So I went to AA…

On Monday I went to my first meeting. I made my way to Central Hall, a large public building that looks deceptively small from the outside. It’s the kind of place where youth projects are based, girl guides meet and kids have tap lessons after school. I walked through the door and realised I had no idea where to go. I looked at the guy on reception but I couldn’t bring myself to ask for directions. Just as I was beginning to think that not being able to find the meeting was maybe a sign I shouldn’t go, someone came up to me and asked “Are you lost?”

“Yes,” I replied, “I’m looking for a … err… meeting?” Fortunately he picked up on the considerable emphasis I’d given the word ‘meeting’ and he said, “Well if it’s the AA meeting you’re looking for then you can follow me….”

He did introduce himself but I was so nervous I instantly forgot his name. He also introduced me to the person chairing the meeting and gave me a meeting list. I didn’t say anything for the entire 90 minutes, I just sat and listened. Part of me just wanted to disappear, but these lovely strangers who’d never met me before kept referring to me in their shares, saying how good it was to see a newcomer.

Last night’s meeting was different. Most people were a lot younger and several had only been sober a few weeks/months. I felt like we had a bit more in common. It was chaired by a nice guy called Anthony who I’d actually sat next to at the previous meeting. Towards the end he asked a few people if they’d like to share. It was clear he was asking them because they hadn’t said anything. And then he asked me.

I did have something to share. What I wanted to say was:

“I’ve been sober for two and a half months. This is my second meeting after trying AA four years ago and deciding I wasn’t an alcoholic. So far I’ve stayed sober by reading blogs, books and looking for support online. I did 90% of my drinking on my own, isolating myself from the rest of the world. Recently I’ve begun to feel that I’m isolating myself in my sobriety too. I haven’t told my friends or family that I’ve stopped drinking – they just think I’m on a health kick. I can’t tell them the truth because they’ve never known the real extent of my drinking. Although I’ve received great support online, from strangers all over the world, I’ve started to feel like I need to confide in people face to face. I need to make this feel more real and I need to meet people going through the same thing.”

Like I said, that’s what I wanted to say. Instead I burst into tears and gave a sobbing, snivelly version of events that probably didn’t make any sense.

The meeting finished pretty soon after my share. I was going to run straight out but a couple of people stopped me to check I was ok. Two women gave me their numbers and said they’d been touched by what I said. One even text me after to check I really was ok.

I was pretty touched that they cared so much. Until the crying incident it had been a good meeting and I’d really related to lots of things that people said. My next one will have to be Saturday now, as I’m working long shifts for the next three days and there aren’t any meetings in my area that would fit round my lunch hour or before work. I do want to go back.

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23 thoughts on “So I went to AA…

  1. jamilynaz June 19, 2013 at 10:39 pm Reply

    I’m so glad you are giving AA a try. I remember my first meetings: I snuck in late, left early, and prayed that no one would try to talk to me inbetween. Now, I go to a meeting every morning before work and I absolutely love it! The fellowship that I have found in AA surpasses any I have ever known. After I got over the initial nervousness (and tearfulness), I really felt at home. Good luck with your next meetings, I’m sure they will go well.

    Jami

  2. Lilly June 19, 2013 at 11:46 pm Reply

    Oh Kate, big hugs to you brave girl.

    I could have written your share from the third sentence. Like, literally, word for word! That is exactly why I went to three AA meetings. I didn’t keep going, not because I decided I wasn’t an alcoholic but… I felt AA wasn’t really for me. BUT, I wouldn’t want to discourage anyone else even slightly and I wouldn’t rule it out myself in the future if I needed it. I felt that I had little to lose by going and mostly I just wanted to meet some “real life” sober people. I may well go back at some stage for that reason. But, having been, it is hard, it is brave, it takes guts to keep going, especially at first. So, well done you! It will get easier I’m sure.

    Oh, one other thing, re the isolating and lack of real life support – I think this might get better in time. My friends are getting more used to me not drinking in social situations, so it’s becoming more ‘the new normal’, which makes me less prone to isolating in avoidance of the questions. Secondly, I am considering ‘coming out’ to more of them and asking for more support. I haven’t ballsed up to do this yet but I feel it coming down the line with more time sober. You may too.

    Glad to hear your recent holiday was lovely.

    Lilly xo

    • soberjournalist June 20, 2013 at 7:32 pm Reply

      Glad it’s not just me feeling this way. What made you stop going to AA, was there anything in particular? I think I’m still making my mind up, but at the moment the relief of speaking to other people is so great I want to stick with it. Some of the people I’ve met so far go to a meeting every day, some twice a day. I can’t imagine doing that. I want sobriety to fit into a nice neat box that doesn’t take up too much time … but maybe that’s part of the problem, there is no quick fix.

