It was late enough, dark enough to be difficult to drive. It was in Edmonds, out of my way. But I went, finding a large church, old and unexpectedly intimidating in the murk. I knocked on the door and no one answered. I couldn’t find the Women’s-only AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meeting. I went home saddened and discouraged: I’d wanted connection more than I realized.

I have a number of clients, friends, and members of my extended family who struggle with alcohol. I’ve taken an Institute for Challenging Disorganization webinar to learn how to incorporate AA concepts into my practices with my clients in recovery. To try to understand AA’s influence and power, to be comfortable talking about it, I’ve now attended a large co-ed morning gathering at the invitation of good friends of mine; two women’s-only sessions; a very small co-ed afternoon reading; a Native-oriented group (by accident, it was mislabeled as something else), and an LGBTQ-focused evening meeting.

 

I can’t find the hubris to claim I understand AA from the perspective of someone living sober, or trying. I understand AA from the perspective of someone who ought not to drink – my body doesn’t tolerate alcohol anymore, very little sickens me swiftly and brutally. And nonetheless, I succumb to “Just one, doesn’t hurt, it’s a social event.” I admit that falsehood and need to work on it.

 

AA is community. It’s safety for tears. Its structures are comforting, familiar, and reliable – a promise of and tool for stability. People even laugh! And yes, laughter is now acknowledged for its probable healing affects. My disappointment in missing the Edmonds meeting was rooted in my Bryn Mawr days: a women’s-only college gave me unique “You get it!” affirmation. My most-memorable meeting was among the Native Americans. I felt most out of place there (Far as I know, I’m solid Paleface: freckled, blue-eyed, red-haired Anglo-American Mutt.) and most welcome. It didn’t matter who I was, it mattered why I was there. Fellowship.

 

There are reasons to be skeptical of AA: atheists and agnostics may not be comfortable at many AA meetings, and many of its members hold destructively outdated, critical views of medical and/or counseling and therapy interventions for alcoholism. There are alternative programs. Please consider getting help, from whichever support provider works for you, if you think you need it.

About Lauren Williams

Me, Lauren Williams, Certified Professional Organizer®: I'm a professional organizer who works in homes, home businesses and also small businesses. I'm a NYC native who's spent time in Philadelphia, Palo Alto, Baltimore and now Seattle. All great places, but NYC will always be home, and Seattle will be where I now stay. I help you think outside of the box to get something into the box.

2 Comments

  1. Tiffany Swedeen on January 1, 2020 at 9:02 am

    Thank you for this vulnerable, touching post! As you know, I’m ‘sober out loud’ and readily share my story of recovery. AA is not my “home program”, however, it’s been a solid source of support through the years. Particularly when I’m traveling – which I do often – and need a local meeting to help keep my recovery routine intact. AA is basically Everywhere. Even when I travel abroad. It sounds like your body might be telling you what it tells many of us “Alcohol is poison. It is ethanol, and belongs in your gas tank, not in your body.” These days, I choose a mocktail – full of fizz, flavor and fruit, rather than a dangerous substance advertised as social success in a glass.
    If I might add, further recommendations for alternatives to AA include http://www.recoverydharma.org and http://www.smartrecovery.org. Also – If you ever can’t find a meeting in person (I’ve been disappointed more than a few times to find an AA meeting listed that is no longer happening) you can find any of these types of meetings online, usually multiple times a day! Just check their websites. Not quite the same as the IRL connection, but it can suffice in a pinch. Thanks Lauren, for sharing from the heart.



    • Lauren Williams on January 1, 2020 at 4:05 pm

      Thank you for your compliments and teaching me about more resources. Writing this post was a little frightening – the alcohol intolerance I’ve discovered took me a while to realize. If only as a reminder that I’m aging, it feels like losing control.