Things I will not miss about AA meetings

I'm not an alcoholic

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!

 

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13 Responses to Things I will not miss about AA meetings

  1. Owen says:

    All your points resonate with me but number 7 is of special interest. AA is full of creepy middle aged men (Guru’s) preying on often much younger women. I was sick to death of seeing this in the end.
    This blog is excellent and I will be spending more time contributing on here when I have the time.
    Thanks for telling me about it – Owen

  2. Owen says:

    Thanks, I will share it far and wide!

  3. jonsleeper says:

    What I won’t miss in AA is the out and out bad behaviour in the rooms, either from actual drunks or from sober drunks. People getting angry, swearing, walking out, slamming doors, etc… We’ve all seen it. It’s apparently part of the “therapy” because it’s good to express yourself and get it all out.

    That’s BS in my opinion. The truth is that AA doesn’t give people a real way to cope with their feelings, meaning that many are still neurotic and sensitive. Consequently there’s a lot of unacceptable behaviour excused as “sickness” on the part of those who commit it, and used as an exercise in tolerance by those who are “well” enough not to engage.

    That’s why there’s no cross sharing in AA. It would be like a chimp’s tea party. However properly managed cross sharing, such as that I experienced in CBT therapy, can be the best part of the meeting.

    It will never happen in AA because the 12 steps are a religious sticking plaster used to mask far deeper problems that result from the random foibles of evolutionary psychology. Things we just didn’t know about in 1939 – and things you won’t hear about no matter how many AA meetings you attend. Glad I got out after around 1,500. Enough it enough!

    Jon S “Leaving AA, Staying Sober” at http://jonsleeper.wordpress.com

    • girlscoutuk says:

      Hi Jon

      Agreed. I think also as AA has such a big thing about anger and resentment being the ‘number one offender’ and a feeling that we should not ‘allow’ as it is the dubious luxury of normal men (pfft! How can you disallow a feeling, it’s a feeling!) then you have a lot of VERY angry people all desperately trying to be ‘spiritual’ and not angry. Therefore there is HUGE amount of repressed and disavowed anger, that comes out as passive aggression, you know those comments made with a smile that make you feel crazy as they are actually dissonant and they are saying one thing and feeling another. This, I think, was the biggest crazy-making thing about AA, and as I’m quite sensitive to emotional atmospheres, I’d often come out of a meeting feeling worse than I went in due to all the unacknowledged crap flying around. When I finally got some boundaries, I stopped feeling crazy, and started just hating it. But this is why it’s dangerous to abuse survivors as their boundaries are shot to bits, and that dissonance ‘I’m only trying to help you, I love you enough to tell you the truth’ makes people feel crazy, confused, and unable to work out who to trust. Thanks for commenting. Girlscout.

      • jonsleeper says:

        That’s a really good way of putting it. I think what happens to people like us is that we keep bottling up all that cognitive dissonance until, sooner or later, something occurs to shatter the illusion of recovery and de-programming becomes less painful than staying.
        JS

      • girlscoutuk says:

        Thanks Jon, I agree, I grew up around a lot of really confusing criticism and behaviour and angry people pretending they weren’t angry, or if they were it was my fault etc etc. That stuff in AA drove me crazy for a long time because it pushed my buttons. Which is why I get angry with the whole defense of 13th stepping and bad behaviour, as they say, ‘I had to learn who to trust’ etc etc and ‘stick with the winners’ but those who walk through the door with a lot of emotional damage don’t know how to do that or are cycling through the aftermath of abuse, and they attract offenders like a red rag to a bull. But I agree that getting out was my only option in the end. I no longer live in London but I used to travel all the way to London to sit in a meeting and that sort of but a bandaid on it a bit, but the meetings here where I live are totally insane, I could not stick it a minute longer.

  4. jonsleeper says:

    Oh, I just thought of another one … bloody shotgun sharing!

    That has to be the most selfish practice in AA. The 1pm on a Monday lunchtime meeting at the Cornerstone building in Palmeira Square, Hove, is so rife with shotgun sharing (all from regulars with lots of sobriety time!) it’s actually comical.

    The best part is that they actually have a request for those members NOT to jump in immediately one after the other as part of the opening statement in order to give newcomers a chance to speak.

    This is totally ignored, of course, to the extent that people commonly jump in immediately as the statement itself is being read. Not in a knowing and ironic way, which would be kind of cool, but just to get in one ahead of the other.

    I can’t believe I forgot that one. Shotgun sharing, how very spiritual..!

    Jon S “Leaving AA, Staying Sober” at http://jonsleeper.wordpress.com

    • girlscoutuk says:

      Jon

      That used to drive me nuts as well. And they weren’t acutally LISTENING and being present to the people who shared, just waiting for their chance to speak, which isn’t very mature at all!
      Girlscout.

      • jonsleeper says:

        Totally. I think shotgun sharing is just another form of bad behaviour. It’s totally disrespectful to others, and does nothing to help the newcomer. Anyone not in AA who went to a meeting like that would just see a bunch of sick self-centred people encouraging each other’s poor conduct. When I did CBT meetings it was a real eye opener. That kind of stuff just wasn’t tolerated and we all behaved politely. It set the agenda as one of respect and recovery, rather than desperation and illness. We got a lot more done as a result. JS

  5. Ryan says:

    “1) Cheap powdered coffee served in a mug that was merely rinsed under a luke warm tap the last time it was used.”

    Obviously not relevant in the USA: AA coffee and food is excellent, for the most part. NA has the nasty coffee and bargain cookies.

    “c) whether you can call yourself an ‘addict’ ”
    Lol that fake “issue” (which, in NA, naturally goes the opposite way) can be one of the lulziest things about meetings.

    “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). ”

    At NA meetings, this role is often taken by a relatively young guy who talks endlessly about how he is now living “the dream” of working as a “tech”, or low-level rule enforcer, at a treatment facility. Tends to speak close to the end of the meeting and thus push it into overtime. Bonus annoyance points if he is there and sharing while on the fricken job taking clients to an outside meeting.

    “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’.”

    Also: “Through AA I was able to grow up and learned how to be a MAN.” The favorite theme of those with less maturity than most Anons on 4Chan.

    “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.”

    As the most successful investor of the 20th century, Buffett probably has a wealth of good advice… just saying.

    “14) Being presented with slogans such as ‘this too shall pass’, whenever I express an emotion that is not flat-out gratitude.”

    BANG. That is perhaps one of the most awful of the many 12-step slogans.

    • girlscoutuk says:

      Haha thanks, some good points there, welcome to the blog. And yes agreed, Warren E Buffet is probably quite a clever guy, but surely this has nothing to do with not ingesting an alcoholic beverage for a number of years? 🙂

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