Today I attended my first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. As part of our Substance Abuse and Treatment class we were ask to attend a meeting and write a paper about our experience. Substance abuse is overwhelmingly prevalent in our society and the twelve steps have proven to be an extremely effective means to keeping millions of people sober. Upon attending my first meeting this afternoon, I sought to find out just what it was about the 12 steps and 60 minute meetings that kept people clean and gave them hope to remain in recovery. As I exited the church after the completion of the meeting, I left with a sense of understanding as to the magic of AA.
As I entered the rear of a local church, I was flooded with nerves as I didn’t know what to expect and I was worrisome about what others would think of my presence at the meeting. Immediately upon entering the basement recreation room, I was warmly greeted by a woman who was running the donation/raffle table and she welcomed me to the meeting. I took a seat and as I looked around the room I was immediately struck with the sense of community as people offered hello’s and engaged in friendly chit-chat with those around them. During the course of the meeting three individuals spoke and shared their stories of alcoholism and recovery. As all three of them spoke, I noticed one overarching theme that clued me in to the secret of AA’s efficacy: they all spoke to the support and acceptance they found at AA that enabled them to stay sober. While telling their stories, each individual spoke about the damage their alcohol abuse had done to the majority of their relationships and as a result they did not have a strong support network to help them get sober. However, once each of them starting attending AA meetings they found themselves amongst a group of individuals who were able to provide an acceptance and support unlike any other people in their lives, because unlike other family members or friends, each person in the AA group had once been in their position and could truly understand what it meant to be an alcoholic seeking help. For these three men, their regular AA meetings became like home and the strength of the group enabled them to turn their lives around.
Attending this meeting was a great learning experience that truly opened my eyes to what AA meetings are all about. To top off the experience, I ended up winning the raffle and I am the proud new owner of a book published by AA about the twelve steps and twelve traditions. I urge you all to check out a meeting sometime, if you haven’t already, as you might learn a thing or two about perseverance and the importance of accepting others.