      Let me know how you get on with being more open with your friends. I’ve come really, really close a couple of times but just backed out in the end. Good luck with the media famil – I’d never heard of that phrase before! But I know what you mean. How long are you going for? I’ve only been on one or two and they were really short, but included a lot of hanging around and small talk, which can be hard work at times xx

      • Lilly June 21, 2013 at 2:19 am

        Hmm… I’m almost reluctant to say too much re AA because I know it works for so many etc and I don’t want to put you off. Like I said, even just to meet people who ‘get’ what you’re going through in real life would be great and the community etc. With that disclaimer, for me I have issues with the 12-step/disease model and the spiritual component. And, frankly, the whole experience just depressed the hell out of me and made me feel worse about being sober, not better. But that was just me. And, like I said, I wouldn’t even rule out trying it again down the line. I had said to myself I’d attend at least 12 meetings with an open mind and I only went to 3 in the end so I hardly gave it a huge chance really. FWIW.

        Famil stands for ‘familarisation’, btw. I’d never heard the term before I came here either. Can’t remember what they say in the US but it’s something else again.

        The trip, yes, 12 journos, 10 days, chasing stories, different city every night. So, yeah, exciting but also hard work in many ways and that is freaking me out a little BUT I keep thinking about the fact that drinking will ultimately only make it harder. I just really, really hope it isn’t a crowd that wants to PARTAY, as I find can be the case on such trips. I guess if is I’ll just have to sneak away to my hotel room, have a hot bath, read a book and feel superior and clear-headed while everyone else is nursing hangovers in the morning… 😉

  3. Lilly June 19, 2013 at 11:48 pm Reply

    p.s. My upcoming trip is a media famil. (Do you call them that in the UK? You know press trips, press junkets…) You will likely appreciate how boozy those can sometimes be! I’m hoping this crowd is older, more serious journos and less the young hard-drinking-partying types I’ve encountered on other trips.

  4. carrythemessage June 20, 2013 at 12:44 am Reply

    I too am glad you gave it another go. And it sounds like it really hit the spot it needed to hit – that face to face, feeling the energy in the room kind of spot. And expressing it in tears and garbled words is totally fine 🙂 You’ll find your voice in the rooms, but listening is a great portal to your words. I can’t tell you how happy I am to hear that you want to go back, and that the people were ones you could relate to (younger, etc.) – that makes a difference. And the fact that the women there gave you their numbers and checked in on your even…that shows that they are so willing to work with newcomers and that the group is a healthy one. Wonderful stuff, my friend.

    Blessings,
    Paul

    • soberjournalist June 20, 2013 at 7:36 pm Reply

      Thanks Paul. Definitely going back, I think I’m going to try a women’s meeting on Saturday just out interest. K

  5. Anonymous June 20, 2013 at 10:15 am Reply

    Hi
    I’ve done that cried at an AA meeting. However my crying was uncontrolable sobbing. I don’t know what that was about nervousness hopeful release? If you decide to go back you might be at a meeting sometime and a newcomer just like you might start crying too and you’ll be able to empathize with them. , Know exactly what they are feeling and be of some comfort to them. Nothing is ever wasted ya know. I have tried AA but unfortunately I never found my voice, as Paul puts it above. I never felt comfortable. But hey thats me and there are many many many people like Jami who love it. So it doesn’t matter how we find help just keep searching and reaching out until you find it.

    Soberrella

  6. khaireideerslayers June 20, 2013 at 11:38 am Reply

    Yay I was so glad to read this! I have been going for almost three months now and I still cry about once a week in one meeting or another… (cringe!) But I usually end up laughing again before I leave, because people are so kind and make an effort to get me to smile again before I go. I never really realised I was prideful but I have spent so long being a total ice queen and insisting I am ‘fine’. There’s nothing like a bit of ugly crying in front of a room full of people to help you feel humble!
    Thanks for sharing your experience, I love reading about how other people are finding meetings xx

    • soberjournalist June 20, 2013 at 7:40 pm Reply

      Hey I actually thought of you at the time because I remember you writing about the crying! As soon as I get upset I lose the ability to speak … and I’m a gonner. Like you I’m normally a bit of a “everything is fine” type person but being that way involves squashing down a lot of feelings and keeping a lot of things a secret. It’s scary telling a room full of strangers things that you wouldn’t tell anyone else. x

  7. Out of the Box June 20, 2013 at 12:34 pm Reply

    Hi Kate, I’ve just come across your blog and enjoyed every word. Love your writing style. I am only on day 11 but am amazed at the similarity of stories I read on these blogs. I live in the states and am traveling to Italy for 2 weeks in August (I know – HOT!). This is a trip my husband and I have been planning for over 30 years and I picked this time to quit drinking. Actually, that is why I picked this time to quit drinking. I don’t want my trip to Italy to be focused on when I get my next glass of wine. I want to enjoy every minute of that experience. Kate – don’t worry about the lifetime without wine. It is a lifetime without poison. Keep writing!

