Friday, 24 July 2015

To AA, or not to AA?

Regular readers will know that I have been wrestling with this one for a while. And whenever I mention AA in a post, even in passing, it causes much debate, so I guess lots of you have been agonising over it too.

I always tell the children when they have to make a big decision to write a list of the pros and cons, so that's what I'm going to do.

To those of you who are AA experts, please forgive my obvious ignorance! This is a totally personal list based purely on hearsay and reading, not on any actual experience.


1. Fear

I confess. I am a coward. The idea of even walking into 'the rooms' fills me with terror. I'm scared of seeing anyone I know and I'm terrified of confessing to myself, let alone others. that 'I am an alcoholic.'

2. Negativity

Like Wine Bitch ( I worry about the whole language of AA. The 'disease' stuff (see Is Alcoholism a Disease?), the turgidity of 'one day at time'. The prison sentence of forever being 'in recovery.' The endless re-telling of horror stories from the past.

Instinctively I prefer the positive language of Jason Vale - 'addiction to an addictive substance', rather than 'a disease called alcoholism', looking forward, not back, 'recovered' rather than 'in recovery.'

3. Comparison

I'm sure that, in listening to people's stories there'd be loads of 'ah ha!' moments and lots of similarities, but I'm scared of the differences.

I know how easy it is to hear people talking about their rock bottoms - drinking whisky for breakfast and losing their homes, jobs and families and to think 'that's not me, ergo I am not an alcoholic'. I don't need to go down that cul-de-sac again.

I've also heard stories (which I'm sure are not at all representative) of people being mocked for their 'bottle of wine a day' habits by the 'two bottles of vodka' brigade.

4. Rules

I've always hated rules. And I hate the idea of 'doing the steps'. I also still feel horribly uncomfortable with the concept of 'surrendering your will,' to putting myself in the hands of anyone, let alone a 'higher power.'

I prefer to see myself as someone taking responsibility for their own actions, and doing it my own way. (It's only now that I've typed that that I realise it's terrible pride holding me back. I am definitely not humble enough for AA!)

HOWEVER, over the last few months, I keep returning to the idea of AA over and over again. I'm obsessed by Bill Wilson. I love the serenity prayer. I have The Big Book under my bed. So here are my....


1. Some of You

People I admire and respect hugely keep urging me to give it a go. People like P, Anne, Wendy (  and Melanie (my e-mail buddy from Boston), to name just a few.

2. A New Tribe

One of the many truths that I've quoted from AA is that you can't do this journey alone. To date, with the exception of Mr SM and my friend P, all my confidantes have been virtual. Increasingly I feel the need to meet people like me IRL, as the kids would say (in real life).

Anne (from keeps telling me 'they're your people', and I think she may be right. I'm wondering whether I can find the same sense of belonging and solidarity that I once found in the smoking sections of aeroplanes, around the next bottle of wine at a party and dancing in fields in Hampshire in 'The Rooms.' Maybe that's where my tribe are now.

A promise

So, because I'm boring myself, and you, with my endless prevarication, and because I'll never know if I don't try, I promise that I'm going to go. Once the kids are back at school, in September - by when I'll be six months sober. It seems like an appropriate way to mark that milestone.

(But I'm not doing the steps. Or surrendering. And I can't guarantee that I'll be able to say 'I'm an alcoholic'. One step at a time, as they say)

So, if you're still reading my blog by then and I don't mention having gone to a meeting, please call me on it!

Love to you all

SM x


  1. Ten days sober here. I've pretty much decided not to go for now - too many things rub me the wrong way, as I explained yesterday. But ... I also have a whatever it takes-determination. If Soberistas and this blog etc. isn't enough, I'll just have to go to meetings.

    1. The best advice I got in early sobriety was to be open minded and not make judgements without knowing all,sides.
      I went to AA at about 3 months sober. There are good and bad things about it. But it is an interesting experience.

  2. I have no desire to go at the moment. Only 10 weeks in and quite happy plodding along doing it by myself. I am a very private person and don't like discussing my personal issues with others although I love talking to others about their problems and am seen as a good listener/friend in that respect. I stopped smoking from one day to the next when I decided to and am tackling drinking in much the same way. I don't dwell too much on it and am just getting on with it (although i read blogs and soberistas every day). I realise that it's not the same for everyone and certainly would not rule it out in the future especially if I lapsed. I look forward to hearing how you get on!

    1. You will never be forced to 'share', that is talk about yourself. You are welcome to just listen.

  3. I'm on the fence. I think that we (this virtual community) does embody the spirit of Bill Wilson's original premise - addicts helping addicts.
    I honestly believe that this community is just another version of AA.
    I will go to a meeting, just because (as my mum said every time I refused to eat semolina), you can't say you don't like it, if you don't try it. So call me out too, SM xx

  4. I agree with you Wine bitch. I think what we're doing here is the same, if not better (for me anyway) than AA.
    I went to a good few meetings. They just didn't sit right with me, I had too many issues with how it was run and how the meetings were conducted. However, I'm so glad I went. I think it was the first step in becoming sober. I'd thought about going to AA before and to actually really do it confirmed to me that I had a problem and that I was doing something real about it.
    Deffo give it a go and see how you get on. x

  5. I have the very same thoughts about the subject as you, so I am interested to hear your take on it. As an atheist, I don't really gig with the "higher power" thing, and also dislike rules (hence the atheism). I will say that I know ex-alcoholics who have "been in the program" and it seems like they are in AA for life, and it actually becomes a lifestyle where you are only comfortable with other AA folk, living in that frame of mind. Which sounds like religion to me. HOWEVER, what the hell do I know? Try it! Blog it!

