I went to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting on Wednesday, August 23. Anybody who is willing to get help with their sobriety may show up. The essay writer time is 5:30-6:30 PM on Wednesday evenings. The meeting was held at Sierra Fellowship, located on Tollhouse Rd. in Clovis. This was a place I was unfamiliar with. Hollywood often depicts these meetings with a small group of people sitting in a circle sharing their horrible life stories with one another. Often times you see an individual stand up and say, “My name is Tom, and I’m an alcoholic.” These expectations seemed familiar to me because of the mainstream media and television. Yet, things were different in real life. I saw chairs and tables, people drinking coffee and sharing details of their lives with each other. It did not seem like an AA meeting. It seemed like a group of friends getting together for a social.
I was approached by a young woman who announced herself as the secretary. I introduced myself and was reassured that things would be okay. She asked me to get coffee, but I declined and chose a seat closest to the exit in case I wanted to leave early. I glanced at my watch and was nervous, because I sensed the meeting was getting ready to start. People came in through the backdoor and began to sit down. The lady who greeted me then walked to the front of the room and announced the meeting was to begin. I thought she was the group leader, but that turned out not to be the case. She introduced the group leader who would run the meeting. The group leader was poised and confident, just like the lady who had greeted me. The group leader explained that people had five minutes to share and that they should remain focused. The meeting began by the group leader reading the AA Preamble:
Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.
The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for A.A. membership; we are self- supporting through our own contributions. A.A. is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy, neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.
The members were very diligent, enthusiastic, and focused while reading the AA Preamble. I was starting to feel a little more comfortable and less afraid of these people. They don’t bite! I was surprised, however, when they began saying the Serenity prayer:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
I was surprised by these people’s spirituality. It seems like this is an important concept within AA. They want to lean on God and become more spiritual, more religious. AA has been around since 1935, founded by a doctor and NY stockbroker, both alcoholics.
Have someone “Write My Essay,” here.
My experience with the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 step group at the Sierra Fellowship met expectations in some ways and differed in others. I have seen AA meetings portrayed on television. Everybody in the room except for me did introduce themselves in this way. Afterwards, the person would share a story and then the group would say “thank you _”. Saying the person’s name added a personal touch.
What surprised me was how far down the rabbit hole some people go due to their alcohol addiction. I must be very sheltered in a lot of ways because I truly thought addictions as strong as what these people experienced were exclusively drug related. I learned that alcoholism could be just as severe as drug addictions.
The meeting started out with a very autocratic/authoritarian style of leadership where the group leader laid out the rules and procedures of the meeting. I thought the leader did not have the appropriate leadership skills, yet later on, the leader was democratic and therapeutic in trying to help others. The meeting had people from different races, education levels, and socioeconomic statuses. Everyone was battling an addiction. One person was there to appease a court order and seemed apathetic. Another person tried to monopolize the conversation. Yet, overall, the environment was harmonious, friendly, and encouraging.
Looking back on my experience and Yalom’s 11 group principles: Instillation of Hope, involves those in a faith-based environment that treatment is effective. Universality, demonstrates that we are not alone in our recovery. Imparting of Information, information of psychodynamics to create understanding of the focal issue of one’s addiction. Altruism, feeling of being able to help others feeling of being useful. Corrective recapitulation of primary family group, transference of other relationships outside of the family, ability to relearn relationships. Development of socializing techniques, social learning and teaching of interpersonal skills. Imitative Behavior, taking on the manner of group members the who function more adequately. Catharsis, opportunity of expression of strong affect. Existential factors, recognition of the basic features of existence through sharing with others. Direct Advice, receiving and giving suggestions for strategies for handling problems. Interpersonal learning, receiving feedback from others and experimenting with new ways of relating.
