My first AA meeting

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I have brushed off suggestions of trying out an AA meeting or working the steps. In fact, I have been firmly against it from the very beginning. I watched an episode of “Bullshit” the first weekend I was sober that centered around “the cult” of AA and wrote it off as an organization designed for and by Christians. This week however, I have been listening to and reading recovery stories online and a great number of them have some sort of foundation in AA. Further, many of the speakers or writers were like me, non-Christian… Hmm…

Fast-forward to the Friday night from hell. I just felt terrible. I reached out and I got support from online friends. I white knuckled my way through it but this morning I wondered if I needed another layer of support…

I have been leery of my town’s AA circle. Part of it is a (sorry if this offends anyone)  mistrust of Christians, having been burnt by some so-called folks before. Part of my hesitancy might also be rooted (this is where things might get a little heavy) in my own perception of alcoholics in my community. Alcoholism is a pervasive social problem in my little town. The negative stigma is alive and well here. There are many people who suffer from debilitating alcoholism and I frankly have a hard time envisioning myself as a member of that particular social group (this is me checking my elitist asshole bullshit). Nevertheless, I hunger for a community, for face-to-face connection and support beyond what my dearest friends and family can (or should be asked to) provide.

So I decided, at 11:20 this morning, to attend the noon meeting. Before I left the house, I coached myself, “don’t get your hopes up.” The meeting was held in a single wind trailer surrounded by lush trees and bushes. Inside the trailer I found a large open room with two long tables, peppered with books and coffee cups. I was a little early, but when I walked in, everyone was already seated and either chatting or doing their own thing. I took a seat pulled out my knitting (to avoid talking to anyone, of course) and waited for the meeting to begin. A kind-faced, older man offered me coffee which I graciously accepted. A couple of older gentlemen a couple of seats away were arguing over the meaning of the word ‘cornucopia.’ A younger woman played with her phone. Two tattooed younger men sat quietly at the end. A few other people sat around the table seemingly preoccupied with their own thoughts. I made several snap judgments about their respective backgrounds and how they came to attend meetings in this little trailer. I am an idiot.

The meeting began. It reminded me of mass. I kept knitting. The leader, the same man who gave me coffee, asked if there were any new people or visitors. All eyes landed on me. I spoke the words: My real name. I am an alcoholic. I told them I had 33 days and was unsure about AA because I wasn’t a Christian. I figured I would get that shit out of the way right off the bat. I was half hoping, half expecting they would give me some sign that I was not going to be accepted. If they didn’t accept me, I could move on and strike AA of my list of tools right? As I spoke, I noticed the leader tense up (“Oh, boy. Here we go.” my brain said). As soon as I stopped speaking a man across the table from me said sort of incredulously, “you don’t have to be a Christian to be a member.” From there, each in turn, the members welcomed me and reiterated their own struggles and versions of their higher power. The same man who said I didn’t have to be a Christian said that the meetings were about alcoholics helping one another not what anyone believed or didn’t believe in. The man who tensed up when I spoke, spoke of his own agnosticism and struggles with defining a higher power. He even talked about atheism and physics (wasn’t expecting that). He gave me a 30 day chip (so cool!), bought me a big book and gave me a hug, commenting that he never missed an opportunity to hug a female.

Um… I was… a little shocked, ok more like flabbergasted, by their kindness, acceptance and thoughtfulness about the program. I shared a bit more and I thanked them all for welcoming me. I am still not sure if the steps are my cup of tea, but I found the meeting to be very reassuring. I left feeling quieted and hopeful. I think I might just go back. I feel honored that I might have the opportunity to learn a thing or two from these folks.

