I’ve been thinking – as it fully sinks in that I have really left – about what I will not miss about AA.
This is the counter-list I am writing in my head, as I deprogramme, to counteract the part of me that worries that I’ll miss it, that I ‘need’ the fellowship. I am up against the bit of my brain that re-runs ‘meetings, the greatest hits’ at moments when I feel vulnerable and lonely (as does, I remind myself, every human being on the planet from time to time, it’s not a disease).
So here is where I am up to so far, in no particular order. I will not miss:
1) Cheap powdered coffee served in a mug that was merely rinsed under a luke warm tap the last time it was used. I am totting up all the £2 coins I’ve put in the pot over the years, that’s a lot of really great coffee. Heck, it’s a posh coffee grinder and Lavazza Espresso Machine!
2) Uncomfortable chairs in dreary church basements and drafty halls.
3) Listening, endlessly, to sober Dave recounting at length the ‘miracle’ that has been wrought in his life (40 mins of a 1.5 hour meeting is his record). His delivery is monotone, and as far as I can tell, this miracle amounts to running a market stall, hankering after his ex-wife, and going to AA meetings. Who I am to judge the wildness of people’s ‘life beyond you wildest dreams’, but seriously, he gives watching paint dry a run for its money.
4) Listening to, variously, petty squabbles about a) the difference between ‘recovering’ and ‘recovered’ b) how many times ‘must’ appears in the Big Book c) whether you can call yourself an ‘addict’ d) whether Al Anons are in fact sicker than their alcoholic spouses e) whether I was born this way and even if I was it’s downhill all the way f) how calling an arsehole an ‘arsehole’ is contravention of the tradition putting principles above personalities.
5) Fending off unsolicited advice from people who believe the accumulation of days without ingesting an alcoholic beverage (particularly if the number of days they have is more than the number of days I have) qualifies them to interfere in my life.
6) Listening to people pretending not to be passive aggressive, and pretending not to cross-share, by making convoluted speeches with heavy emphasis on ‘in my experience’ whilst boring a hole into the offending member with unblinking eye contact. Speeches usually commence immediately after the misguided or inexperienced member has shared, and usually start with ‘In my experience, I had to stop feeling sorry for myself and shut up and listen’. This is met by approving nods from all the other people who have also not ingested an alcoholic beverage for a long time whist the errant member squirms and tries not to cry. If they do cry, they are on the ‘pity pot’.
7) Watching slippery Simon and Creepy Charlie hurdle chairs to get to the sobbing woman with a wad of Kleenex before the women can get there. And watching said people defend themselves by saying ‘she’s a grown woman’ when the inevitable happens. She’s ‘sick’, they are just ‘human’. Fuckers.
8) Trying to have an adult conversation with a group of people who at best, are highly dysfunctional, but more likely have a rampaging narcissistic personality disorder whilst trying to have a group conscience. Trickier than herding cats or nailing jelly to a wall is getting a bunch of alkies to actually agree about anything without windy speeches, and the mind bending chicanery of ‘Traditions Top Trumps’. It is indeed easier to get a camel through the eye of a needle than it is to get AAs to order some literature.
9) Being told I’m ‘taking my will back’ when I make any decision concerning my life before checking it out with some people who have not ingested an alcoholic beverage for a while. Warren E Buffett is a teetotaller. So is George W Bush. I don’t plan on asking either of them for advice any time soon either.
10) Being told I’m ‘crazy and dangerous’ when I try to pipe up about slippery Simon and Creepy Charlie sponsoring women, giving women lifts home, having affairs with women, making disparaging remarks about women in meetings, bringing their mistress to conventions, ad infinitum. I’m told these men are not saints, and they do lots of service (I have not ingested an alcoholic beverage for less days than they have. QED.). Ditto pointing out the danger in telling people to come off medications, cut ofF their families, give up their job, and not to go into therapy as ‘AA is all you need’. They are practically building the bonfire and tying me to the stake.
11) Gossip. However this is prefaced with, ‘Yellow card, but …’
12) Geeks, freaks, weirdos and fundamentalists. ‘We are people who ordinarily would not mix’ -oh yes we really are. And now I don’t have to, ever again.
13) Death trap, scalding steam belching tea urns and making a weekly trip to the supermarket to buy cheap powdered coffee and half a hundred weight of jammy dodgers as I have the ‘tea commitment’ which means its my responsibility to satisfy the rampaging caffeine and sugar addictions of these sober people (if we can get them to come in from smoking outside).
14) Being presented with slogans such as ‘this too shall pass’, whenever I express an emotion that is not flat-out gratitude. Why does the fact that it will pass, diminish the fact that I am feeling it right now? Was I asking you if it would pass? Is that meant to help me?
15) Which leads me nicely on to dealing with people whose emotional sophistication would shame a small child. Sorry we are not all the same, and no, you don’t know how I feel. Feeling your feelings is not a disease.
17) Never again having to see the annoyed and perplexed expression on a true believer’s face, when, after telling me to ‘give it to God’, I say, ‘How?’ [I have never had a practical answer to that question by the way, but plenty of admonishments to read the book. I did read the book, repeatedly, and that doesn’t tell you either].
18) Bad coffee. Did I mention that already?
19) Sober discos. This really needs no further explanation but what the heck. Why does the fact that we are not drinking alcohol mean that we have to have gymnasium strip lighting, tepid tea, and no ice for the diet coke? Perhaps my inability to get on the dance floor was less to do with ‘your self centred fear’ (these were the exact words of the weird bloke who asked me to dance when I refused him) and more to do with the deeply cringe-worthy nature of these events and the terrible DJ? Agadoo by Black Lace has fallen into obscurity for a reason.
20) Never, ever, ever again having to be guilty of the deeply offensive and patronising attitude that anyone who has left is either a) drunk b) dead c) unhappy d) in denial or e) not a ‘real’ alcoholic (this last insult is reserved for those that have the temerity to come back and tell AA they are fine and dandy ‘out there’).
21) Cheesy ‘truisms’ such as ‘you can’t save your arse and your face at the same time’ and ‘meeting makers make it’. Erm, who says? Oh yeah that’s right ….you guys did.
22) References to ‘muggles’, ‘civilians’, ‘normies’ who live in the world ‘out there’. There is nothing different or special about ex-problem drinkers, they have not been touched by God or ‘blessed with this disease’. And I don’t know about you, but I am ‘OUT HERE’ not ‘OUT THERE’.
23) Bad coffee.
That’ll do for now. I’m sure more will occur to me. Ah, I feel better!