My First AA Meeting

9 Jan


So, last night I went to my first AA meeting. I never thought I’d set foot in one, to be honest, but I’m so glad I did.

For the 90 minutes I was there, I cried constantly, sometimes bordering upon hysterically. It was the most incredible feeling of release. Although I sometimes do cry with my therapist, it’s so rare that I actually let everything come out, and I felt like the pent up agony of the past year or so of struggling with this horrible problem was being let go.

The meeting set up was basically a massive cliché. We were sitting in rows on crappy plastic chairs with an outdated tea urn bubbling away in the corner and handed Styrofoam cups of cheap coffee to welcome us.  

As I entered the room I wanted to walk out immediately. There were around 25 people in the room, all men apart from myself, the chair and one other woman who arrived later. I knew that my connections online of people who have struggled with alcohol have been 90% women, but I didn’t expect to be intimidated by the male presence.

I sat down, and when they invited newcomers to make themselves known, I said my name and that it was my first meeting and was welcomed. As the guest speaker’s story was told and the 12 steps recited, I started to open up emotionally and the tears came. It’s REALLY bloody hard to stop hysterical tears in a quiet room and I was a bit of a snivelling mess at the back, snotty nosed and not armed with a tissue. WHY DIDN’T I BRING A TISSUE?!

They tell you to listen for the similarities not the differences you see between yourself and other drinkers when you’re new, and my GOD were there so many similarities.

The main thing I took away from the sharing and the discussions was that everyone in the room has struggled with who they are in some form or another, and that led them both to drink, and to find recovery difficult. There were amazing stories of self-discovery. Some of the points that were made might seem small if I recounted them, but they spoke volumes to me.

There was an overwhelming positivity that I took away- several people talked about things in their life that have happened only because they got sober. These are things that they couldn’t have done before not because they were drunk, but because they didn’t know who they truly were, or that they never had the self-esteem to pursue them. Someone described growing into an adult when he got sober, having lived 40 years as a child.

All of these points made great sense to me and gave me real hope, because I’ve always known that alcohol is making my life smaller than I want it to be, that I could achieve things I never thought possible if I could take the steps to permanently remove it from my life. And that I’m still a child in so many ways, and that’s alcohol is keeping me there.

The other thing that really clicked for me, which is the thing I expected to relate to least, was the ‘higher power’ notion. Everyone who referred to the higher power in their discussions specifically said it didn’t take a religious form to them. I had a HUGE switch click in my head with regards to this idea. I realised two things. The first is that I’ve got a gaping hole left by moving away from the Catholic religion that was such a fundamental part of my life until I was around 20, when I suddenly decided it wasn’t for me. I was shocked to discover last night, that I really missed the idea that there was something outside of myself that I could rely on. I don’t want religion back. Maybe now, my spiritual guide isn’t God, but something that dictates that everything will work out just as it should. Some sort of universal plan that I fit into.

The idea that “maybe everything is just as it’s supposed to be right now” was mentioned to me by my therapist a while ago, and it one of the most helpful ideas I have to get me through the tough times. And maybe this idea is the same thing, for me, as the notion of a Higher Power: the thought that everything I’m going through now is for a reason, and that will make me a stronger person in the long term. You can’t argue with the idea that I’m learning a hell of a lot from this struggle, and placing this in the context of a wider life plan that I’m not completely in control of was a huge relief. It took the great burden away from me and my little corner of the earth a little bit. Made me GET OVER MYSELF a little bit.

This also reiterated my feeling that I also don’t want to rely 100% on myself and tear myself up with endless introspection. I’ve talked about this before, but last night I felt a shift inside myself where I just trusted that everything will be ok. That I can pray or ask or just hope that something outside of me has my best interests at heart. That feels a weird line for me to type, but I believe it.

And the thing that really underlined the “maybe everything is exactly as it’s supposed to be” idea for me was the fact that I feel I walked into that AA room at precisely the right moment for me. I walked in, my brain telling me that maybe I didn’t have an alcohol problem, knowing that just 24 hours before I’d expressed the fear to Carrie that one day, my parents would get a call saying I’d died because of alcohol. That dramatic mindshift in just a day showed me that this disease is real, it’s serious and that it’s got me in the grips of deception.

