One of the first things that come to mind when you hear the word “alcoholic” is “Alcoholics Anonymous” (AA). And for good reason. Many of its long-time members swear by it and its effectiveness, fully crediting the support group for their success.But you know what? AA – as popular as it may be – is not the only way to tackle alcohol addiction.
Keep in mind I am NOT saying there is anything wrong with AA. It’s an amazing resource for those who choose to use it, and I highly encourage anybody who wants to quit drinking to try it out first.
However, for those who don’t really vibe with it, it’s important to know that’s okay too. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to sobriety, and that needs to be said.
Today I want to shed some light on my brief experience with the network and share 8 reasons why I chose to get sober WITHOUT AA.
8 Reasons Why I Got Sober Without AA
For full disclosure, it’s not like I tried super-hard to get sober WITH AA. I went to a grand total of one meeting after a string of miserable hangovers in October of 2012, formed my opinion and that was that.
Now that’s out of the way, here’s why I chose to get sober without AA.
1. The Commute Added To My Stress
Perhaps one of the biggest issues that contributed to my stress was commuting in Los Angeles.
The soul-crushing rat race of corporate life was already sucking the life out of me. But even though my job was only 15 miles away from home, I’d spend 3 hours driving in traffic each day commuting to and from work. Not fun.
Frankly I was always exhausted and never felt like I had enough time at home. As a home-body, this was a huge problem.
Now that I’ve quit my job, this would be less of an issue. But at the time adding yet another place to drive to after work just wasn’t in the cards for me.
2. The Demographic Was Alienating
Keeping it real, I was the only person in the room enough like me, and that made me feel weird. I was relatively young at the time – still in my 20’s, female and black. This group was full of much older white men and I felt horribly, horribly out of place.
During my first 100 days alcohol-freeI reached out to other sober women online. Many of them say they LOVE their meetings and have met some of their best girl friends there. Based on their experiences and glowing reviews, I now believe that I was just at the wrong meeting and had I kept going I’d have found something where I fit in a bit better.
Hindsight is 20/20 though.
3. It Was Depressing
I’ve said time and time again that for the most part I consider myself to be a happy enough girl. While I have my share of bad days and difficult times, I dislike dwelling on the negative.
The meeting I went to was depressing as all hell!
It consisted of people ruminating on some of the horrors of the past and reflecting on where they’d been, some of the mistakes they’d made and how awful things were. Granted, I do understand to some degree, but still. I strongly prefer uplifting support and if I had my way, would want to talk more about strategy than how bad things can or could get.
Again, I think this may just be a function of being at the wrong meeting, but I didn’t know that at the time. I just know that I left feeling worse than when I’d arrived. No dice.
4. I Didn’t Identify As An Alcoholic At The Time
This one is a little tricky.
I felt SO WEIRD doing the “My name is Allie and I’m an alcoholic” thing. I didn’t really believe I was an alcoholic and never would have chosen that label – up until recently. Like, maybe a month or two ago, max.
There’s a bit of controversy in the sobersphere about donning the label of an “alcoholic”. Some say you need to own it. Some say it doesn’t matter. Either way, you need to be comfortable with who you are and where you’re at on your path and at that time I just wasn’t there.
I think being in that environment when I wasn’t even sure of myself or even willing to admit that I had a real problem was an automatic negative.
Maybe you don’t have to identify as an alcoholic to get sober with AA, but I don’t know… I also think you can’t be uncomfortable with the idea, either.
5. I’m SUPER Introverted
This is the one thing that makes me feel I’d never really enjoy group meetings. I don’t really enjoy any groups all that much.
Honestly I don’t believe much needs to be said here.
To remedy this, I’ve found so much support online and have a bunch of online girlfriends who “get it” and know a few sober people on-on-one in real life, too. I think having any support system is good enough. It doesn’t have to be a support group or AA.
6. The “Powerless” Aspect Bugs Me
One of the principles of AA (I think it’s even the first one) is to admit that you’re powerless over your addiction. This bugged me to no end, and still does.
