I attended an AA meeting for the first time March 7, 2003. It was called the “Spiller’s Group” and met at Saint Peter’s Church in Ripon. I was greeted at the door by two men. In fact, I was the only female present. I was nervous about walking in the door alone but knew I had to this as alcohol had been destroying my life. I was offered coffee and tried to drink it but was pretty shaky. It seemed they knew this because the glass was only half full. (Probably the only time I let my glass be half full!) The meeting was held in the church basement. There were 12 in attendance. I didn’t know what to expect and was nervous as I knew a few in the room and I am a business owner in the same town. They however made me feel comfortable. As the meeting began, the Preamble was read, the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous was read and then the Traditions. Next they asked for admissions and all went around the table saying their name and that they were alcoholic. I was the last one, so I said it too, with no hesitation. Two meditations were read, one from the Daily Reflections and one from the 24 hour book. I had been shown those in detox (which I had gotten out of on the 6th of March, 2003) so I knew what they were. I was then asked if I needed a white chip and they must have known from my expression that I didn’t know what that was, so they explained the chip system. I was still lost but nodded my head as if I understood.
However, what followed next did take me by surprise. Each one took time to talk about their drinking experiences. I didn’t get that this was a first step meeting being done for my benefit. I sat there wondering why everyone was talking about drinking when I wanted to know how not to drink. I did not understand that the 12 steps on the piece of paper were a new way of life; to me they were just words on a piece of paper. I don’t think I was much out of the fog yet so it wasn’t making sense. When all had spoken they asked if I had anything to add. I simply said “no”. I still didn’t get that this was my opportunity to tell at least a bit of my story. They said that was fine and those who wished could close with the Lord’s Prayer. That turned me off as I suddenly thought this was all about a God thing and I was pretty angry with God at the time. Honestly, I left thirstier than when I came. And on the way home I drank.
The second meeting I attended, was 2 days later and I drove to another town, really suffering from the shakes I went into the Federated Church at 5:30pm in Green Lake. I could find no one. I walked up and down the halls and in a room sat a woman by herself and she opened the door and asked if I was there looking for AA. Her name is Carol and thank God she was there because I am not sure I would have tried again. We had a one on one and she explained what a 1st step was and told me parts of her story. She explained what the steps were and how we were going to work them one by one. She gave me a Big Book and a Twelve by Twelve. She gave me her phone number and I began calling her every day. She was my temporary sponsor until I found someone who had more time. Carol has been sober now over 38 years and has many many sponsees. I need to add here though that I didn’t make it this time around either. I ended up a client at the Beacon House and completed the 90 day program. It still didn’t end there. I went back out for another year and finally have a sobriety date of November 10, 2004. What I would like to say is, AA can and does work; sometimes it just takes longer for some. I am not sure why I finally got it, but, I would encourage clients to continue to attend the meetings. Relapse is part of this disease, that’s not an excuse, but it is a fact. If my network of friends had given up with me, I may not be alive today. My drinking was to the point it was going to kill me and I thank God now especially for that second meeting where Carol convinced me to keep coming back.
I continued to go to 3+ meetings a week for about 5 years (sometimes more). I then had the opportunity to work at Beacon House in Fond du Lac and have made many friends there as well. I became a GSR and attended meetings in Madison and eventually the DCM for District 2. That’s a whole different ballgame, but I do enjoy the history and a better understanding why we need the traditions. Although some would not like the politics involved, someone has to do it. It’s like going to Hardees’s and ordering the Mushroom and Swiss burger……We should know that what we will get, will be similar no matter what Hardees’s or AA meeting we attend! When my time ended as DCM, I enrolled in school hoping for a degree in counseling.
One thing I try to never forget when a newcomer walks in the door is that maybe they feel like I did. I try to take the time to explain what will occur with a First step meeting, so they have a clue. After going to lots and lots of meetings, I found to be most comfortable at meetings that use either the Big Book or the Twelve and Twelve. I don’t care for open discussion meetings. I have seen it go off topic when there has been perhaps an inexperienced chair person. Or some just don’t understand what the traditions tell us. I have traveled to different states and find that most meetings are similar. Some have their own twists and such but for the most part, follow the same basic design. Recently, while in Florida, I noticed how MOST of the meetings are open, which was kind of nice since a family member could go with me.
These are my reflections on meetings that I’ve attended. I have also had the opportunity to be a part of Family education groups and group therapy. The Family education to me is so important for the loved ones of the addicted to learn about the disease and about Al-Anon.