Fear, uncertainty, apprehension, maybe even a touch of Imposter Syndrome were all coursing through my veins as I stepped into the first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting of my life. I wasn´t sure if I belonged there or if my 4 year abstinence from alcohol meant that I was not really an alcoholic.
Ultimately, I had no idea what to expect but I entered sheepishly and was surprised to see the room filled with at least 50 people of all ages and walks of life. It was quite different from the notion of a dingy room occupied by a few degenerate (men) that I had half expected. There seemed to be a fairly equal balance of male/female, young/old which was surprising – for some reason – yet refreshing. It just hammered home once again the reminder that these problems really can affect anyone.
The atmosphere in the room was buzzing before the meeting and people seemed genuinely happy to be there. As the meeting started, the person leading the session, the “Chair”, introduced himself and asked another member to read an opening statement which is repeated each session.
AA is a worldwide, non-discriminatory and free service which is open to anyone
After this, we went around the room and introduced ourselves by saying the classic, “Hi i´m X and i´m an alcoholic, iv been sober for X days/weeks/months or `over a year´. This was not compulsory and some people were not yet sober or had only been sober for a few days but after each introduction the other members responded with “well done”, with especial encouragement given to those who were earlier on in their path to sobriety.
It wasn´t forced or cult-like – people knew and recognised the struggle that others were going through and it was clear that those simple words of encouragement from the group had a real positive impact as people relaxed and felt the warmth. Encouragement and support are so necessary for people who are trying to leave behind a life of addiction. Self esteem is often near rock bottom and feelings of hopelessness can be overwhelming, so it is no wonder that the community spirit, encouragement and empathy allow people to thrive and flourish in Alcoholics Anonymous.
Each session someone recounts their life and the impact their drinking had on themselves and others around them. It is a free therapy session for everyone involved as the person sharing experiences a gentle catharsis whilst the listeners realise the similarities within each others trials and tribulations.
It is this feeling of connection to another kindred spirit that many people suffering from addiction so desperately long for.
Addiction pushes you further away from yourself and the people you love and leaves you isolated and vulnerable at the time when you need most help and so the magic of a fellowship such as Alcoholics Anonymous is that you have an almost instant tangible connection to other members.
Alcoholics Anonymous also emphasises the benefits of service and mentorship. Service focuses on using your energy for the greater good and to help others in any way possible whilst mentorship is referred to as sponsorship. The concept is that as you grow in your sobriety you can “sponsor” the newer members and be there for them if they need additional support or just someone to talk to.
Within AA there is a 12 step program which aims to guide people through addiction recovery and there are various different books available with guidance on how to navigate and thrive in a sober life. If you are of a more anti-authoritarian nature and find yourself wanting to push back against rules and structure then have no fear, nothing will be forced upon you. However, part of the point of the 12 step program is to encourage a surrendering of the self and the desire for control and to encourage the participant to put their faith in a system outside theirself.
Overall, the meeting was emotionally rewarding. There were feelings of sadness for people who were in a bad place, shared joy in people´s strength in staying sober, and a sense of a humble grounding as life is put into perspective. Millions of people suffer from alcoholism and yet, so strong is the power of alcohol to change thoughts and beliefs, many people are unaware that they even have a problem.
Commendations to those that put their hands up and admit to themselves and others that they have a problem.
Key Takeaways from The Alcoholics Anonymous Meeting
- Alcoholism can affect anyone.
- If your drinking is interfering with your life, work or relationships then it is a problem.
- There will always be people in a worse state than you.
- There will always be people in a better state than you.
- Recovery can be made much easier with group support and support is always available.
- You don´t need to be living on the street surviving on white cider to be in need of help.
- Supporting others who are in need is intrinsically rewarding.
- Meeting people who have experience with many of the same issues as you can help with feelings of loneliness and separation.
- Getting sober dramatically improves people´s lives.
Alcoholics Anonymous Links
The link below will take you to a page where you can locate your nearest meeting.
Any comments, questions, suggestions or criticisms, please get in contact via one of the social media methods below!
Looking for Free and Confidential Support?
Mad Millennials is a UK based peer support network offering free and confidential sessions with trained volunteers. The sessions are very informal and loosely follow a theme each month – which you can find on the Instagram pages. It is an opportunity for people to talk with other people who are often experiencing similar issues and talk openly in a non-judgemental way. There is no obligation to participate or even talk if you don´t want to.
If you follow the link below you will see a page with more information and if you click on MMM Peer support groups you will be able to contact any of the groups and join a session. If you are unsure which group to join then send an email to email@example.com