    • soberjournalist June 20, 2013 at 7:46 pm Reply

      Well done on getting to day 11! I found those first few days and weeks some of the hardest. Have you read Jason Vale’s book, Kick the Drink easily? I think he says something about giving up the poison and it’s so true. If you haven’t read it, it might be helpful for you to read ahead of your trip. It’s so great waking up without a hangover when you’re on holiday. Like you say, you’ll be able to enjoy every minute of it rather than worrying about when your next drink is going to be… god I used to spend so much time plotting and planning and worrying over where the next drink was coming from!

  8. tfay64 June 20, 2013 at 1:01 pm Reply

    Hi Kate! Bravo on doing what you needed to do for yourself. I can totally relate to the isolation moving into the sobriety and needing someone to talk to face to face to make it more real. I did try a couple AA meetings, but they were not my thing, but slowly am reaching out to different parts of my support circle and it feels great! Stay your course! We are in your corner!

  9. soberorbust June 20, 2013 at 4:30 pm Reply

    Congrats on taking a big step.! as I was reading your post I was thinking ‘hey, those have been my thoughts exactly”,

    So, what ive heard from others before and so makes sense is- we didn’t get sober to be miserable.

    i’m on the same journey with you. I tended / tend to isolate now being sober. I am reaching out as you are. little by little. can’t wait to hear about your new sober buddy who you can talk to face to face.

    peggy

    • soberjournalist June 20, 2013 at 7:47 pm Reply

      Thanks Peggy. At my last meeting someone said “being sober does get easier. It does make our lives better. We wouldn’t do it otherwise” And that really stuck with me!

  10. soberorbust June 20, 2013 at 4:41 pm Reply

    oh and may I add I was a nervous wreck for my couple / weeks of meetings!
    sweating and total anxiety and I was a blubbering crying fool (ha ha ) my emotions were just so powerful. all of the women in the rooms were so kind!

    it got better and continues to get better. its so nice to see the people and faces at meetings. i now text and call these ppl and they GET it. No explanations necessary. these friendships are deeper than any non sober ones I have.

    It gets better

  11. lifecorked June 20, 2013 at 6:15 pm Reply

    Loved this post! I totally relate! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve broke down and cried in meetings – sometimes it’s the only place I feel safe enough to show the real me. I hope you keep going back. I’ve found so much love and acceptance in those rooms.

    • soberjournalist June 20, 2013 at 7:50 pm Reply

      How many meetings do you go to a week? The only thing that put me off a bit was the number of people who attend meetings every day, if not twice a day. I’m not sure I could keep that up. I see you’ve been sober a while and was wondering how you balanced meetings with online stuff?

  12. carrieonsober June 20, 2013 at 8:54 pm Reply

    Well done Kate, it sounds like you have taken a huge step. I really hope you find some friends through the meeting. I think it would make a huge difference having a support network locally of real people, I certainly haven’t ruled it out. I know they say that the only requirement is the desire to not drink but I too am a little wary of the commitment to the steps, sponsors and daily meetings. Its not that I think I am better at recovery than all that, just I know what is working for me now is totally keeping me sober at a pace of life changes that I am comfortable with. Surely it can’t be wrong to go to AA to just feel you fit in somewhere and to find friends for company and support in your own community. I would be really interested to find out what your experience of AA is…
    I really hope it is positive and I am sure it will help.
    Proud of you C x

    • runningonsober June 21, 2013 at 4:47 am Reply

      Hey C, you don’t HAVE to do steps or a sponsor or daily meetings—none of that is required, it’s only suggested guidelines. It’s totally up to you how involved you want to be. Just wanted to throw that out there. 🙂

  13. Mrs D June 21, 2013 at 12:19 am Reply

    Great post. I love this. You are so brave. xxx

  14. simpsonsister June 21, 2013 at 2:08 am Reply

    Good for you! I tried AA awhile back but decided it wasn’t for me. I think that really was me deciding that I wasn’t an alcoholic. I got some sober time under my belt and then went back and I think that made all the difference. I felt stronger. I knew I had my support group in place out here in the blog world, but I was just looking for more face to face support. Don’t feel pressure to go to a ton of meetings. I think some people become addicted to AA which is why they want others to “jump” in. Not that going to a lot of meetings is bad – you just have to figure out what works for you. There are some meetings where I share and others where I listen but I always can take something away with me. Hang in there!

  15. runningonsober June 21, 2013 at 4:51 am Reply

    I cried the first time I ever spoke at a meeting. All I could muster out was, “Hi, I’m Christina” then it was boohoohoo while I tried to work up enough nerve to talk. It’s cathartic being with a group of folks who get you, who understand.

    I’m so glad you gave it another shot. The face to face support helped me sooo much my first year.

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