AA's "dirty little secret".

Another fact that is easily missed by people outside AA is what I and some other alcoholics JOKINGLY call “AA’s dirty little secret.”

People outside AA (either because they are not alcoholics or because they are alcoholics and don’t realize it) often fall into the error of assuming that the organization is entirely about helping people not to put ethyl hydrate (drinking alcohol) into their bodies. Sort of like “I used to eat apples, but now I have eliminated them from my diet.”

The “dirty little secret” that you find out after being in AA a fair amount of time is that what you say, do, think about, read about or discuss in your journey of recovery has surprisingly little to do with alcoholic beverages. This is why people like me keep going to one or two meetings per week even after 18 years of sobriety.

If, like me, you are afflicted with alcoholism, then getting sober and staying sober are absolute first steps before the rest of the healing can begin. You cannot start recovering before you stop drinking any more than you can build the second storey on a house until you have built the first.

But once you ARE sober, 95% of your recovery, of your new life, of your new happiness is the result of the individual working ***on themslves ***to bring about a deep personal change in their own personality. Some call it a “spiritual” change. Atheist AAs like me call it a psychological or philosophical change. Whatever floats your boat.

You do this by thinking about who you are, what you are like, and identifying the character defects and weaknesses that made you so unhappy that you had to keep getting drunk just to survive.

You don’t have to “confess” to the group but a lot of people choose to when they discuss with others.

If you drop in at an AA meeting where they are holding discussion groups, you may be surprised to note that there is little or no mention of booze. What people are discussing are things like letting go of anxiety, how to deal with anger and resentment, the insights they gained into their personalities, etc.

My spouse, who is NOT an alcoholic (he needs a year to go through a bottle of scotch!!!:confused:) regularly says: “Have you not been to an AA meeting lately? Because you’re starting to think and act like an asshole again.”

That is when I know it is time for me to go to a couple of extra meetings to deal with whatever is bothering me.

So there you have it. AA’s dirty little secret: It has very little to do with alcohol!

In the (admittedly few) AA meetings I’ve attended, that wasn’t totally the case. There was a lot of recitations of alcohol-infused “war stories” as people recounted again and again with grim humor the rock-bottom alcoholic circumstances that landed them where they were.

I did not mean to post this as a new thread. I meant to post it as a comment on the other AA thread I started. My bad. Sorry. I will post it there, unless you think this merits a thread of its own.

This is more MPSIMS material than a debate.

I will move it and if you do not wish to pursue the topic, you may ask the MPSIMS Mods to close it.

[ /Modding ]

You are right, but it depends on the kind of meeting. The two most common meeting formats are the “speaker” meeting (usually open to non-alcoholics as well) where a chosen speaker recites his or her story, usually in chronological order (with a lot of jumping around in time like Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse Five). This would, by its very nature, include some grim stories of how they “hit bottom.”

The other common type of meeting is the “Closed” (to non-alcoholics) meeting where we break up into little discussion groups of about 10 people who share on a few chosen topics (or anything else they want to get off their chests). You can say ANYTHING related to recovery (you can’t ask if anyone wants to buy a set of snow tires), NOBODY interrupts, and there is no cross-talk (i.e., private discussions breaking out across the table). When you have shared 5 minutes or so you say: “Thanks” to show you are through, the others all say: “Thanks John/Sue or whatever” and then the next sharer jumps in with: “Hi, I’m Pete and I’m an alcoholic” and then they share for their 5 minutes.

You would be surprised how seldom people at these meetings say “I crave a drink.” It is much more likely to be “My boss is an asshole.” or “I’ve been mad at my wife.”

But you are right that AA recommends that people never allow the years to wipe out the memory of what it was like when they were drinking.

Okay. Makes sense. It is NOT a debate, for sure, but it is maybe a good discussion topic. Thank you.

So is it about drinking or isn’t it? You’re contradicting yourself with the two comments above.

I agree with the “whatever floats your boat” line. If it keeps the poison away from your body then all is good. Alcoholism is a behavioral pattern based on physicological responses of one’s brain to alcohol, not a spiritual failure. But if the idea of gods and greater powers helps change the destructive behavior, then whatever floats the boat is a good thing.

The rest you said about recoviery and new lives and happiness etc, are all self centered subjective impressions that mostly don’t apply to other people other than yourself. They’re not bad things, but they don’t have relevance for most people who deal with this situation.

Unfortunately, AA’s approach is to embrace and celebrate ego gratification as the primary cause of the immoral decision for an individual to act only for their gratification and disregard how they affect their own body and other people around them.

As others mentioned, many AA meetings are mostly about rehashing horror stories of how low the guest speaker had to fall before she decided to join AA and try to stop drinking. I don’t mean to discourage anyone from taking any steps towards ridding themselves from such a destructive behavior, but the way you perceive this social setting is not the way others do.

