The sense of belonging seems to be an important factor nowadays for a lot of people, especially for a younger individual. Given the vast array of groups, it is quite hard to know where one fits in. Should one base it on geographical location, sexual orientation, ethnicity, spirituality, religion, political views, or something as simple as liking the same pop culture references? All of the above maybe, or none of them at all? So, it may be quite bizarre to ask to relate to someone with the same kind of addiction. However, to be fair everyone is an addict in one way or another, we just happen to know our poison of choice.
Not drinking for a young person (anyone in their 30s and lower) may very much seem like an extremely boring way to want to spend their youth. “I only drink socially!” “But what else am I to do in festivals?” “How can I visit my friends at the pub and not drink?” “Um, what are we supposed to do during dates then?” “Clearly you’ve never been on nights out or to house parties.” There are people who can control their drinking in the aforementioned scenarios, but we know, deep inside, we are not those people. We end up being the friend who has one too many and gets rowdy, who needs looking after during social settings as they’re unable to move, who blacks out and causes ‘drama’, who makes people uncomfortable, who gets kicked out of pubs/clubs for throwing up or passing out, who ends up hitting on people they shouldn’t be, or ends up in bed with someone they don’t even know. It’s a gift and a curse to not actually remember all this, but to have to listen to others tell you how you ruined their night by all your depraved activities is never pleasant. “It wasn’t actually me! / They started it! / Next time I’ll pace my drinking better. / I was in a very bad place mentally. / I swear it won’t happen again!” Just like that, we go through the five stages of grief without realising. Only for this toxic cycle to occur again, and again, and again, until one day, we go too far.
Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship to help anyone who wants to control this mode of self-harm. Yes, for us Alcoholics, consuming alcohol is self-harm. I use the word control because it is not possible to completely stop drinking all at once. There are those who can, then there are those who cannot, but everyone goes at their own tempo. We are here to guide you at your own pace. One should only compare their progress with their own self. Who they are today should be better than who they were yesterday. If not better, at least not worse. If worse, then we start again, one day at a time.
This fellowship has come about to help people not only give up the consumption of alcohol, but anything and everything that is detrimental to their health. AA made me realise I’ve not just got a drinking problem, but also a thinking problem. It makes us look into ourselves and, for once, actually be brutally honest with who we really are. I always took pride in being honest with everyone else, but I never was honest with myself. I was too scared and ashamed to see all my flaws. This program helped me see that and helped me work on it step by step. It gave me something I never realised I needed so badly: self-awareness. Once I was aware of how I am, I could work on being who I am. I’ve learned more about myself in the past 20 months of sobriety than I have in the 20 odd years of my life on this 4 billion-year-old piece of rock hurtling through space. Puts things into perspective doesn’t it?
Sobriety taught me to appreciate my colleagues, my friends, my family. To learn how to accept and give compliments. To be emotionally stable. To have hard conversations while standing up for what’s right. To let things be and not let it ruin my day. To learn to enjoy the little things in life. To take better care of my mental and physical health. To eat three times a day. To take a day for myself. To get a plant, then a pet, then start dating a person. To have sex sober and without guilt. To do nice things for others without any personal agenda. To stay away from people and things that don’t add to my Life in a positive way. To go to festivals/parties/events and not need to be drunk to have a good time. To learn to be vulnerable and listen. To be who I really want to be. AA has taught me all of that.
AA may be met with scrutiny for its religious undertones and Christian background. Yet a lot of members are agnostics and self-proclaimed atheists, and nobody needs to be a certain kind, religious or otherwise to join (this coming from an LGBTQ+ person-of-colour). One common belief that we all do share is we believe in a Higher Power to Guide us through all this. I personally believe the Universe is my Higher Power, I’ve even met someone who prays to an empty chair as their Higher Power and it works for them. End of the day, nobody will ever hold what you believe or don’t believe against you. But we do ask that you put some faith into this Fellowship and its Steps to guide you through your sobriety. The heart of the suggested program of personal recovery is contained in Twelve Steps describing the experience of the earliest members of the Society:
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of *God as we understood Him/Her/Them.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to *God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have *God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him/Her/Them to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with *God as we understood Him/Her/Them, praying only for knowledge of His/Her/Their will for us and the power to carry that out.
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
*God = open to one’s own interpretation of the term
I’m not here to tell you it will be easy either. Honestly, it’ll be hard seeing all your flaws laid bare. Your ego will fight back in every way possible, telling you how dare someone else question your God-like abilities? How dare someone judge you, for all the things you’ve suffered? How dare someone blame you when others have done much worse to you for so long? But this is not about others. This is about finding peace within yourself. Finding a Sponsor to guide you through this turmoil. But as someone once told me “these are growing pains. It shows that you’re on the right track.” It’s not about hitting a landmark number of sober days either, 100 or 1000. It’s all about that 1 day. Let’s just get through that 1 day and it will all stack up. In the words of a certain Fresh Prince of Bel Air, “You don’t set out to build a wall. You don’t say ‘I’m going to build the biggest, baddest, greatest wall that’s ever been built.’ You don’t start there. You say, ‘I’m going to lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid.’ You do that every single day. And soon you have a wall.”
Will this all actually work? It all depends on how much work you’re willing to put in to change. Change does take time, but time is all it takes.