Something I live by hardcore is that we DO have personal power and even saying “I’m powerless” over anything is so against who I am that I’m automatically repelled.
I was far more stubborn back then than I am now and would probably give a few different meetings a go if it was my last option or if I was faced with the possibility of relapse. But it would still be a struggle for me to get past that one.
7. I Secretly Hoped I Could Still Drink Again
Okay, so keeping it real, I was totally white-knuckling it and hoped I could learn to moderate.
I just wasn’t ready to quit.
No support group aimed at quitting alcohol forever will work for you if you don’t really want to quit. Here, I was destined to fail.
Today I know full well that moderation is impossible for me.
Looking back, I’d have done better to seek out other resources aimed at people who want to reduce their alcohol intake. It would at least have been a bit more realistic.
8. I Was Comparing Myself To Others
What I’ve come to discover is a HUGE no-no now, I was majorly guilty of back then, and that’s comparing myself to others.
Everybody else in the room had faced severe consequences as a result of their alcohol abuse. From where I sat, I was nothing like them, meaning I was okay and didn’t really need help. Oh, how foolish of me.
I’d never say that or think that way today.
But for someone like me who felt all the things I’ve mentioned earlier on in this post, that put the icing on the cake, I think.
Here I was this younger, disillusioned, out-of-place girl with a pretty good mostly happy life and very little outward evidence of a problem, in a room with a bunch of really depressed older white men who had obviously been straight to hell and back. It was just too easy for me to go “welp… I’m nothing like them” and conclude that I didn’t need the help.
Sigh… yeah, I know.
Where I Stand Today — Still Sober Without AA
So, I’ve grown a ton over the years and see things differently.
My alcoholism got a lot worse before it got any better. Looking back, I do see all the signs and can finally admit that I am and will always be an alcoholic. But, I feel really proud that I was able to recover in a way that makes me happy and that truly resonates with me! I’m glad that I was able to get sober without AA.
I’ve said before in other posts that at this point I don’t think about sobriety or “not drinking” that much anymore. True, sometimes I do. Sometimes I wish I could “be normal” like everybody else. I’ll even admit that if I could drink moderately, I’d still be an occasional drinker. It is what it is.
So, I don’t know if going to a weekly meeting or multiple weekly meetings would be something I still want to do.
If I wasn’t a sobriety blogger, I don’t know that alcohol would really be on my mind that much. I like to believe I’d just be… living. But there’s no way of knowing.
That said, one of my strongest sobriety mottos is that you have to be willing to throw everything you have at quitting if you really want to quit.
That means if I hit a true rough patch, I have a few “break glass in case of emergency” options:
- I have and will always maintain good health insurance that includes mental health care. I have a list of therapists in my area that I can choose from if I really need additional help.
- I’ve located a weekly non-12-step meeting not far from home, SMART Recovery. I think the fact that it’s not AA makes me less cringey.
- I’m STILL willing to give AA another go as a last resort.
My sobriety is so important to me that I’m willing to do just about anything to retain it. That’s how I know it’s real!
How Will YOU Quit Drinking?
You know, I’m a huge advocate for being honest with yourself. You have to do what works for you – screw what anybody else says.
If you’ve come to a point where you know you have a problem with alcohol and want to quit, absolutely give AA a try!
I don’t know for sure, but I think it’s probably the most widespread group around, meaning if you look you’ll probably find a meeting wherever you live or work.
If you haven’t tried it yet you really don’t know if it’s for you or not. You should at least give it an initial try to see how you feel.
Beyond that, there are so many different ways to tackle it. You just have to take your personality and situation into consideration and do something that makes sense for you but DO SOMETHING. Take action.
Taking a month or 100 days sober is a good place to start.
It’s clean, simple, and gives you time to figure yourself out and make a longer-term plan. If you haven’t been to a meeting, going to one during this time will give you valuable insight as to whether it’s for you or not, and you can adjust accordingly.
Otherwise, just take it one day at a time.
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