AA – What is it really about? How does a person get involved? How can it help? For one person’s experiences and answers, please read the following guest post by A.J. Adams.
Hi everyone! I am A.J. Adams*, the author of Undrunk: A Skeptic’s Guide to AA. Before I got to AA, I had settled for a stormy truce with my drinking. That did not work and after trying everything else, I ended up in that terrifying, but in some ways funny, first AA meeting that I describe in the excerpt to my book that is attached to this post.
I resisted AA big time. But some good luck and a few AA members who understood what I was going through, kept me turning over the next rock until I discovered that there is much more to AA than putting a cork in it – as important as that is. AA is nothing less than a personal philosophy and code of conduct for me that changed my life from a daily grind and battle with the monster to a journey of joy that I honestly could not have imagined a few short years ago. And it just keeps getting better.
Anyone who wants the body, mind spirit makeover that I call living undrunk can have it – and I mean anyone. We not only don’t have to ever take another drink, we also do not have to live like drunks with all that drama, stress and pain. AA offers a simple, better way. Do the work, believe in yourself and own the life you were meant to live.
Here is how it went for me.
Being a skeptic about AA seemed so grown-up and reasonable – and it allowed me to keep drinking like a sailor. I couldn’t resist.
But the reality of my life was very different from the prudent skeptic. I was continuously tortured by shame about my addiction and transfixed on the mirage of drinking like a gentleman.
Shame for me was not too different from the physical craving for a drink. It was an overall feeling of dread and anxiety accompanied by an urgent need for relief. It was physical and mental. The only antidote that seemed to work was more drinking, which, in turn, increased the shame. This evaporated any self-esteem I still had and undermined normal ambition (although when I drank a ridiculous grandiose ambition replaced it). Just like the physical craving for a drink, the only thing that made me feel better about the shame was the same thing that was causing the problem in the first place. Shame was haunting my life and feeding my addiction. It was toxic for me.
Then there was my mirage problem. Drinking moderately is simply not possible over any substantial period of time for us alcoholics. But I have not met one of us yet who didn’t give it a mighty good try. I knew that if I could just hold the line at the amount of alcohol that made me feel well and avoid the overdose that made me feel sick, my shame problem would be solved. In fact, all my problems would be solved. No wonder I chased this illusion to the gates of hell.
After all, I knew that moderate drinking was “real” because I had actually done it. It operated like a really good golf shot or a line drive to center field. Getting it just right was enough to make me come back for more – even if the experience was only a once in a hundred proposition. More importantly, I was convinced that mastering moderate drinking would give my increasingly sad story a happy ending. Courage, perseverance and self-knowledge would help me to take my seat at the bar with the guys and gals who knew when enough was enough. I would be the hero of my own tale.
The problem, once again, was reality. My shame just got worse and my controlled drinking experiments got no better. The intersection of shame and the mirage of moderation – combined with a physical craving – led me to what AA’s call “bottom.” It was inevitable.
Amazing how we have to suffer so much and ultimately get cornered by life before we take the AA exit ramp off the highway to hell. Fortunately, it is just as amazing how fast and well the program works once we get honest with ourselves and move from the problem to the solution.
For me, making the commitment to AA went this way.
- removed the physical craving for alcohol in a few weeks and it has never returned
- turned my shame into self-respect as I made a genuine comeback
- dispelled the gentlemanly drinking fantasy once and for all as my sobriety soon outweighed any desire to search again for the moderate drinking that I now knew did not exist for me.
Since my life in AA just keeps getting better, it is hard to say “how long it takes” to get results like this. But getting off the down escalator and onto the up did not take long once I committed to doing three things: stop drinking; go to meetings regularly; work the steps with a sponsor.
Within 90 days I felt immeasurably better. Hope and direction had returned to my life. By six months, I had begun to incorporate AA into my daily life. By one year, I was a different person. In most circumstances I know what the right thing to do is and I am pretty confident that I will do it. Working on being a better person and making a better world is not some naïve nonsense or a sucker’s game. Quite the contrary, it is the answer to life’s two big questions: Why are we here? What are we supposed to do?
Where were you 90 days ago? Where would you like to be 90 days from now? Those are two big questions, too.
Don’t quit before the miracle!
Copyright © A.J. Adams*
(* A.J. Adams is a pen name that I have adopted in observance of the AA anonymity tradition.)