Y’all Are Going To Be Very Disappointed In Me After This

This post is going to be very polarizing, and may cause some people to stop reading me, which I get, I do, but it’s my opinion and my blog, and I’ve never held back from telling y’all the truth about my shit before. So this will be no different. First, a caveat.

Alcoholics Anonymous is a worldwide phenomenon that has saved countless lives. I do not dispute this.

I also don’t go to AA. When I was forced to go to AA I did not enjoy it, nor did I find any illumination or any emotion other than a feeling of slight queasiness and social anxiety. I would leave the room feeling ten times worse than when I walked in. I loathed it, and I have countless reasons why *I* PERSONALLY do not follow AA.

Alcoholics Anonymous saves relationships, jobs, parenting responsibilities, and people’s lives every day.

When I went to rehab, it was a 12 step centered program. I willingly and without complaint went to every meeting, raised my hand, participated, and did everything and beyond what was expected of me. After rehab I went to 90 meetings in 90 days, and I did not complain, nor did I ever do anything out of turn, or disrespectful to the program. I also hated every single solitary moment of it.

My story is not the norm. Alcoholics Anonymous is an organization that does amazing things.

You all know I slipped. And part of my outpatient therapy is mandated AA meetings. I even have to get signatures to prove I went to three meetings a week for the entirety of my outpatient program. I was informed of this today. And I am so angry that I have very few non-obscene words for everyone involved in my “therapy” and “getting me better”. This, I can assure you, is the one and only time I will talk about AA, being that I’m being thrown back in it and it is, after all, anonymous. But I need to vent, and this is my soundboard.

My beliefs, thoughts, and opinions of Alcoholics Anonymous are mine and mine alone. I speak not for you, nor anyone else. This is coming from my brain and nowhere else. I speak for no one else.

I have a great deal of trouble being told what to do. When I get pushed, there is only so far I will go before pushing back. I am extremely solitary, I am very uncomfortable in group situations, and anything that follows a dogma is distasteful to me. Chalk it all up to 15 consecutive years of Catholic education. I don’t recite mantras, I don’t presume to know what, if anything, is up in the sky or down in a pit of fire or anywhere that I have never personally been. I don’t think that highly of myself.

This organization. This wonderful program that has given countless people their lives back, this lifesaving group. This AA.

This is not for me.

I’m being told what to do again. Because I slipped. Because I asked for help. And I’m so full of rage I can barely speak.

Three meetings a week for the entirety of my outpatient treatment. And I’ll do it, goddammit, and I will be polite and quiet and unassuming and do what is expected of me. But the rage isn’t going anywhere. If anything, this is fuel to the fire. But as my mother has said since I was a child, “Eat shit and smile”. And I will. Hey! Maybe in a couple of weeks I’ll be spouting the gospel of Bill and regaling you with stories about how I was so wrong and my life has changed and blah. But don’t hold your breath.

And let me tell you, asking for help? Hasn’t exactly been working out so well for me. What’s the lesson I’m supposed to glean from this? That my feelings and emotions are a pittance and inconsequential to the groupthink of inpatient, outpatient, and now forced AA meetings because I clearly am unable to know my own self? Because I made a mistake and owned up to it?

I asked for help. And boy am I paying for it.


Y’all Are Going To Be Very Disappointed In Me After This — 25 Comments

  1. I went to Al-Anon for years, and was an Al-a-Teen sponsor in another lifetime. (I hope I didn’t screw those kids up too badly, as it turns out.) It helped me for a period of time. I will leave out the part about whatever other rooms I might should have been in then or now. Um…

    I think what works for us works for us, and what doesn’t, doesn’t. And while I know that pretty much the entire addictions treatment system has 12-step stuff as a component, I’m not sure anything works for everyone.

    I am sucking at articulation today.

    I have the Catholic years in common with you and I do believe that that sense of being sentenced to a group experience that may or may not resonate for us carries forward. As someone interested in your survival and happiness I guess all the energy I can send toward this is to hope you’re in good rooms with good people who care about you, since as part of this you have to be there anyway.

    (Also, if someone got in my face with “it works if you work it” right now, I’d probably react negatively. Just saying.)
    Laurie last post: Bites

  2. you know that I have similar feelings about AA, I also have been to meetings as one of those “helping” people. I cringe every fucking time someone suggests I start going to ALANON meetings(or whatever the letters are).

