Saturday, October 17, 2020

Unpopular Opinion: Ditch the AA Meetings

This may be an unpopular opinion, so bear with me. I'm trying to share my thoughts and experiences with you on why I disagree with the 12 step program. About 12 years ago, I attended my first AA meeting because I wanted to do a 90 day clean out. Yes, you can attend meetings if you are doing this. Will you be completely embraced by the members? From my experience---no. Also, the only requirement of AA is if you have the desire to stop drinking. I remember feeling so isolated from the group as they spoke about their stories. Many eyes shifted my way, judging or guessing what my poison was. The other unnerving experience in this was seeing faces that I recognized. That's the risk you take going to a local meeting....note taken! But in a way, it was sort of comforting to see some of my old friends in there, and even some who I used to party with. Odd, yet familiar. I was never the type of drinker where I had to wake up and chug down the good ol' 'hair of the dog' in order to get through my day. I was more or less a binge drinker at night and a weekend warrior. There was really no stopping at one. At that time, it was beer after beer along with the in between shots of vodka. Sometimes, it was a strong martini, followed by 6-8 bottles of beer on a good night. Hangovers only meant stronger coffee in the morning with extra bacon. Hangovers were never feared, only embraced with a little self-love and a few regrets. 

High Bottoms and Low Bottoms

My days at AA were knowingly temporary. That came with a few sneers from the other members, but they had to welcome me anyway. I was there to 'clean out' -- not to quit entirely. There were people there that had to go because they had gotten a DWI---no sneers at them, even though they grunted through the entire hour. As people were telling their stories one by one, it was my turn. I explained that I noticed a pattern, and I wanted to know that I was able to quit. As I was explaining how I go on a 90 day hiatus during the fall season, some rolled their eyes, while others made some strange comments. One comment darted at me was, "Well, you're a 'high bottom,' so you don't know what it's like to almost lose your life or lose someone to alcohol." As this woman assumed everything about me, I didn't even correct her because she was already on the defense about me. I didn't even know what the heck a "high bottom" was. A high bottom is someone who drinks without experiencing a DWI, rehab, losing someone through death, cirrhosis of the liver, and maybe losing their home or being completely and utterly downtrodden. That's what you would call a "low bottom." Low bottom is basically hitting rock bottom. But as it states in the Big Book---the only requirement for being in AA is to have a desire to quit. 

Trading Off Addictions 

I also noticed that this wasn't an addiction-free group. People were exchanging their booze for donuts, candy and copious amounts of coffee and cigarettes. It was one addiction or another. I'll see your diabetes for my cirrhosis, thank you very much. Another woman walked over me after a meeting, shaky and stuttering, asking me, "What do you do to take the edge off?" I told her I drink chamomile tea and try to meditate. She said, "No, I mean, do you take something to take the edge off? I pop a lot of Benadryl." One guy said during a meeting, "If I wasn't such a heavy pot smoker, I don't think I could be sober." The director of the group quickly interjected saying, "We're not supposed to be saying that in front of the group, nor replacing one addiction for another," as he unwrapped a Jolly Rancher. The entire system is broken in my opinion. It's not only broken, but it's hypocritical. Everything about it contradicts itself. AA was founded on Christian beliefs. And then as they wanted to include everyone, it states, that the twelve steps refer to a higher power or God--“as you understand him,” but during meetings and in AA literature, the mention of any particular religion is discouraged. In this way, anyone can attend without feeling pressure to join a particular religion, belief system, or church. Many churches are encouraging other faiths to join, like Unitarian---they welcome all. Although this sounds incredibly peaceful, this can be dangerous in my belief as a Christian. It's infiltrating religious beliefs, core values and lack thereof, which can alter one's ability to stay faithful to God. So they say, "Our higher power"---which to me, there is only one higher power, and that's Jesus. I will say His name loud and proud. 

My Reasonings For My 90 Day Hiatuses 

Fast forward twelve years and here I am, on my annual 90 day clean out, which means, I do not drink during the week, but only a glass or two of wine on a Sunday evening. I can exchange the day if I need to. But it's to know that I can stop at one drink---at one day. It also gives me a newfound respect for wine. Wine (or whatever your poison is) is supposed to be used for celebrating. It's supposed to be enjoyed, and not used for self-medicating. In the Bible, in Proverbs 36: 6-7 it states, "Alcohol is for people who are dying, for those who are in misery. Let them drink and forget their poverty and unhappiness." There are other translations that speak about alcohol being for those who are down 'n out----for the downtrodden and who are hopeless. So when I think about what the Bible teaches us about alcohol, Jesus drank wine---He even made water into wine---but He made it for what? Celebrations! You are supposed to drink when you are happy, when you are around others who are happy as well. So this is what I am trying to do. I don't want to grab the wine after work because I had a bad day. I don't want to grab the wine just because something didn't go right in my life. I don't want to grab the wine because I'm mourning over my mother....anymore. I want to grab the wine because I am happy with who I am, where I am and with who I'm with. 

