Is AA just another addiction?

Don’t get me wrong, addiction to meetings is way better than addiction to achohol. I just wonder. My friend recently got completely sober (YAHHHH!!!) after missing her younger sister’s birthday due to being drunk. That was actually about 4 or 5 months ago. AA has now become a huge part of her life, she has altered her vacation plans now. Instead of going on a cruise, (which I think was really because it was an excuse to drink for 7 days straight…) she has opted to go to an AA young person’s retreat. I’m all for ditching the cruise plan, but I wonder if it’s just substituting booze for cigarettes, coffee, and understanding. Can an addiction group become an alternate addiction? Discuss.

ps: can AA really be effective without a sponsor? To the best of my knowledge, my friend doesn’t have one. As I understand it, that’s what makes AA effective. Any imput from anyone in the know would be apprechiated.

Gee, I dunno. I guess I can imagine that it would be preferable for a person to lead a life that was not so “reliant” upon AA support, but the unfortunate reality is that such a life is far better than living (and dying) as a raging alcoholic.

I only know one AA participant - mother-in-law. Her addiction to ETOH was definitely worse than her continuing reliance upon smokes and caffeine (tho she has early emphysema and is pretty clearly smoking herself to death.) Tho it is occasionally mildly inconvenient when things have to be arranged such that she can attend a meeting, it is far better than having the cops call after she wrecked the car, getting hangup calls in the middle of the night, or having to accompany her to detox (all, and more, of which happened).

Your OP is interesting, given what I’ve heard of people having “addictive personalities.” I guess my response might be a, “Maybe, but so what?”

Oh yeah, I recall she was quite troubled when her sponsor died a year or so ago. Not quite sure how she resolved that, but I know she felt having a sponsor was incredibly important. She’s been sober now for probably 10 years.

I had actually considered checking out AA or something in the past when I was drinking way too much way too often. Major problems w/ AA were the need to believe in some ultimate power, and the need to completely abstain. Now I seem to be doing pretty well drinking in moderation (4 beers and one glass of wine over the weekend, nothing since the prior Saturday.)

It’s a real bitch, and an embarrasment, when your drinking gets out of control. Best not to let it happen in the first place.

Theoretically (and practically), it is possible to substitute meetings for another addiction. However, it’s also suggested to newcomers that they attend at least 90 meetings in the first 90 days of sobriety, and that they attend as many functions as possible. The rationale for this is that it keeps your mind off alcohol, and your body physically away from it. That’s probably why your friend is spending so much time with it.

However, it is possible to spend so much time in AA that your other obligations fall by the wayside. I’ve known people who’ve lost families and jobs because their AA activities interfered with their responsibilities. These weren’t newbies, either, but members with 10+ years sobriety. Whether it’s an addiction or not is a judgment call.

Finally, although a sponsor is highly suggested, it’s not a requirement. Some people choose to use the group as a whole as a sponsor, while others (including myself) use a professional counselor or clergy member. I haven’t had the need or the desire to have another group member as my sponsor, so I chose the counselor route. It works for me, and as long as I’m sober, that’s what matters.
Please note that I am speaking as a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, and not in its behalf. AA, by tradition, has no opinion on outside issues, nor does any one person speak for the organization.

Robin M.

Interesting question, Swiddles. I suppose that an addictive personality could possibly latch onto something as innocuous as meetings (not necessarily AA) as their crutch.

The way I see it, though, the bigger question is: is this self-destructive? Obviously, an addiction to alcohol or crack cocaine is. Meetings, on the whole, are not. However, if someone was so slavishly devoted to their H-O scale train club meetings that their marriage fell apart, their children grew up alienated, their job performance suffered, etc., well… One man’s Mede is another man’s Persian.

I’m talking generalities here, because I know absolutely bupkus about AA. But human nature being what it is, I think the application works.

Real good question, Swid. Beauty, talent and brains. Lordy, if I was only 20 years younger…

I suppose a bit more info would be helpful. My friend’s family life has always been screwed up (gee, could that have something to do with her being in rehab twice before the age of 21?) and recently, her younger sister sister has been going through some really hard times. Her parents split up, and almost immediately started seeing other people, and pretty soon were living with other people. For these, and many, many other reasons (the kid is just plain depressed) Whitney attempted suicide about 2 months ago. Swallowed a bottle of asprin. My friend is especially close to this sister, and it hurt her terribly. She started attending as many meetings as she could. Two or more on the weekends, at least one a day. Whitney was found this weekend with self-mutilating cuts on her arms and legs and my friend is back to the schedual of at least one meeting a day.

