Monday, September 13, 2004

My Issues With Alcoholics Anonymous

(c) Andy Ternay
One might be excused from thinking, if they read my blog, that I find Alcoholics Anonymous to be a “end all” solution to all of my problems.

Well, it isn’t.

I have had and am having some real issues with AA right now, mostly in terms of my home group. These problems are not my home group’s problems. These are Andy problems.

I don’t feel comfortable in AA meetings. In fact, I have not felt comfortable in AA meetings, well, ever really.

Wait, that is not entirely true. There was a period of time when I attended a meeting called Free to Be and there were three regular members. I was one of them. I felt completely at home there. That meeting died from lack of location and lack of interest.

My first AA meeting was in Carrollton and it was awful. There were six people and I did not identify with any of them. One stayed after the meeting and told me that I looked uncomfortable and that perhaps another meeting he was aware of would be better for me. That guy probably saved my life because I was not going to go back to that first group.

The place he sent me, the Addison Group, was a large group with a lot of members and a lot of meetings. There were many wonderful people there and I met my first sponsor while I was there. I worked the steps for the first time there. Sunday 9:00am meetings were great, I loved them. But I never felt I fit in really. So it was not hard for me to leave when my job changed.

I have now been to AA meetings in Texas, Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey and Florida. I am coming up on four years sober.

I still sit in meetings with a nervous stomach wondering if what I say is worth listening to, or if it is good enough or if I fit in. I can’t seem to help it. I never go into a meeting relaxed although I have left them relaxed. But I go, because it works and I am sober.

I have no question that I am an alcoholic. I am. I think it is in my very bones.

I think that the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, as expressed in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and the twelve steps, will work for the person who truly works it. The system of sponsorhip is sheer genius. It breaks down barriers and allows people to accept help without feeling manipulated or patronized.

My life, after working the twelve steps and applying the principles in them to my daily living, is not perfect. But it is wonderful, truly wonderful, compared to where it was when I was drinking. I say it a lot in this blog and I mean it; the Goddess has graced me with a tremendous gift. My marriage, my friendships, my family; all of these have new meaning to me. I am grateful to Alcoholics Anonymous for the program because that is what has allowed me to have all of these things.

Nonetheless, I go to meetings with my stomach clenched, and my nerves writhing. The problem is with me. I don’t really know what to about it either. It’s like I am afraid they won’t like me or something—this same room of people that I have attended for two years. I get frightened when called on and think I sound like an idiot.

Some of this is simply that I don’t feel like I give back enough to AA. Service work is a crucial part of AA and essential to AA’s survival as individual recovered alcoholics and as an organization. Carrying the message of recovery to other alcoholics is essential to the program. In fact, carrying the message is one of the most important parts of staying sober. It is so important there is an entire chapter of the Big Book devoted to it.

I don’t do a lot of service work. I answer the phones once every couple of months for the Dallas Intergroup Association (and no matter how hard I try it seems like I always miss one call because I am on one line trying to get to the other). I have done the prison correspondence thing. I used to go to take a meeting to a hospital. That’s about it.

I have never sponsored anyone, a fact that depresses me when I think about it.

On the other hand, while I am quite happy with my sobriety, I can imagine a newcomer saying, well they say if you are a guy don’t have a female sponsor—he has a female sponsor. Maybe something is wrong there. Everyone else is content with God as a he, this guy wants God as a She. And, he wears kilts for no apparent reason.

So, maybe I should not be surprised that there are not people lined up to have me sponsor them in the program.

I think that as soon as I get home I am going to try to sign up for the prison correspondence program again. I need to be more active.

In the meantime, I will keep going to meetings, even if I am uncomfortable, and writing this blog. I don’t really know if there are any alcoholics I have helped here, but it is pretty clear that writing is a gift from the Goddess and I intend to keep using it.

So there.