    That said if you HAVE to go make a game out of it! I suggest like BINGO. Squares for every crushed dream and ruined promise, others for mentioned of “the program” and “the higher power”(suuuuure it’s not a cult). Helpful for some? Yes, many people in my own life even. But still has all the makings of a cult. Filling that hole with religion.

    We can work on the board when I see you next week.

  3. AA isn’t for everybody and it sucks that you’re being forced into it.

    While I haven’t gone into any 12 step programs, myself, I know I’d have some difficulty with something like that.

    I’m a cynic and an atheist. I don’t think those traits go well with things like AA.

    Anyway, I understand your rage at the situation, and I’d love to say some nice, meaningful thing about how I hope you can make the best of it or find some sort of use… but the cynic in me and my basic honesty can’t really go there.

    I hope it doesn’t suck too much.

  4. If you can get through The Bachelor/Bachelorette then you can do anything. I believe that to be true.

    Like Laurie said, AA, while obviously effective in most cases, isn’t a cure-all for everyone and clearly, it’s not what you need. Unfortunately, when you reach out for help (which you were right to do) people tend to make a snap judgement about what you NEED and assume that you are going to be like many other people and that it will work for you.

    Maybe making a game of it will work..Or you can tell us some of the players and we’ll all help make a little fictional drama about them and their backstories and it’ll be like our own personal thingy.

    Still cheering for you from Arkansas…
    Fawn Amber last post: Pole Dancing 1- Fawn 0

  5. I’ve considered before some of the various ways AA doesn’t work for people, but the social anxiety possibilities had never occurred to me. And all that makes it particularly unfortunate that pretty much every recovery system is 12-step-based. I’m so sorry you’re being forced back into it knowing full well all the reasons it doesn’t work for you. That just sucks lengthwise. Again, though–I’m rooting for you.
    Lizzie last post: Quote of the Day

    • I had a social anxiety issue with AA too. I’m 7.5 months sober and went to AA meetings for the first month or 6 weeks. I actually did find them helpful. There was a lot of wisdom in what many of the folks said. But invariably I would dash out the door 10 minutes before the meeting was to end so as to avoid the awkward standing around afterward trying to make small talk.

      I fully realize I am a painfully shy person (and exquistely sensitive, as my previous therapist termed it) and that I should be able to handle standing around chatting with well-meaning strangers. Every meeting I would decide I would not leave early and then every meeting as the time wore on, I’d dash out.

      I slowly went to fewer and fewer meetings and now have not been to one in about 6 months. I now threaten myself that if I want to start drinking again, I’ll have to go back to meetings. Scary.

      I think AA works for some people and not for others and that’s ok.

  6. Hey Banshee, I’m in AA, and I don’t hate you.

    I’ve been sober for about 3 1/2 months. AA is what works for me. I’m the first person to say it may not work for everyone – however, for me, it’s made a world of difference. Maybe this makes me one of the people you’re railing against, and if it does, I’m sorry for that. I’ve often wondered how the experience would be different for me if I were forced to come to meetings instead of finding AA on my own.

    That said, you need to do what you feel will help you, no matter what it may be. We all have our own paths to follow.

  7. Yeah, I’m with you on this. I HATED group therapy and basically the only thing I got out of it is that there were people more fucked up than me. Which I already knew.

    I don’t think AA would work for me, as when I’m in a herd, I tend to try to escape. Especially if there’s some amorphous “higher power” involved.

    Good luck with this. It totally sucks that there doesn’t seem to be an alternative for you, or for anyone else who isn’t comfortable with AA.

  8. I know a lot of people who are opposed to AA as well – and it sounds like for many of the same reasons.

    What I find interesting though is the “telling you to do things” part. My struggling addict boyfriend has often said that same phrase and I honestly don’t think the people trying to help are purposely ordering you around

    We don’t know another way to help so – and this is after watching him go through several (SEVERAL!) in and out patient rehabs/thereapies etc – I feel like those offering the help kind of set up a plan and say “there you go – now do it and it’ll work and it’ll be better! yay!”

    It’s hard to say well you could do these things…or you could not…whatever you want. When you’ve seen their choices not work out so well. I’m not saying that your situation is the same – everyone’s is entirely different – but as a person who’s had to constantly pick up people from a slip it’s kind of a slap in the face to hear some tell you “stop telling me what to do”

    In my case I’m not – and I don’t think that other people who have tried to help my boyfrind were either – but structure most likely comes off as ordering people around I guess.

    I feel like most programs were set up in a general kind of manner and aren’t necessarily customized to each individual and their situation and all parts of it probably don’t work for everyone – I’ve seen it happen.

