Right now I attend only 1 or 2 AA meetings per week. It has not always been like this and looking back I think I have went through cycles that are fairly similar to other people.
Why Go to AA Meetings?
I started going to Alcoholics Anonymous meeting over twelve years ago. I only wanted to stop drinking. I did not want to attend AA, I had negative thoughts about being a part of such group – while at the same time being unable to stop drinking and making a public sceptical of myself. I didn’t want anyone to know I went to AA, I didn’t want people to know I had stopped drinking – I was so embarrassed at my own lack of control – which is fairly crazy since I always had a lacked control of drinking and many people knew it.
I was briefly unemployed when I started going to meetings, so I had little else to keep me occupied. Very quickly I structured my day around going to a meeting.
For the first while perhaps 3 or 4 months I went to an AA meeting everyday. I found it being sober very difficult. I had cravings to drink often, and on a Friday the cravings would drive me crazy – seriously a Friday was a big drinking day and it took perhaps the best part of a year or more before the Friday cravings left me.
So during the first 3 months I went to a meeting everyday. During the rest of my first year of sobriety I attended about four or five meeting each week.
After about five months I started on the program. I had not intended to start the program of recovery during my first year. I had made a decision during the first month sober – I would go to meetings for a year, but I was not doing this program or getting a sponsor – and after a year being sober I would decide if I was staying in AA or going back drinking. So here was a guy that had tried to stop and or control his drinking almost all of his life thinking that a sober life would be worse than my drinking life – I was mad for a long time even after booze was removed.
After Year 1
Between years 1 and three I settled into a rhythm within AA, about 4 or 5 meetings a week – looking back I can see that I built up a habit of going to meetings.
I have found AA meeting fairly difficult. I am not a natural group person and the frustration and boredom of sometimes listening to the same person saying the same stuff and taking a long time to do it tested me.
When I was two years sober I went to university as a mature student and I probably dropped a meeting or two here and there.
After my first year in university I took my life in my hands and went on a trip for a month where there were no AA meetings. I was okay and returned home and got back into a grove. After the second year I did the same again and went to a European city to study for a year.
While abroad for that year I started going to fewer meetings. The city where I lived had only six English speaking AA meeting per week.
I stayed sober and did the things I had to do to keep my head in the right direction.
Up till I was five years sober I went to at least 2 or 3 meetings each week.
From Five to Ten Years Sober
I had left university and had started working for myself – self employed. After my fifth anniversary in Alcoholics Anonymous I started to think about leaving AA.
Somewhere in my head I had the thinking that AA was the most dysfunctional place I spent my time. I talked about this for about six months before I made a decision. All the people I talked with were members. They all tried to get me to stay using various methods to try and influence me.
One friend told me “If you leave AA and stay sober then I have to evaluate my thoughts on AA and staying there” – this friend had had a few slips over the years we knew each other and I really didn’t want him evaluating his membership. So that was the convincer for me – I decided to stay and go to one meeting per week.
I had my usual meeting on a Sunday evening and that is where I went. Occasionally I went to another meeting, but not often – life was busy, work was busy and I made a few more friends that were not members. In many ways with regards to AA I took it very easy – I discovered a good reason for continuing to attend meetings – to remind me. Not just remind me of alcohol and the effects that it had on my life, but to remind me of how my thinking can get better and needs watching and adjustment.
After Ten Years in AA
After I had been around and sober for ten years I started moving about. My wife came from a place far away from where lived. We moved back and forward for six months and then moved there permanently a year or so ago.
Moving has been challenging, it is for everyone and I forget that I experience the same stresses as everyone else. I had a bit of trouble settle into the meeting in my new area, so my first thoughts as usual were to run away – so automatic thinking has changed…
However instead of doing fewer meeting in my new hometown I went to more – I set a target of at least 3 per week and more often I did more – this has eased back a bit again. I asked people to go for coffee, for lunch, for diner, anything to integrate myself. It has been tough going. But I can see that being sober for a while has helped.
One thing I try to remember: going to meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous has a few purposes and one of the main ones is to enable me to live in the world.