Does AA Work or Is There a Better Way to Get Sober?

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People often ask, how do I have to attend AA Meetings? It’s a common refrain in 12 step circles.

In the early stages of my recovery from alcohol addiction and drug abuse, going to AA meetings was usually accompanied by dread. I simply didn’t want to go. Even though I knew I needed to be there, I still suffered from intense social anxiety. It didn’t matter that it was a gathering of fellow drunks like me or that I was starting to make new friends. It was still a group of people, which always made me feel shy and agitated.

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In those early days, I tried to go to a meeting every day, and every day I tried to talk myself out of going. I came up with an endless list of excuses because I didn’t want to go or felt I didn’t need to go to a meeting.

Meetings are bullshit!
Meetings are boring!
I hate the hand holding!
I hate the stupid prayers!
Meetings don’t help!
I hate speaking to other people!
I’m already sober. I don’t need to go to meetings!

Every day a battle raged in my mind, a heated debate about why I needed to go versus why I didn’t want to go.

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Somehow, I managed to go almost every day for the first 90 days of my recovery (90 meetings in 90 days is encouraged for newcomers), and on nearly every one of those 90 days, I had to fight the urge to stay home instead.

One day I asked my sponsor the question that most people in recovery ask at some point.

“How long do I have to keep going to meetings?”

“Until you want to go,” was the simple reply.


At first, I didn’t understand the answer. Until I want to go? Why would anyone WANT to go to a meeting? I go because I have to go, not because I want to go. I go because it keeps me from drinking (for some reason). That’s it. Otherwise, meetings suck, and I’d rather stand on the street corner naked, chewing glass, than go to another damn meeting, thank you very much!

The idea that I might someday want to go to a meeting had never occurred to me. His answer, of course, would eventually be proven correct.

It happened at my regular Thursday night meeting. The meeting was in a large hall, with about 75 people in attendance. This particular meeting always had a huge spread of amazing food brought by a group of women who were known as “old-timers,” not because of their actual age, but because they had managed to stay sober for so many years. I’m convinced that one of the reasons the meeting was so popular was because of the food.

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I arrived a few minutes early (which was happening more frequently) and loaded up a plate of food. I found a seat near the middle of the room (not in the back, another thing that was changing) and sat down to eat while I waited for the meeting to start. I didn’t spot anyone I knew very well, but I nodded and smiled at a few people I recognized.

I sat there nibbling, watching a room filled with dozens of fellow drunks all talking loudly, laughing, and eating. The secretary was sitting at the front of the room. People were milling about, heading for their seats. There was a joyful tension in the air, the pre-show feeling that seems to proceed so many AA meetings that I’ve attended over the years.

As I munched on my grub (seriously, the food at this meeting was amazing!), it suddenly dawned on me that I was happy. Well, maybe not happy. I was content. That’s a more accurate way to describe how I felt at that moment — content.

I looked around, taking it all in. I sat in my seat, smiling to myself, realizing that I felt content and that I was glad to be there. I wanted to be there.

It was one of the best moments of my life. That’s not an exaggeration. For the first time in years, I was content to be exactly where I was. I wasn’t eager to leave. I didn’t want to escape or get loaded. I felt no sense of panic or social anxiety. I felt peaceful and calm.

I wanted to be right there, where I was. I wanted to be at the meeting. The miracle, as they say, was starting to happen.

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