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10 thoughts on “My first AA meeting

    fern said:
    July 27, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    Sounds like you got a warm reception and I’m glad you feel “quieted and hopeful.” For now, that’s the best we can ask for. 🙂

    carrythemessage said:
    July 27, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    I loved this, MJ. I really did.
    I used to do the same – judge people in the rooms. Hell, I do it now sometimes. Sometimes more than sometimes. lol. And it’s amazing how we are almost always wrong most of the times! Being in the rooms has taught me a lot about making assumptions about folks. Some of the sweetest, kindest and intelligent people I have met have been in the rooms, and to be honest, I never would have met them anywhere else. Some of these cats are people I would have avoided or certainly not gone out of my way to talk to on the street or in an elevator. That’s the beauty (one of, actually) of the fellowship – that we are people who don’t normally mix. Bikers, priests, teachers, ex-cons, bank presidents, actors, warehouse workers, waiters, and more, under one roof, under the umbrella of supporting one another and discussing and working about/on the solution to our drink problem. There is something about face to face support that is just beyond what any online stuff can do (as much as I adore my online recovery community)

    Anyway, I am glad that your conceptions were challenged a bit and you felt at peace with it.

    Wonderful
    Paul

    adria said:
    July 27, 2013 at 11:45 pm

    Glad you had a good experience! I’ve heard non-religious AA members say their higher power is a light bulb…haha!

    mishedup said:
    July 28, 2013 at 12:39 am

    I love this.
    I am so happy that your first experience was so good.
    I hated the thought of AA, but then…I do not know one single person who ever looked forward to their first (or sometimes many after) AA meeting.. I spent quite a while judging and being pissed off and sneering every time god was mentioned (major agnostic here, and still..tho I admit to beginning to understand the HP concept and how it works for me, but I have been working hard at it!).
    You were brave and open to go, that is huge.
    In another post you re-wrote the steps…I get that too.I tried to do that. I also tried to rewrite any prayer I found…useless, unimportant. I found peace when I stopped fighting, when I just let everyone believe what they wanted and just worked the steps. For me the steps are the heart of the program….I do not have any idea why they work, but they do. It sounds magical..it’s not. One drunk talking to another, sharing their own experience; all solid and helpful.

    Step one…..admitted we were powerless over alcohol and our lives had become unmanageable….that is the only step that we can do perfectly. So many people fight the powerless part (the unmanageable part is pretty hard to fight….why else are we in an AA meeting, right?). My take on powerless is that the ONLY thing I am powerless over is that first drink…if I take it I do not have any power, have no idea what will happen next. But if I don’t? I am powerful beyond imagining, I can do anything. I don’t give away my power by admitting I don’t have it, I own it, I take it back from the booze.

    Oy! I can go on…sorry! But this made me smile.

    mishedup said:
    July 28, 2013 at 12:41 am

    ..off topic, I have followed you, but am not getting the posts, which is weird. Thus the barrage of comments tonite.
    30 days ROCKS!

      Maya June responded:
      July 28, 2013 at 12:49 am

      I am enjoying the barrage of comments. I wonder if I have tweaked some setting in monkeying with the layout. I will look into it. Thanks for stopping by! I so look forward to you posts and treasure your comments and advice. 🙂

    runningonsober said:
    July 28, 2013 at 10:00 am

    Mj, I loved this post. So funny how we tend to get exactly what we need from a recovery meeting. If you go back, and I hope you do–and try some more meetings, each has its own personality–you’ll probably experience that feeling more times than not.

    Love this line:
    “The same man who said I didn’t have to be a Christian said that the meetings were about alcoholics helping one another not what anyone believed or didn’t believe in”

    So true…

    Sober Life said:
    July 28, 2013 at 10:07 am

    Love this post! I and I am so glad you had a good experience your first time and that you were open enough to go! I mean none of use ever said I think I will got to AA, it will be fun! I cerently didi not, I went to survive, I didn’t know where else to go. But it turns out that now I have fun too, I get to laugh and get support and be with people like me. It’s my medicine! And I am still not religious, but I am definitely spiritual. I just believe, I have faith, that’s my HP. – Maggie.

    changingcoursenow said:
    July 29, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    Great post MJ! I, like you, entered my first meeting unsure if it was going to be a good fit. The meeting turned out to be all about me. They seem to love newcomers! I think of AA as another item in my tool chest. I have added books, podcasts, online sober cyber friends, and real human sober friends from AA meetings. It’s a great collection of strength that I can count on any time, day or night. Onward!

    Sober Travel | Recovery Lot.us said:
    July 29, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    […] My first AA meeting […]

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