety couldn't care less about welcoming newcomers - let others work with them because I didn't want to. I got drunk over my failure to apply the 12 steps in my life. And it became hard to stay sober once I returned to the rooms of AA because I got the "fuck-its. I celebrate three years this month, and I know that's because newcomers are an important part of my sobriety. I am the hand of AA. AA members welcomed me when I was new, and now I get to pass it on.

    I love the 12-step program of AA because it has transformed me and continues to sustain me through troubles of all kinds. I crave the fellowship of like-minded people because they give me hope and make me laugh. I need that, and I need the constant reminders that I make my own misery by living in the bad neighborhood of my own head. My fellows in AA help me keep my sobriety fresh, one day at a time.

    Sorry about the length of this. I want to remind myself, maybe, that AA doesn't make us well. It makes us better. Some of our members practice active selfishness and ignore newcomers, but a lot of us don't. A lot of us realize that we must be thoughtful of newcomers or we're destined to be newcomers again ourselves.

  27. I just found your blog, as I'm working my way to starting my own journey with Al-anon or some other method of coming to terms with what is going on in my life. Looking forward to reading and learning that I am not alone.


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