When travelling I adore new experiences, so when my dear friend invited me to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, I leapt at the chance. I mean, how often do you get a chance to attend an AA meeting in Los Angeles in the winter sunshine, without actually having the need to do the homework to qualify? Curious, off I set with my sunscreen to the beach, the perfect place for any meetings.
About fifteen to twenty of us met about midday on a Sunday. To start, the lead of the chapter welcomes new members and reads out an introductory statement, re-iterating why we’re all here, that it’s non-for-profit, non-religious, apolitical, and we’re only here to help support members in their battle against addiction. Like reading a code of conduct - don’t be a penis, basically.
Three chosen people read out some select passages from the twelve-step book (or may have been from the As Bill Sees It book by the founder, Bill Wilson), stories of struggle against addiction, methods to fight it, and the impact that it has to oneself and families. Then the meat and potatoes of it: each person sitting in a circle relays anything on their mind. What’s stark and immediately interesting, is the hope within each story of sobriety: sometimes people have been on the wagon only a few weeks, sometime years, but each in turn is thankful for the life granted to them after giving up the booze. Each member has a story of what life now affords them.
TEach person only has five minutes to talk (not timed, so people often run over) and each one starts meekly, until confidence builds, and then their feelings bubble forth. Everyone is engaged. Each person introduces themselves, announces their an alcoholic, everyone greets them in reply, and then the stories begin. One that struck me in particular was a lady, let’s call her Michelle, that said, ‘I would hate it that I would wake up, I just wanted to die. Because each day I woke up I knew that I was going to drink again, and I didn’t want to. And I would hate myself for it.’ This tiny fragment is fascinating for me. I had always imagined that addicts of anything, smoking, chocolate et cetera always wanted to partake in their drug, that they were excited by it, looked forward to it. And here was a Michelle saying that she didn’t want to do it from the moment she woke up, but knew she would. They would steal and find a way of getting alcohol, and before they knew it by 10am they were sitting in a car park with several packs of beer, cracking open their first one. Frightening.
Michelle went on to be extremely thankful for the program, for having her sponsor to continually bounce off, and for saving enough money to fund new tyres on her car which she’d delayed for too long. As I said, it was uplifting, positive meeting. Each one scared of falling back into a pit of despair but managing through friendship, a sponsor, a God . . . having something to live for. Finding a purpose once again, perhaps. It was striking, sitting around in that circle of trust, that no one looked like an alcoholic, and perhaps no one really does. These were normal people you'd pass every day without ever thinking they struggled with an addiction, and I suppose you never really know what trials others are going through in their lives. A re-iteration once again to be kind to each other.
To find out more about the program, check out their American website https://www.aa.org/ or find your local chapter (there are many across the world). Take care of yourselves out there.
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