    I’m not doing a very good job of getting my point across here – all I know is usually the people you ask for help (as I have been countless times) have your best interest in mind and they are doing the best the can. But – having been told “stop telling me what to do” when I was just asked for help is confusing. Maybe It’s all in the delivery.

    I wish you the best.

  9. I can’t offer you anything but sympathy. It is definitely not for everyone. It is prolific and everywhere and therefore, to some extent, good, because people can find it when they need it. However, I have never understood what put it so high above any other addiction therapy in the universe. Good marketing, is my current theory.

    I do like the idea of AA Bingo. Like Bridesmaid Bingo. I should make a card…
    Jessi last post: Conversations with a Scattered Family

  10. Hey-

    I’ve lurked around your blog for a while now (Thanks Ebert!) and I want to offer something as a radical suggestion. If you read it and hate it then please shrug it off (I’m impulsive & this is an impulsive statement).

    What if you tried to let the rage go & look at the meetings as your “job” for a short period of time. I understand the reasons why you don’t work in a traditional sense and I want to make sure this doesn’t come across wrong, but what if you just said to yourself “listen, this is the work I have to do in order to earn the measly disability benefits.”

    What I mean is that, if society is to understand that you need help (I firmly believe this) that is it really so much to ask that you show outside “proof” that you’re taking care of yourself. As a fellow introvert I totally know how easy it is to be working on yourself without anyone else being aware. Which is where the real work gets done. AA can just be your “keeping up appearances”

    While I agree that it sucks that AA is the only way that society seems to believe that someone with an addiction is helping themselves, I also know that mindset won’t change overnight (or by the time you’ve finished your required attendance). So keep speaking up about the AA bullshit, but go to the meetings knowing that it’s your job to observe what goes on there systemically & use your platform (blog) to fight for a better system.

    Gosh, I hope I said all this right…

  11. 12-step programs are just not for everyone. They are not for me. I don’t do well in group situations. I don’t like to listen to other people’s problems. I don’t like to talk about my own. And I don’t, probably even less than you, like to be told what to do. I feel your pain.

    So what if people hate you, or me, or anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the 12-step philosophy. I can’t get past the first step, I don’t agree with it. But for some people, AA is a great, effective way to live. I am grateful that there are programs out there for people who can use them. I wish them nothing but success. But, it’s just not for everyone.

    I’m sorry you’re so angry about it – I guess there really isn’t any other program that is as accessible, both physically and economically, that they can prescribe. Hang in there.

  12. silly banshee, if everything worked for everybody, there’d be only one kind of anything. including people. how boring would THAT be?

    I won’t say none of the squirrels will hate you, because I am surprised every single day of my life by something. But I would be VERY surprised to be surprised by THAT thing.

  13. i know lots of people who dislike AA. and i know more than a few people who also hated having it foisted upon them at a time when they were similarly vulnerable. they got through it knowing that every time they went was one less time that they had to go later.

    you are not alone in your feelings about this. we’ll keep listening to them.

  14. The problem with the system is the one-size-fits-all mentality. It`s unfair. Sending you thoughts of peace and hoping that you find the right thing for you.

  15. I’m FAR from disappointed at you for your honesty. My husband who had a drug problem, not a drinking problem had a similar experience. But he got “sent” to NA which is basicly the same as AA. Didn’t work for him, because he’s not Christian, that simple. His and my beliefs as Pagans teach you don’t escape hopelessness by owning being hopeless (“powerless”). And our beliefs teach also the gods help no one who doesn’t help themselves first. The exact opposite of AA/NA. So he found a way to “fake” his way through NA and overcame addiction on his own, in HIS way. I hope you can likewise endure that cult. Yes is said cult, it’s just trading one addiction (the “group”) for another and never allowing for recognizing that, yes, some people are strong enough to eventually totally overcome addiction. Not one day at a time, but done, forever. My guy did it, and I know many other who have also, and minus any group or cult. Have faith…..in YOURSELF!

  16. The first time I ever asked for help I was seventeen. I had been so miserable for so long with depression and anxiety, but asking for help was the scariest thing in the world. I wrote a letter to my parents describing what was wrong with me. At that point I hadn’t had a real conversation with my parents in… well, ever. Writing down all the many things that were wrong with me and how deeply unhappy I was was the hardest thing I had ever done up to that point in my little life. It felt like disrobing in front of strangers – I have never felt anything more raw and painful in my life. I left the letter in the kitchen after they’d already gone to bed and then I lay in bed all night with the worst anxiety-induced stomach pain I have ever experienced. I can’t remember if I slept at all that night.