Well, it obviously has something to do with drinking, but I think what Valteron is saying is that both alcoholism, and AA, are both about something that is much bigger than just drinking, and AA is a helpful channel (more for some than for others) by which to explore such “isms” and make an honest attempt to live a functional and fulfilling life, like all the other crazy normal folks try to do.

My SO is 4+ yrs sober and very involved in AA. The community of AA folks around here is really solid, and I’m amazed at how they stick together. I’ve never seen a sizable group of adults who want so genuinely to help each other out, and who make such a concerted effort to take responsibility for themselves. side note: I’m not TRYING to make a blanket statement, it’s just coming out that way - but I realize there are probably a whole bunch of AA’ers who don’t mesh so well, aren’t taking recovery seriously, etc etc. I wish there were more groups like this for non-alcoholics, for people to really think about their issues and learn how to deal with life’s stresses more constructively. Seems most of us are just eager to beat each other, or ourselves, down, for no real identifiable reason.

Yesss, I feel better now. I say the very same thing to my SO. He doesn’t like it, but then, he kinda does too. And he scuttles right off to a meeting, and he usually comes back a little more chirpy and refreshed.

It sounds to me like it’s more an attempt to help you deal with what led you to become an alcoholic in the first place. It sounds a lot like group therapy.

Sounds sort of like the fat girl who lost all that weight only to find out that she actually DIDN’T have a pretty face underneath.:frowning:

When I sobered up, almost six years ago, I tried going to a few AA meetings. All they talked about was booze and God. I wasn’t interested in either. Haven’t been back since.

Right, and I think I can improve on Valteron’s metaphor: The (rock-bottom) alcoholic is a rotted-out home on a moldy, cracked foundation. You have to get rid of the house before you can fix the foundation, and then rebuild on the repaired foundation. Dry drunks going back is like keeping the foundation in order so the rest of the house doesn’t have a chance to go to hell again.

I’d say more “sounds sort of like the fat girl who lost all that weight only to find out the world still wasn’t perfect and even thin people have problems.”

A few years ago, I subbed at an alternative high school - Serenity High School - where students with addiction problems could either choose to go or were sent by court mandate. There was an AA meeting every morning. Unfortunately, most of the kids weren’t serious at all about recovery, didn’t recognize that they had a problem, and were fairly hostile towards all the authority figures.

I found a pamphlet while I was there that talked about “stinkin’ thinkin’” which I thought was fascinating. It talked about how addiction warped the thinking process until it was all about getting the fix. Whatever behavior was necessary to get the fix - lying, cheating, stealing, manipulating - became normal, and that even when a person abstained from their addiction, if they didn’t directly confront the stinkin’ thinkin’, they were liable to end up just as much an asshole as ever.

Thought provoking, and it explained a lot of behavior I’d seen but hadn’t been able to get a handle on.

AA’s dirty little secret is that alcohol addiction can be “cured” with cigarettes, gambling, and coffee.

When I read the thread title I assumed it was referring to hooking up with people you know from AA.

I have been told that AA chips can be exchanged for drinks in some bars.

I think that’s fairly common. My mum will be 17 years sober next month (one day at a time, of course!), and I still on occasion ask when she was last at a meeting, when she’s behaving in a way which can now, thankfully, be classed as out-of-character.

During a period of my life when I was abusing alcohol, I went to a grand total of two meetings. If those were in any way indicative of AA in general, then this is right on the money. Heavens to Murgatroyd, I’ve been to tobacco shops less smokey.

Glad you haven’t been back, because I don’t think you were an alcoholic, just a guy who drank too much.

AA is only for people who have concluded that, by themselves, they are powerless over alcohol. AA does not tell them they are. They have concluded they are, often after many attempts to lick it on their own.

You say you sobered up six years ago? Are you reasonably happy (not delerious with joy, just satisfied with life)? Do you stay sober all the time, or else drink but in a reasonable, occasional and non-destructive manner?

If you answered all the above questions with a yes, then I would bet that you are not an alcoholic. I don’t imagine AA would have made much sense to you. You have to be an alcoholic to understand why AA makes sense to us. The whole idea of AA is that we understand each other in a way the non-alcoholics never could.

Have a nice life and have a cold one on me! Best wishes and all the luck in the world to you, buddy!

Would you please explain that?

  1. Coffee is available at most meetings but I usually go to an evening meeting, and I can’t sleep if I drink coffee in the evenings. So I bring a caffeine-free soft drink.

  2. Gambling . . . . . .WHAT GAMBLING???:confused::confused::confused:

  3. Cigarettes: All the meetings I go to are non-smoking because the halls the groups rent are non-smoking. Personally, I stopped smoking in 1995, about 5 years after I joined AA. Interestingly, I did it with my own, unaided will power!!! Haven’t puffed one since. AA did not ask me to stop smoking. It was my decision.

BTW, AA has NO opinion on the consumption of caffeine, on gambling (except that you can’t play poker at an AA meetings) or on smoking. That is because AA has no opinion on outside issues.