The Grim Reality

Over the years, I noticed my body was changing, and well, as age slapped me in the face, I began to "sober up" and realize how much alcohol was not only ruining my sleep, but it exasperated my anxiety, grief and myoclonic seizures. I noticed that my hangovers weren't just hangovers, they were straight up emergencies. No more fancy bloody Marys or greasy breakfasts to ease the pain. My heart rate would reach 200 bpm easily, with my head pounding relentlessly. Then came a sickness like no other, as if I had eaten five pounds of raw ground beef in one sitting. You get my drift. When I was caring for my mom, my alcohol increased. I was having anticipatory grief. I knew mom was dying----it was the worst fear of my entire life, even as a toddler! As I made dinner, the the wine was already poured. I drank myself through the cooking process, sometimes it would take one hour, other times three hours. By the time I sat down to eat with everyone, I was three sheets to the wind. And then, I'd poured another glass....and another. I couldn't feel what I was feeling. I didn't want to show mom how scared I was to lose her. I didn't want her to know that I knew she wouldn't be here for long, so down went another glass. It was then, that I realized that I was self-medicating. 

Fast forward three years, my abuse of alcohol became a newfound respect for alcohol. And that's the key: you can't abuse alcohol. You need to respect it. If you respect it---it respects you. When you abuse it---it'll abuse you twice as hard. When my mom passed away, I needed to cope with these 'underground' feelings that needed to come up to the surface. So I started my three month hiatus---with no "one day free pass" to look forward to. This was a strict 90 day clean out. Some days were harder than others, while other days were simply observing everything I've been unaware about. My tastebuds were impeccable (which can be a bad thing mind you) --and my observation on how people behaved while they drank was an awakening for me as well. I never 'saw' this because I was also drinking along with them. After the 90 day hiatus, my wine intake was minimal. I never went past two or three. But it was on a daily basis. I said, "Well, they say three drinks a day is moderate."  Not really, when you're sleep deprived and your heart's racing from a lack of electrolytes in the early morning hours when the alcohol wears off. So now, my respect for wine means respect for myself. I save my "wine day" for when my better half and I are having a nice Sunday dinner. We both have off on Mondays and even though I only have two glasses at most, the alcohol will disrupt my sleep. So knowing that my sleep will be less that night, it's not a big deal. 

You ARE Powerful!

The first step in AA is admitting that you are powerless over the addiction. See, for me this goes against everything I believe in, and everything that a "Christian based program" should be against. Words have power, and by stating that you are powerless, gives your addiction more power over you. This is why many people don't stay with the program. We should be happy about God's strength when we are weak, as it says in the Bible: “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” The more apparent Paul’s weaknesses were, the more obvious it was that his successes came from Jesus. It says in Luke, "He gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases,"----alcoholism is known to be a "disease." And if you believe in God, you should believe that you have power and authority over the enemy---that you have the POWER against the alcohol controlling your life. You control your life. But people will go on and on about how powerless they are, and I understand the concept of what they're saying---but I can't help but think, "Where is your 'higher power' when you're speaking like this? You have power and authority, as it is written!" 

Disassociate With Friends & Family

AA focused a lot on our willingness to let go of friends who used to drink with us. I asked a question during a meeting once and said, "What if the 'friends who drank with me' are my own family?" And the director stated, "Then you need to remove yourself from that toxic environment." My family wasn't "toxic" nor were they alcoholics---they just had a few glasses of wine during occasions or a night out at a restaurant. And even if it was a daily practice, "I" should be strong enough and willing enough to know what's best for me. Just the other day, I had someone who knew I was trying to not drink during the week. He asked, "Well, does your partner drink still?" And I said, "Yeah, she drinks with her dinner and that's it." I got a lecture on how she was being selfish for doing that if she knows I'm trying to quit. See, I don't see her as being "selfish." NOT at all. First of all, she deserves that damn drink after the hours of her clients unleashing their fury out on her. Another thing is, I did NOT quit entirely. I am only trying to drink on my terms---on terms of celebrations only---not because I'm stressed or trying to ease my anxiety. There's a huge difference. Even if I was to indefinitely quit---I would not want others around me to tiptoe through the tulips to grab their vodka and tonics. STOP. And I'm not going to break ties with friends and family just because they can drink without having issues. It doesn't tempt me. My anxiety and stressors tempt me---and usually I'm tempted when I'm all by myself. So there's that.

My point is, AA is a strange little cult. I respect anyone who was able to quit using AA, who has had success working their program, but the hypocrisy and trading off one addiction or another, as well as the judgments passed while I was in there was enough for me to leave that group for good. Instead of an "Alcoholics Anonymous"---they truly need a program to get away from the AA group itself. I know this is a very unpopular opinion, but from my experience, it's a very tight judgmental club, where only certain people are included. If they think you're not "one of them"----good luck finding a sponsor. I was denied a sponsor the entire three months of my stay in AA. A nice man wanted to be my sponsor. He'd been in there for several years. He was also gay. The director actually yelled at us. "Coed sponsorships are highly discouraged in here!" I turned to her and said, "Great. We're both gay. So now what?" 

Ditch the AA. You are POWERFUL. And if you are a follower of Christ, your "higher power" is JESUS, not meshed in with anything other than the Holy Spirit. 

Ok, I'm done here.

Enjoy the beautiful weekend ahead of us! 

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com
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