I have been sober for thirty years both inside and outside of A.A.
The only thing I am going to say about A.A. is this: you can go if you feel you need a safe place from drinking without having to listen to anything anyone says, take it seriously, contribute to the basket.
In short, you do not have to do ANYTHING if you go to an A.A. meeting. You do not even have to talk, or even introduce yourself.
You can use a fake name if you want.
Or go to what are called “open meetings” or “open speaker meetings.” Chances are nobody will ask you to identify yourself there.
In other words, you can completely use A.A. without feeling the slightest bit guilty about it.
Having said that, based upon my own experience, I completely understand your desire not to join A.A.
I am currently not a member of A.A.
I left A.A. a number of years back because I felt it wasn’t right for me. I stayed away for seven years. I had second thoughts, went back, and discovered my initial feeling that it was not right for me was correct.
There are a couple of things that really aid sobriety. They are simple, and they are slightly counter-intuitive.
Shielding yourself from temptation rarely works. That is not to say you should seek out temptation, but if you are feeling tempted, or especially if you are feeling cravings, the best thing to do is to talk to someone else who has suffered from alcoholism. Early on it is best to talk to someone who has some sobriety.
That is the primary benefit of A.A. It is a place to meet sober people who have suffered from alcoholism. Just because you are going to meet people, again, does not mean you have to join A.A. or work a program.
If someone says that you have to work a program, find a higher power, or view alcoholism in a particular way, you do not have to listen to that person.
Nobody is the Grand Poobah here.
You can disregard everything I say if you wish.
But the biggest thing to realize, as I have, is that if you have experienced out of control drinking, is that you most likely have hypersensitivity to alcohol—essentially an allergy.
I call mine an allergy.
It is no different than an allergy to bee stings, penicillin, or tree nuts.
If I drink alcohol, I will get sick or die—and not quickly or painlessly either. It will be nasty and miserable, and I will likely wind up in prison for killing someone, and unfortunately, it probably won’t even be someone who deserves it.
In short, I’d have to be fucking nuts to pick up a drink.
Most of the time, I am not that nuts. In the thirty or so years since my last drink, at most, there have been four or five times where I have felt like drinking. Thinking about drinking is not the same as having the urge to drink.
In those situations, the best thing to do is to talk to another alcoholic.
I know where to find A.A. hotlines. Even if I never go to another A.A. meeting, I will always allow myself to call an A.A. hotline if it comes down to that.
It hasn’t in a very, very long time.
And another thing, and this is what I am doing right here, right now. If I have a chance to help out another person who is suffering from alcoholism, I take a few minutes. I don’t bail them out or give them money or any nonsense like that, though to be honest, if a guy is shaking, I’d buy him a drink if he is honest enough to ask for it.
No, I will take a few minutes to share a little bit of wisdom—as I am doing here.
It’s a good practice.
But the simple fact is, I do not question the fact that I have an allergy to alcohol.
And what I mean by that is this: even if my head wants to question it, it would be completely insane to try the experiment of the first drink. That thought is just as crazy as thinking I can fly if I jump off the Empire State building. It is just as crazy as thinking I can put my hand on a hot stove and not get burned.
It’s not a moral failing. It would just be completely and totally insane.
I have so many other interesting ways of being self-destructive that I have not yet tried. 😛
I am not a fan of re-runs.
As far as a program goes? If you feel guilty about shit you did, set it right.
Learn something about yourself. Start to look at why you do what you do, and stop blaming your problems on other people.
That’s not something that only people who suffer from alcoholism do.
Narcissism runs rampant.
It sucks—narcissism that is. Figure out how to stop making yourself miserable.
There are about seventeen gazillion ways of doing that.
If you fucked people over, make it right to the best of your ability.
But don’t be an idiot. And don’t apologize to get back in someone’s good graces.
Just make shit right to the best of your ability.
There is another place where finding someone in A.A. is not a bad idea. Find someone who is actually somewhat sane who has actually done an inventory and amends. They can help you to not fuck up your life in trying to set it straight.
And lastly, protect your damn anonymity.
Don’t tell everyone about your drinking problem.
When you go out somewhere, ask for a soft drink.
Don’t tell people that you’re not drinking. Don’t tell people that you’re an alcoholic. If anyone asks why you are not drinking—which will be an extremely rare event—just say, “because I do not want to.”
If they push it beyond that, roll your eyes and walk away.
And if someone who already knows about your drinking history asks why you are not drinking, just say, “Because I do not feel like it.”
And if they push it, again, roll your eyes and walk away.
Or say, “If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to end this conversation as I have someone more interesting to talk to.”
If the person pushes that, say, “Oh, right about now, talking to wallpaper paste would be a better conversation than speaking with you. Bye!”
Then walk away.
But they won’t. As fun as it is to think they will, they won’t.
Just, keep your anonymity. Nobody needs to know about your drinking history.
You do. Your significant other probably.
After that, very, very, very few people need to know.
So to sum it up:
- If you have experienced out of control drinking, it is so close to being certain that you have an allergic style hypersensitivity to alcohol that it would be insane to think otherwise. You are free to doubt this if you wish. You can try more controlled drinking if you wish. The reality is, if you have had more than a few episodes of uncontrolled drinking, total abstinence is the only answer.
- The cravings will pass. No particular craving really lasts that long, and as time goes on, they get farther and farther apart. Getting a craving is not a sign of failure. It is a sign that you have a hypersensitivity to alcohol. Only people who are hypersensitive to alcohol get cravings. People without our allergy feel revolted by excess alcohol. Their brains have an automatic switch that tells them to stop. Ours don’t. It’s not bad character. It’s an allergy.
- Yes, put your life back together, and make things right to the best of your ability, but don’t wallow morbidly in the past, and you do not have to “work a program” or get a “higher power” if you do not want one. If you do, that’s fine, but it is a choice, not a requirement.
- Use A.A. if it helps, and keep in mind that you never have to join. You do not have to even give anyone your real name. If it does not help, skip it.
- Find new things to do that do not involve alcohol.
- Don’t sit in meetings, but when you come across another person who suffers from alcoholism, share some of your wisdom. Don’t bail them out or want their sobriety more than they do. Sharing your experience helps you. That is why you do it. You don’t have to “recruit” anyone. You do not even have to go looking for anyone unless you are feeling shaky yourself—-then call an A.A. hotline or something like it.
- And protect your anonymity. Don’t be an idiot about that. It really is better for people not to know about your drinking past. Anyone who says otherwise is full of shit. You are the only person who absolutely has to know about your drinking history. Your significant other should probably know, at least in most cases—but not all. After that, it would be best to think through very carefully why you are revealing your history to that person. Chances are you really do not need to do so. Therapists and doctors are a likely exception, but even there, it is a good idea to ask if it is really necessary.
- Finally, stop obsessing over drinking, and have some good clean fun. Most of the world can have fun without alcohol. I know I can. Figure out the secret—which isn’t really a secret. Just look around.