Alcoholics Anonymous, or AA, is widely known as a support group for alcoholics. Some learn of Alcoholics Anonymous from a mental health professional, others learn from someone in their life who attends.
There can be a lot of stigma tied to having an alcohol addiction, and this can contribute delaying getting help. Asking for help can be viewed as a weakness, or cowardly. But the honest truth is that asking for help is HARD. Being honest with yourself and recognizing that you cannot handle things as they are on your own is nothing to be ashamed of.
Alcohol addiction is commonly viewed as a disease. As a disease, there are contributing factors that we are not able to control. Long term, heavy drinking can change the way our brain works, which can make sobriety challenging. Challenging, but not impossible.
Deciding to attend a meeting can feel like a big decision. A common concern is denial and not recognizing the damage and harm that drinking is causing. Many individuals struggle with denial, and for some this can last some time. Everyone’s journey is different.
How Do I Know When I Should Attend a Meeting?
So this raises the question of, who could benefit from Alcoholics Anonymous?
Some would say that if you’re wondering if you should go, then you should go. Any individual who feels as though their drinking behaviors are a problem would benefit from meetings. You may have noticed that you wake up hung over more days than not, or that you need an eye opener in the morning to get going.
Some individuals have a “wake up call” when they start to notice their drinking is problematic. This can take many forms, such as not remembering your drive home, being arrested and charged with a DWI, or learning that you put someone else at risk while you were impaired.
Loved ones of alcoholics often times find denial to be a frustrating, and tiresome period. The truth is, that motivation for recovery is most powerful when it comes from the individual themselves. Ultimatums rarely result in a healthy recovery. Ultimatums can come from a partner, other family members, an employer or the legal system.
There are two forms of motivation, and the combination of both tends to have the strongest impact. Internal motivation comes from ourselves. An example of this could be wanting to improve your coping skills, wanting to feel better physically or wanting to decrease your anger. External motivation comes from others and outside situations. Examples of this could be wanting to be more active with your kids, improving your relationship with your partner or wanting to go for a promotion at work.
If you are wondering if you should go to a meeting, take time to think about your motivation. What are the benefits you would gain from a sober lifestyle? Do you have both internal and external motivations?
How Can I Find a Meeting?
Thankfully, finding a meeting is simpler than it used to be. The AA website has different options to narrow down your search. The link included will work for individuals who are in the United States and/or Canada.
Online meetings are available for individuals who live in remote areas with limited access to AA meetings. A downside to online meetings is that you miss out on the opportunity to connect with individuals in a more personal manner. For more on attending online AA meetings, please click on the link.
What About Online Meetings?
When you go to the Alcoholics Anonymous official website, you will likely find information regarding online meetings. Online meetings are a great resource, however, as mentioned above, it is still strongly recommended that alcoholics attend in person meetings.
As with anything in life, there are exceptions. Members that attend AA meetings are people like you and I, and they understand that life happens and you may not always be able to attend in person meetings. Some things may be completely out of your control, such as a global pandemic that shuts down all in person meetings. Other examples could be extreme weather conditions that make driving dangerous.
Other examples may not be as extreme. You could have worked late, your sitter could have canceled, or you got a flat tire. Things happen, and when they do attending an online meeting is completely appropriate.
If you are participating in an online meeting, try your best to cut out outside distractions. Becoming distracted can happen in moments and can result in you missing something that you needed to hear that day. Try to find a quiet area with limited or no other sounds. Turn your phone off or on silent. Don’t have any other websites or windows open on your computer. And get comfortable.
If you find that a particular meeting is hard to stay focused with, try another meeting next time. Different speakers will have different energies that you may click better with.
I Tried Meetings in the Past, and They Weren’t For Me
You would not be the first person to have this experience, and you certainly will not be the last. A great part of Alcoholics Anonymous is that you can return after not being active and get right back into the program.
If you have tried meetings in the past, take time to think about what wasn’t working for you. It’s natural for us to turn away from something that makes us uncomfortable, and there are many things and experiences in AA that can be uncomfortable.
For some, they find the use of “God” throughout The Big Book and meetings to be a hard concept to relate to. Again, you would not be the first, or the last to feel this way. My suggestion would be to talk about this with another member who has some recovery time. Talk to them about your apprehension with God, and what it means to you. They may be able to offer you a different perspective than you previously had.
Step work can often make individuals feel uncomfortable because you need to take an honest look at yourself and your behaviors. It can be unpleasant to own up to our faults and mistakes, and this vulnerability can be intimidating. Step work is done with a sponsor, so when you are looking for a sponsor, keep in mind that this is someone you will be having some vulnerable conversations with.
Another barrier I have heard talked about was feeling as though the meetings were a cult. If you can relate to this, take time to think about what it was about that environment that made you feel this way. An option to bypass this would be to go to a different meeting. Try out a new meeting, with new people in a new location. Chances are you will find a group more to your liking.
Many find that they struggle with the AA program because they are not ready to surrender. Accepting you are an alcoholic and that this means your life will be different can be a difficult understanding to come to. If you struggled with acceptance of your addiction in the past, think about how your life has been since then.
Have you had additional problems or stressors since then? Have you lost friendships or damaged any relationships? Have you noticed an increase in how much you are drinking? Do you feel like you hit your rock bottom yet?
Earlier we touched upon motivation, and that can be one of the most important aspects of your recovery. Having hesitations about accepting your addiction is normal, and hard. Nothing about having a drinking problem is easy, and your recovery will have its own challenges.
With the right motivation, tools, support and openness to change, you will put yourself in a solid position to start your recovery. There is never a point where an alcoholic would not benefit from a sober lifestyle.