    My parents took me to a psychiatrist and my father stayed in the room with me while I saw him (I don’t remember being asked if I wanted to see him alone). All I remember is that his air conditioner was very loud and he kept snapping at me to repeat myself and speak up. After probably less than a half hour of awkward questions and answers, the psychiatrist said that I sounded pretty normal and shy and that I would grow out of it. Case closed. As far as my parents were concerned I had been appeased. I’m sure they thought that this “diagnosis” was a relief to me when all it did was leave me in a sea of pain with absolutely no recourse this time. Who else could I ask for help?

    I know this is not really the same situation that you’re in right now, but I just wanted to share it because it shows that there is absolutely no correlation with how hard asking for help is and the help that others are actually able to provide. Also, therapy was the Holy Grail for me back then. I now know (as I’m sure you do) that finding a good therapist is harder than finding your soulmate and most psychiatrists throw drugs at you and call it a day. People who think “go to therapy” or “go to AA” is a cut and dry answer have probably never had a real mental problem and certainly have never had a bad therapist make them feel a million times worse.

  17. I wish that more programs would listen to individuals and tailor programs specifically to the patient. I’m sorry you are being made to do AA and I wish I had some better advice. All I can say is I am sorry.

  18. i don’t know if NA is any different, but my drug of choice is and was alcohol, and i found so much more love and acceptance in NA. no our father. less xtianity. meetings are meetings. i’m not sure it’s fair, me being where i am, but i understand. the thing i hated most about aa was that they said that not everyone could recover. NA says that ANY addict can stop using, lose the desire to use and find a new way to live. GOD can mean good orderly direction. god can be other people. if you haven’t been to NA, and i’m not assuming you haven’t, i suggest you try. more love there than any AA meeting i ever went to. and trust me, the irony, glass in hand, not lost on me. i love you. 🙂

  19. Oh MissB, I’m sorry you’re being forced into this crap, AGAIN. I don’t have your anxiety issues (I’m pretty gregarious & make friends easily) BUT as my illnesses became full blown, I learned that friends rarely (VERY rarely) stick around when things turn less than rosie. I too have come to enjoy my solitude.

    When my “chronic severe depression” first came to a head I was sent to group therapy. Worst thing in the world for me. I felt like I was being told “You don’t matter. Look at these other people & their problems! What have you got to whine about?” (Which is part of why I became suicidal in the first place!) And yes, I’ve had one awful psychiatrist after another. There was one that fit me perfectly, but I only had coverage to see him 3 times. He helped as much as he cold but…

    I’m with Laroux, make a game out of meetings. Maybe tick marks for catch words/phrases. Only instead of a drinking game (I know, Bite my Tongue!) Make it a pudding game. Each tick of each catch phrase gets you a spoonful of pudding, a different flavor for each phrase! Or wear an iPod. Take your knitting. Create really outrageous pseudonyms for the other people there.

    I have friends who refuse AA for the religious aspect, they have alternatives but I think they’re still 12 step…? Can you see a decent therapist instead? 1 on 1? Find out about the on-line meetings?

    I, for one, am not disappointed at all. Actually, I’m encouraged that you haven’t lost your spark! As long as you still have the fight in you you haven’t given in to the slip. Stay strong & think of us as your support system. We love & want you to be happy. Vent away!

  20. Definitely not disappointed in you and definitely not stopping reading.
    Cookie-cutter plans don’t work for everyone and I spent alot of time being very resentful of the groups and treatment paths I was forced down after asking for help. At least you have the sense to vent about it here.

  21. I just came across this post surfing the net. I’ve been attending AA for a few month and have done the steps with a sponsor. It has kept me sober but I’m also more miserable than I’ve ever been in my entire life. Every time I leave a meeting I feel so horrible. I feel like I don’t fit in. As a person with social anxiety it’s hard enough to relate to normal people in real life – put me in a room full of fake, narcissistic, passive-aggressive, judgmental, brainwashed freaks and I’m a nervous wreck. I thought working the steps and not drinking would relieve me from this crippling anxiety and depression because according to AA selfishness and self-centeredness “is the root of our troubles”. But I feel worse now then when I first started. I’ve never felt as much anxiety as I do in and after an AA meeting. And yes some meetings are definitely t better than others.

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