If you don’t believe in the effectiveness of Alcoholics Anonymous, then this probably isn’t the right post for you. Despite the fact that AA has saved millions of lives and scientists have exposed a ton of evidence that backs up the program, devil’s advocates continue to debate on whether addiction is a disease or a lifestyle decision. Critics of Alcoholics Anonymous have called the group a “cult that relies on God as the mechanism of action”. Lee Ann Kaskutas put these claims to the test when she studied the effectiveness of AA by comparing the length of abstinence from alcohol to the exposure to the program. Kaskutas found that the two are directly related, bridging the gap between faith and science. If anything, I think we can all agree that if someone thinks that they ought to quit drinking, then they probably should.
I am a huge advocate for AA, which is why I must say, with disappointment, that I have not been working the program that I know I should be. So here I am, ratting myself out. Here are the four ways my program is a total sham and how I intend to fix it.
- You don’t attend any meetings
Meetings are important. Not only are they an open forum to release any burning desires you may have, they are also therapeutic to your fellows in the circle with you. Meetings offer a convenient way to fulfill a service commitment and to stay active and relevant with the group.
Right now, your home group may not be meeting in person, due to the pandemic. Never fear! This amazing website has made it to where there is no excuse for why I have not attended a meeting. I mean, seriously, there are meetings available in all languages and on a variety of platforms (Second Life, anyone?). It’s refreshing to be able to experience a different vibe in these gatherings, especially since my home group consists of those of the lighter, wrinklier variety. Also, if you still can’t seem to find a meeting out of the thousands of options, you can always opt to start your own! Needless to say, there are people who make excuses and there are people who make a way.
- You don’t have a sponsor
I was very pregnant the last time I worked with a sponsor. I guess one could say my morning sickness worked in my favor (I just didn’t want to go, okay?).
Either way, it was my loss. A sponsor makes the journey 10 times easier. They are your designated person to call when you want to complain, cry, and pray. If you pick well, they could also mentor you in other areas of your life.
Many people would recommend that you jump in and grab anyone who is willing to sponsor you just for the sake of getting started as soon as possible. If you wish to follow such advice, I would recommend working with someone temporarily while you look for someone to permanently fill that position. Personally, I like to be picky with my sponsor. After all, you are getting down, dirty and honest with this person, and many times, talking to them every day or seeing them weekly is required. I would rather enjoy this person‘s company.
Asking someone to be your sponsor can be nerve-racking. However, most of the work in choosing your sponsor is done in listening. Throughout the meeting, find out who has what you want to have. I don’t mean look them up and down and see who has the newest Gucci belt. Listen out for the person who is speaking your language. Ask yourself, who is God speaking through to get to me? Immediately after the meeting does not have to be the time that you ask them to guide you through your steps. I typically give them a quick elevator speech covering who I am, where I am in my program, and why I appreciates their share. After exchanging numbers, I like to get these questions answered before committing to the sponsorship.
- You’re not serving others
Doing service work is one of the three pillars of Alcoholics Anonymous. Staying useful to others was definitely something that took me out of my head when I had cravings early in sobriety or when I was wallowing in self-pity. I noticed that the service work that I do today, really isn’t serving others. The work that I do, I get paid for, or it was done because it was something I could add onto my resume. While I do enjoy community service, in order to be of service to others, I have to do it for others.
You can be of service by volunteering or donating to local nonprofits. For example, The WRATH Foundation helps women and children escape and recover from abusive situations in the DFW area. With school starting back up, there are several back to school drives, too. I am going to join Be My Eyes, which is an app that uses video conferencing to connect you to a shopping member of the blind community. You can help them shop, move about their environments, and in other similar ways.
- You are absolutely miserable
This is not to say that you won’t have a bad day in recovery. But, if you have no set plan of action for those days, you are bound to fail. I always recommend everyone to find their “go-to” beverage. Mine is Topo Chico. I love cracking open a cold one and the fact that they have zero calories. They also sell it at every bar I’ve been to. Other substitutes for alcohol include kombucha, sparkling juices and alcohol free wines and beers! O’douls didn’t disappoint, but some other well-known brands are Brew Dog and Big Drip. I’m dying to try Kombucha after reading about its popularity. It has that “cool” factor. Let me know if you have tried it and if it’s any good in the comments!
Having a list of coping skills to help you take your mind off of drinking and hating life, is also very useful. It always helps for me to have a project I’m always working on, but if staying busy doesn’t help you, then indulge in your own kind of self care. If you aren’t feeling any benefits from working your program, then change it. Always remember: if nothing changes, nothing changes.
“Guess what, I have flaws. What are they? Oh I don’t know. I sing in the shower. Sometimes I spend too much time volunteering. Occasionally I’ll hit somebody with my car. So sue me.” -Michael Scott