AA Meetings

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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