I will present some thoughts on these steps and group therapy:
- Instillation of hope: The group leader shared his story and encouraged others who have beaten alcoholism to share. Many of them explained they had tried different ways to beat their addiction. The only way they did it was by following the steps in the program exactly as prescribed. This gave hope to a few members because many of the recovering alcoholics with years of sobriety had experienced very traumatic events. If they could kick the habit, anyone can.
- Universality: This was one of the main therapeutic factors of the entire meeting. There were so many people who had lost so much and struggled in similar ways with their addiction. They are in a safe space and will not be judged. They will not be alone.
- Imparting of information: Some members spoke about the importance of sticking to the plan and following the 12 steps. Some ambitious individuals approached the group leaders and asked questions. I did not want to get too close to the group because I did not want to invade their privacy. I think the one-on-one exchange of information will be vital to people who might be shy or want more clarification about how to stop their alcoholism. The leaders were willing to oblige these individuals and comfort them.
- Altruism: A sponsor provides support to recovering alcoholics. I had no idea about a sponsor and was quite curious. Most people within the group explained that their sponsor’s help and support resulted in them becoming successful and abstaining from drinking. One sponsor explained to me that this position helps him continue to abstain because he knows that the people he sponsors are depending on him to be sober. Being a sponsor is a symbiotic relationship.
- Corrective recapitulation of the primary family group: The group leader read the rules and shared his expectations for the meeting. Members were expected to refrain from profanity. It was obvious that some members who might freely use profanity and let a few curse words slip while speaking tried not to offend anyone in the room. Some people slipped but apologized for using profanity.
- Development of socializing techniques: Everyone sharing a story introduced themselves the exact same way by stating their name and that they were an alcoholic. After sharing for a few minutes, they would receive support from the group. If I was participating, I could have fit into the group by speaking the same way.
- Imitative behavior: Some people were ready to change their lives whereas others still wanted to use alcohol. Those who were ready to change socialized with the group leaders who were successful in maintaining sobriety. The leaders had a great influence on the individuals seeking sobriety. They emulated the leaders and sought to get more information about them. This would result in the people trying to change adapting behaviors and mannerisms similar to the group leaders.
- Interpersonal learning: Many members spoke about hitting “rock bottom” before waking up and realizing something had to give. They had to change. Some people lost custody of their children or became homeless. Silent group members seemed interested in these stories because it would help them gain insight and clarity regarding their own situation.
- Group cohesiveness: Even with the vastly different demographics and personalities in this room it was an incredibly cohesive group. Everyone was empathetic to everybody else. Some people made excuses but were still offered support and not judged.
- Catharsis: A relatively young girl was telling her story of how her problems resulted in CPS taking her children from her. Many of the women cried during this story. The lady telling the story had a terrible relationship with her mother. She said, “I’ve become a worse mother than mine.” She cried before fleeing the room. Upon returning, she explained she was finally ready to quit drinking.
- Existential resolution: The best example of this is one of the stories told by an obvious leader in the group. He spoke about how he was too big of a “pussy” to ever kill himself. Instead, he would drink a bottle of whiskey to mask his loneliness and drown his sorrows. He did not want to take responsibility for the behaviors that led to his sorrows and loneliness. After becoming sober, he realized that negative emotions would remain, but that drinking was not a way to fix them. He realized the world did not hate him, but that he hated himself. Self-hatred was the impetus for his alcoholism. His passion while telling his story resonated with almost everybody in the room.
The meeting even had a contribution basket, which might remind one of an offering plate in church. Members of the AA meeting reached in their wallets to give a few dollars. I planned to contribute. I wanted to contribute. I reached into my wallet and realized I did not have any cash on me. Then, I discreetly put my wallet back into my pocket. The meeting concluded with the group standing, holding hands and saying the “Our Father” prayer. I realized how lucky and blessed I am.. I have a family, a loving wife and daughter. I have a job and an education. Yet, those things can be lost in the blink of an eye because of alcoholism. I am grateful to have attended the AA meeting. It was truly an eye-opening experience.