Don’t get me wrong, I think AA is a great program. But I see my friend relying on it as she did booze and coke in the past, and not dealing with the problems in the first place. She’s in counciling, as is the rest of the dysfunctional family, but she’s not dealing with the root of the problem, IMHO, her screwball mother.

Another question: she has wanted me to go to meetings with her, but we either miss them because we’re talking about her family’s shit, or one of us has to work. Have any of you ever brought a friend or spouse to an AA meeting? Is that customary? If she wants me to be there, I’ll be there no questions asked, but I also don’t want her to rely on me too emotionally. Where’s the line between “best friend” and “emotional enabler?” She says she always feels better after talking to me, but she recently called me to ask if I felt she should ask her coke-head roommate to move out. Instead of making a decision that would be blatantly obvious to anyone else, it was like she needed my agreeing with her before she knew she was right. I know a little bit about codependance, and I really, REALLY don’t want that to happen here.

I dunno, maybe I should just take all these questions and get me to an Ananon meeting.

whitney= my friend’s youngest sister. Sorry.

** Swimming Riddles ** I am not an AA expert, my experience/knowledge comes from:

20+ years working with convicts
30 years living with alcoholic mother
5 years living with recovering alcoholic husband
and AlAnon meetings (and ACoA meetings) from about 1979 - 86.
many close friends (still) from that community, some with more than 20 years sobriety, many friends who work in the substance abuse field.

AA meetings are either open or closed (they will inform you of which). Closed meetings are ONLY for those who consider themselves alcoholic. Open meetings are open to others as well. Some meetings only the alcoholic talked ( :rolleyes: - I NEVER went to those). Some meetings there will be a ‘speaker’ who will tell their own tale.
AlAnon was for the family and friends of alcs. ACoA were for Adult Children of Alcoholics.

People often become just as immersed in the AA crowd as you will see with any close group - churches, message boards ( :wink: ) etc.

can they become “addicted”? if you mean getting into it to the near exclusion of any other life? sure, I’ve seen that a lot. I’ve also seen people have moderation in it. Often after a couple of years of sobriety, some of that immersion wears off.

would be happy to share more if you think it might help.

by the way, I saw more people succeed if they had a good sponsor - but that might be 'cause they were taking it more seriously…

The way my penlight flashlight goes through AA batteries, it must be addicted to AA!

This is only my opinion and my personal experience.

I take it that Swiddle’s friend has been sober for less than 6 months. It is important for someone with less than a year to be around program people whenever possible.

My first 9 months or so clean were hell. I thought about using all the time. I went to a meeting everyday and called program members on the phone and just hung around them whenever they’d let me. This was how I learned how clean people act and what they do. This way, I had people to talk to who actually understood what I was going through (because they went through it to) and could offer hope and advise. Normies just don’t understand.
The fellowship of the program gives a sense connection, a support group, and socialization is a safe, non-judgemental enviroment. It’s important, because you pretty much have to change you’re whole life. Without it, I would have gotten loaded.
At first, your life revolves around the program. But after a while, you have to venture away, but still stay connected. I’ve been clean a long time now, and don’t go to as many meetings. But I still try to go once a week. And I still have program friends and a sponsor. (yeah, you gotta have one)

Swiddles - yeah, in my opinion, people do get ‘hooked’ on AA. But that ain’t necessarily a bad thing.

I’d say that if the AA methods are working for her, she’s better off with that addiction than with her previous, eh?

IME, a lot of the reason for this behavior is peer-group replacement. Your friend can’t hang out with her old buddies with whom she drank, she’s got to learn a whole new set of behaviors, she’s in a very tough and scary place in life; all-in-all, a time when she NEEDS mucho support and a new set of good friends. It’s similar to a new romance, in that it becomes all-consuming of time and attention.

Relax and go with it. Chances are good that, given a year or few, she’ll ease off.

FWIW, I’ve known people that transferred their peer-group addictions from a drugs&drink crowd to a church and quit using without much problem. They did much the same thing as you see with the NA/AA ‘groupers’ (that’s what we call them around here), where the new people and activities and etc. became their whole life for a time.

As far as your friend wanting help to make decisions - well, that is a toughie. She’s in a rough spot and may just need a bit of reassurance. But then again, inability to deal with life is usually a primary cause of drug addiction, so she may be trying to find a new way to not deal with problems. AlAnon or something similar would probably be a good idea for you.

Best wishes for both of you!