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of AA: atheists and agnostics may not be comfortable at many AA meetings, and many of its members hold destructively outdated, critical views of medical and/or counseling and therapy interventions for alcoholism.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.