“Do I Have to Go to A.A. Meetings to Stay Sober?”

Submitted by on Tuesday, April 7, 2009No Comments

AA Meetings are Not the AA ProgramNewcomers to Alcoholics Anonymous will end up asking this question of A.A. members, their sponsor, or of themselves. It’s an important question so let’s explore it. Or if you want the nitty gritty answer in a hurry, here it is: “No.”

This is an exploration, really, rather than an answer. Oh. You want an answer? Is that why you are here? Okay. Yes. You have to go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings forever if you want continued sobriety. No. Just kidding. I don’t know your answer but with a little reading of some of the articles here, you can get to your truth of it, I bet.

I can only speak from my own experience, strength, or hope. Okay. So for me, “Do I have to go to A.A. meetings in order to stay sober?” No. I don’t. Not now; not daily or weekly. But this doesn’t mean I will not find a meeting when I need one, want one, or when a friend needs or wants one. All this means is that A.A. meetings, for me, are not compulsory in order that I have the optimal ‘feelings’ one associates with “good sobriety.”

Watch out for People who Love to Tell you what to do!

There will be A.A. Nazi’s who tell you you have to go. That meetings are mandatory for your sobriety. That if you do not go to meetings, you will relapse and that in your relapse it will be worse because …

  • “A belly full of alcohol and a little A.A. is dangerous.”
  • “Meeting makers make it.”
  • “Isolation is dangerous.”
  • “Only two times you go to a meeting: When you want to and when you don’t want to.”
  • “90 meetings in 90 days.”
  • “I asked the relapser what happened. She told me she quit going to meetings.”
  • Can you think of other group-speak or table-talk slogans you have heard?

If you are prone to the effects of other people telling you what to do, like I was, please step over and into the realm of Copependent Recovery.

The fact is, for me, when I first decided to get sober a series of synchronicities propelled me to my first meeting that was completely unintentional. Coupled that with my new desire to quit drinking, it was a perfect alignment and I did go to 90 meetings in 90 days. I needed a total inculcation of a new way of thinking because how I was currently alcoholically thinking was killing me.

Stop Going to So Many Meetings She said!

After the first year of MY continued sobriety, my sponsor suggested I cut back on meetings. [“What are you hiding from?” she implied.] I had been going to meetings daily and I was miserable. I was associating with some of the sickest people those meetings were attracting and I wanted to drink so bad, I could taste it.

So. I did as she suggested. I stayed away from most meetings and began cleaning up those things and issues around me and my home and my life that I’d seemed to be avoiding. I began paying more attention to my relationships. I took care of the redecorating of the house I’d been putting off. I began Spring Cleaning. I re-engaged family members I’d been avoiding. And most importantly, I began to get to know myself.

What the Big Book Says:

“None of us makes a sole vocation of this work, nor do we think its effectiveness would be increased if we did. We feel that elimination of our drinking is but a beginning. A much more important demonstration of our principles lies before us in our respective homes, occupations, and affairs.” ~ The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, Pg 19 (There is a Solution) [See it Online]

Instead of using my time to *hide* in meetings I began using more of my time to engage life. And what I learned in this process is that engaging my life was my end goal in sobriety when I first endeavored this new journey. Sometimes it was difficult and other times it was scary but mostly it was all just new.

I got sober to enjoy live; Not to enjoy being an alcoholic who no longer drinks.

When I engaged my life, I was able to USE the tools my experiences with A.A. had offered me. I still went to meetings once in a while but a few touchstones remained constant.

  • I always kept in touch with other people who were attempting a similar path.
  • I continually enlarged my Spiritual Life. [Which is what A.A. is ultimately about.]
  • I struggled with internal honesty with where I was emotionally.
  • I was able to heal my other issues (once alcoholism was addressed).
  • I still maintained my open door policy when I felt like I needed to go to a meeting.

So don’t ask me. (In fact, don’t ask anyone unless you are testing them for sponsorship.) People will have their different opinions but only you and your Spirit will have your truth. You will know if you’re avoiding meetings simply to reserve a relapse. You will also know if you’re going to meetings to hide from something. Being a newcomer, however, who needed to learn a new way to live…going to a lot of meetings in the first several months worked for me; Gave me the tools and reorganization of my brain that I needed.

If you are an alcoholic or alcohol dependent, I hope that you get the same. Whether it’s from A.A. or (your version of) God or Rational Recovery or other secular sobriety based programs, the only thing a recovering alcoholic needs is a psychic change. Everything after that can be managed.

Until next time, Samsara

Edited October 21, 2011

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