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I went to Alcoholics Anonymous

I had this sensation as though I was in the midst of something that should be normal and experienced often, but instead, for some unnatural reason, has become increasingly illusive.

Yesterday I went to an AA meeting. I am not an alcoholic (although I have struggled with my relationship with cannabis). I went to support someone for whom I care deeply, who was very nervous to go to this meeting. This was not my first AA meeting. I have been to a handful over the past two decades, also in support of a loved one. This is to say that going into yesterday’s meeting, I had enough experience with AA to be looking forward to it. 

And it did not disappoint. Backing up, I am in the midst of 10 days of solo parenting, an extremely challenging time for my business and getting ready to move into our van for 3 months. I’ve been following my curiosity per the guidance of Travel Light and The Big Leap, which has been excellent, but I have found myself very behind on things that demand time with my computer. And so prior to AA, I went to Starbucks for an iced coffee and to get some work done before picking up a person who will remain anonymous to go to this AA meeting. And while sitting at Starbucks, it occurred to me: I needed a good cry. I actually sat there and contemplated whether or not it would be acceptable and perhaps even beneficial to cry at Starbucks. Deciding that it would likely not harm anyone, and perhaps might even help someone by displaying my own vulnerability, thereby giving them the opportunity to lend compassion (which always makes us feel awesome), I went for it. I squeezed out like two tears, nothing overly substantial. I did feel better though. No one noticed that any of this went down. I had been texting two of my friends in real time about the need for my cry and whether or not I should do it in Starbucks. See below screenshot. 

I did get some things done during my iced coffee hour at Starbucks. Did I do them well? Was it a solid use of time? Who can say? But what I can tell you is that I was in a moderately rotten mood shortly after when I picked up my person to go to AA. I informed them in the car that I was in a bad mood. “I can tell” they replied. 

We arrived at the meeting location and entered a relatively run down building where we were warmly welcomed and shown the room where the meeting would take place. Gradually, the room filled with about 15-20 people. The meeting leader began by introducing the meeting and himself. From the moment that he began speaking, to the traditional introductions of “I’m (insert name) and I’m an alcoholic”, to reading-around-the-room a passage in the big Alcoholics Anonymous book, all of the sharing and finally to the very last share (which was mine), I sobbed. The entire time. I think it was the longest cry of my life. It was also one of the most enlightening. 

I cried because I was overcome by a beautiful experience which also felt so incredibly foreign to me: the experience of human beings coming together as their most bare and vulnerable selves, to simply be in that moment, sharing feelings of pain, gratitude, hope and struggle, together. 

While I am fortunate to have a number of close relationships in my life where we are able to be truly vulnerable and supportive with each other, it is a different experience to have this in a room with complete strangers. With my close friends, this vulnerability and trust is built over extended time spent together. But in a room full of people whom I had never seen before, this level of vulnerability in a shared hour felt almost primally cathartic. I had this sensation as though I was in the midst of something that should be normal and experienced often, but instead, for some unnatural reason, has become increasingly illusive. 

And after being the non-alcoholic in the corner of the room sobbing through the entire meeting, I shared this thought, that I was so grateful to have the experience of my loved one coming to this meeting with me and how lucky the AA community is to have this raw and real connectedness with each other. I expressed that I believe it is something that all human beings crave (most of us unknowingly) right now. Something that we are very unfortunately missing.

What do you think about this? Have you ever been to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting? Does this post perk your interest in wanting to check one out? Do you agree that this is something we could all benefit from, coming together simply as humans being – as our most bare honest selves instead of our most impressive selves? Do you like to have a good cry? Let me know what you think! Thank you for being here with me. 

7 Responses

  1. Amazing! It’s been so long since I last cried, except during every movie when someone succeeds or gets recognized for their value.

  2. AA has changed my life. Community is the antidote to numbing. That’s why 12 step works when other things fail.

    I also schedule my big cries.

  3. Tbh I cry all the time and try to mainly do it in front of my gf or therapist but have absolutely done it while talking in front of an entire room of people in a 12 step meeting. I think our country is starved for community and closeness. People grind all day at their jobs making small talk or behind their computer, but never truly get to talk about anything vulnerable or of substance. It makes me sad and existential and always has since I can remember. Why can’t people be that way in everyday life? I have no idea. Why does it take crippling addictions, rock bottoms, and near-death experiences, which let’s not forget are merely symptoms of the spiritual malady we face as a society, to be able to have these beautiful moments of connection, support, vulnerability, and love? One of the main taglines of AA is about sharing your experience, strength, and hope; if we had more of that naturally built into our society maybe people wouldn’t feel so isolated with so many vices in the first place. Thank you for writing this!

  4. My brother was an alcoholic. He survived becuase of AA. As a family we could only see a sad end awaiting Brent, but at his lowest and facing jail this was his only alternative given to him by the police – to attend AA meetings. And he overcame, and he lived sober for 10 years before dying of a sudden heart attack. Coming together as humans is natural, but to do so when you’re vulnerable is hard. I belive women are better at it than me, unfortuanetly. But in AA meetings people do and it works.
    And I cry all the time, I apologised for it recently when a girlfriend was comforting me ( lost my dear dog ) and she simply said – cry, its right too, don’t apologise. And then she went and got a photo off FB of our Flynn and a card filled in from my workmates for me, that made me cry more. LOVE truly is all around us, we just have to reach out for it and receive it.

    1. Liz! I love this so much! Thank you for sharing it and being vulnerable right here. It makes me feel closer to you even through the computer. I have been thinking a lot about your statement that humans coming together is natural but to do so when you’re vulnerable is hard. I think it is the vulnerability piece of AA that really makes it a next-level connected human experience. It was spiritual for me! I have since been back with my loved one. I really really hope they stick with it. Thank you again!

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