  6. I think it's worth the time.
    I also think it is worth doing the steps on your own. The woman's way through the 12 steps is a good book. Worth reading.

    Just go with an open mind. Who cares what you say there. I thought it would bother me to say I am an alcoholic, but it's just part of the set up.

    Go. Take what you want and leave the rest behind. There are no rules. Except anonymity and respecting the privacy of others.

    Genre are also few drinking stories. It's mostly people talking about their struggles or their experiences.

  7. Totally agree with above. So far I have been able to do this because of this online community! I had never considered stopping before I discovered soberistas and all your blogs. Was constantly battling with trying to cut down. Letting go has been so much better and easier! Thank you all!!!

    1. Me too. Even when I started this stint of sobriety it was going to be for a year.
      I had always tried to cut down, drink less, less often, and until then was never able to stick to my own rules.
      Letting go was the best decision I ever made. But it took me a while to see that.

  8. I couldn't go to an AA meeting in a fit. i am a bit wreckless and silly with alcohol and have a bad 'off' switch and really get depressed after drinking recently but do not think I am an alcoholic so could just never say it. Also, I am still in my 30's and in lots of ways I feel I am just halting something that would become a problem in my 40's (where i indeed might have to say 'I am an alcoholic!'. Slippery slope and all that. Lastly I am on Day 16, without much bother so I feel I am less the alcoholic than those still drinking if that makes sense!
    Signed up to the 'Belle' challenge, Its excellent. Would recommend it to newbie's : )

  9. I am not sure I could go to one either to be honest. I am fiercely independant and I feel that attending AA would be like throwing the towel in because it involves the help of others. It is a very stubborn trait I know. Nobody else but me got me into the situation I find myself in, so I figure that I should be the one to reverse it. x

  10. I have all the same pro's and cons as you. I don't want the 12 steps or giving up to a higher power but I am very curious and also feel I need to meet people that I can relate to. I am 75 percent sure I will go in the very near future. There is also smart recovery which is something to consider x

  11. I have been to a handful of meetings and have both optimism and reservations about it. The online sober community has been tremendously helpful for me, even before I decided to stop drinking and even though I don't post or comment that often. The people I've meet at AA so far have been nothing but super friendly and sweet. I have trouble committing to going every week or for the rest of my life; I have a good friend who goes to meetings 4-5 times per week and that seems overwhelming to me. But others above are right: you don't (it seems) have to subscribe to or believe everything that it said/done, and if nothing else you can meet some people who are like minded.

    Personally I don't think sobriety is one-size-fits-all, but AA is definitely a strong support tool to have. If you do decide to go, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

  12. I think everyone has to find their own path.
    The first time I went to AA, I didn't understand it.
    Then, this time when I realized I needed ALL the help I could get, I did everything, including AA.
    I also had a super cool sponsor.
    There are things I like, and things I don't.
    I really do "take what I need and leave the rest".
    However, I have met some wonderful support and role models at the meetings I go to!

  13. You could also check out, Women For Sobriety. They have acceptance statements and it puts all the responsibility on you and you only. It is a type of behavioral modification. Somebody has called it a pollyana approach ,but as simplistic as it is, it's principles are good. I have also been to two ladies only AA meetings. I am not sure that AA is for me or not, but I do like the face to face support of other women. As far as somebody recognizing you, remember they are there at the meeting for the same reason as you so there really isn't anything to be embarrassed about. As far as being a alcoholic, I think the moment our drinking starts impacting our own personal life then it is a problem. Call it what you want. AA uses the term alcoholic you call it a problem drinker. To me it is just a term, that means basically the same thing.There is also an online forum with WFS that the women seem genuinely sincere and very supportive. All I know is I want this to be my first and last time seeing day 15 and I will do everything that can possibly help me. I will go and take what is helpful and leave the rest.

  14. I love your blog!

    I am on day four of trying to not drink. My favorite is wine. However I have no willpower when it comes to wine! So I've decided it is necessary for me to try and stop. And I feel like I hate and love it all at the same time. However it's been pretty up-and-down mood wise

    I did about a month ago attend an AA meeting. My experience was it was very difficult to find one where the members of the group had not been together for quite a while. The one I went to, while everyone was wonderful to me, had been established for what seemed to be quite a while cut experience was it was very difficult to find one where the members of the group had not been together for quite a while. The one I went to, while everyone was wonderful to me, had been established for what seemed to be quite a while. Plus there was only one woman in the group. What I did get from them was the book which I find very helpful along with reading blogs (yours is my favorite!!)

    Maybe we should create our own online support group!!

    Again...I love you blog!!! Hang in there!!


    1. Hi Jen! Thanks so much for your support! Well done you on day 4. PLEASE keep it up, and please stay in touch! I've got the Big Book under my bed too :-). Love SM x

  15. Well, there are pros and cons in everything. I think it’s best to stick what works best for you. Some find comfort and support in AA meetings, while some prefer to face it with their family or friends. In the end, it’s all about having the proper support to get through the tough times, especially if you’re just at the starting point. I hope this helps!

    Sabra Hoffmann @ Stark Behavioral Health