Tuesday, 20 March 2012

The Power of the Group

I like going to AA meetings - in general now it is no longer a daily struggle to stay away from a drink, I've been away from one a number of days, weeks, months, years now and new habits are there.  Those habits have replaced entirely the old behaviours that revolved around drinking, there is nothing of the ritual left.  That helps obviously, but also I do react differently.  I get stressed over something at work, a meeting I have to chair or what have you and I don't run off to the pub to "calm my nerves" I walk through the anxiety.  Sometimes better than others but over the years now I'm learning that frankly in most of these things I fear all I really fear is being shown to be lacking in some way... to be seen to be human!  When I celebrate I don't have to drink to do it - and best for me as much of my worst drinking was triggered by situations that would call for a celebration I don't feel the need to destroy the celebration with my drink filled self-pity that no matter what was supposed to be celebrating I could always find a few dozen more aspects of my life that were below the expectations I'd set for myself and therefore I'd hit the "actually my life is still shite" button and hit the booze.  Now one of my new rituals is that I go to AA meetings, I rarely even think about it, it is Monday go to the meeting - if I wasn't moving out my seat by 7:15 my wife would no doubt say "You going tonight?"  That would be the queue, she doesn't get AA at all, she is a very private person and doesn't understand group therapy (when I was in rehab for a month she never told anyone other than very close family, finally a friend of hers said "What is going on?" and she finally told her.  That is her way, I don't interfere).  However her experience and evidence is that I'm a totally different person since going to AA so I think if I ever backed off she might have some point of view on it - but as I say she doesn't need to, I go and actually I enjoy going normally and sometimes I really enjoy going.

Last night I was at the regular meeting I attend on a Monday, actually last meeting in the room I have known for 8 years as the church has asked us to move to a smaller room from next week - ironic, it was completely full last night and has been pulling good attendances for a while now, but frankly we pay a peppercorn rent so can't complain.  Three people collected sobriety chips last night.  One a young (isn't almost everyone to me now!) man at his first meeting and his first 24 hours without a drink.  Then two more both have been into AA and back out but are back in with a bit of a purpose, a spring to their step, that certain sparkle in the eyes that you see when someone is back from the dark place.  They both collected 1 month chips.  There was much clapping and cheering.  It was fantastic - firstly for these people that they are pulling back from a hell on earth for them, no doubt for those around them outside AA, family, friends, colleagues, neighbours etc.  But also for the group - this shows AA working, forget the steps for a moment, the traditions, the concepts, conference, the arguments raging about whether AA money should buy these bloody chips in the first place (I pointed out at region that we all troop off to buy our tea, coffee, milk and biscuits from supermarkets flogging beer at prices cheaper than water it seems and we have no issue with that supposedly...  I'll let that resentment go... one day) but this is about people not drinking who couldn't stop drinking for whom alcohol consumed all their energies - where were could they get money for it, when could they start to drink, hold their drink, hide their drink, lie about their drink, avoid being somewhere to drink, be somewhere to get a drink, avoid someone, manipulate someone etc. etc. etc.

A great meeting - the chair was a friend who's story is frightening close to mine in so many aspects, so he is a man I have huge empathy with.  And in this group of 30 something drunks people with experience in so much of life, in drink, without drink, in literally the first day without drink to tell me how good it felt but how frightened they were, some with a few months, a year or two, or five or eight or 10 or 20 or 25.   Doesn't matter how much you pay any analyst, how much money could be poured into the NHS for alcohol reform - you simply couldn't buy that level of experience in one place for me to tap into and continue my journey on the back of all those people simply "going to AA and not picking up a drink".


  1. great read, my friend :-) I love that AA is so universal, in that it's much the same where you are as where I am.

    I too have enjoyed many sober years free from the need to go to a meeting to avoid drinking. I go now because they help me stay centered on God's will. I go because I hope to be helpful to others. I go to be helped by the newcomer, reminded of what it's like "out there."

    There is some semblance of balance in my life today and meetings are an important part of that balance. Thanks for the reminder!

  2. Great post. The group is where I find the companionship I could never find in a glass. Real people, real friends, who are there even after 'closing time'.

  3. Graham group work well facilitated is amazing to watch and be a part of, good dynamic work can be rare as hen's teeth.
    yes good post mate

  4. This post touched my heart. Especially about collecting the chips. My husband has his on his dresser and I have his first chip in my pocketbook. They are so symbolic and inspiring. Thank you for sharing this.

  5. Thanks for sharing this. I take a lot of what you share to heart because you seem genuinely happy in the program. And you don't shove it down anyone's throat. My home group meeting sounds like the meeting you described. I get such a feeling of community there. I keep thinking it can't last forever, and it's not perfect to be sure (during monthly business meetings for one - ah, those coins), but I will keep that meeting for now and beyond that I try not to worry. Thanks again for sharing your experience, strength and hope.

  6. A great achievement for each and every one of you.

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