The second thing that meant that last night was precisely the right time for me to go was it coincided with my true acceptance of this problem. When I reread old posts I’ve made, I remember the hopeless optimism I had that once I stopped and stayed stopped for a while, that would be the end of my journey with alcohol. I’ve realised in the past month or so that stopping drinking is only just the beginning. That I have so much work to do to stay sober. But that that’s ok.

If I’d set foot in that room even 3 months ago I still wouldn’t have believed this would work for me. But all the soul searching I’ve done and the honest approach I’ve repeatedly forced myself to take as I look inwards has meant that I’ve done a lot of ground work on my own, but I know that I need more help than that, from lots of different perspectives. After taking what’s been a pretty lonely road, despite all the online support and occasional meet ups with other sober bloggers, the comfort of simply having a large people group around me to listen to was huge.

As we stood up at the end and joined hands in a circle, I was absolutely crying my eyes out. The two women rushed up to me immediately after and comforted me, gave me their numbers and said lovely reassuring things. One of them was in her mid 30s, and sober for 4 years, the other 26 and had got sober at 21. They were kind and gentle and beautiful and I never wanted them to stop hugging me!

I honestly feel that I’m going to be going to these meetings long term. I think it’s going to really help me, more than I could ever have imagined. I had HUGE preconceptions and misgivings about AA, which I think many of us do, but I knew trying it was important, and I’m over the moon this morning that I plucked up the courage to walk down those stairs, shaking like a leaf, and make myself vulnerable in front of a room of tough looking men.

After last night I feel calm and I know it’s all going to be ok. It’s going to be hard, and I’m still going to have the same struggles, but maybe this new approach I’m trying will truly help me this time. I have the belief radiating from somewhere very deep inside me that it will, and that makes me want to weep with joy.

Pretty powerful stuff eh? I’m more shocked than anyone, but I’m going to stick with it and see where this unexpected journey takes me.

Happy Thursday! 

38 Responses to “My First AA Meeting”

  1. Rebecca A. Watson January 9, 2014 at 12:18 pm #

    Wow! What a wonderful hopeful post! I’m so happy you could release that emotion and relate to so much others had to say. Big congrats to you for taking this step…it’s not easy but it sounds like it was so worth it. Internet hugs to you!

    • FitFatFood January 9, 2014 at 12:28 pm #

      Yay for the internet hugs!

      It was just what I needed. I’ll make it part of my routine and hope that I continue to find it helpful. I can’t see how I won’t, to be honest 🙂

  2. One day at a time January 9, 2014 at 12:22 pm #

    Wow! I don’t know what to say. I never expected that in a million years. I’m so happy for you and I won’t rule it out of my recovery. I’m just not ready for it yet. I’ll see how things go and if I feel as though I’m struggling I will seriously consider it. I never expected young women to be there which proves my misconceptions are totally wrong too. Well done, for taking that massive step. You sound positively radiant today.

    • FitFatFood January 9, 2014 at 12:27 pm #

      Ha! I am totally radiant, it’s true 🙂

      These things in life can surprise you- it certainly surprised me, but it was the right thing for me to do.

  3. soberjournalist January 9, 2014 at 12:47 pm #

    I went to some aa meetings last summer and cried through all of them too! I think there is something very heartening about seeing such a big group of real life people there, understanding what you’re going through. I found it quite overwhelming – and moving – when people were so keen to give their phone numbers out. Make sure you call them! Even if you don’t stick with AA long term you will have gained some more sober buddies, and that can only be a good thing.

    • FitFatFood January 9, 2014 at 5:21 pm #

      Indeed. I’m just going to keep experimenting with going. I clearly can’t do this on my own or with just Belle and blogging so this will hopefully get me past this elusive 100 days that I never manage.

  4. risingwoman January 9, 2014 at 1:43 pm #

    What an amazing post, and what a wonderful experience (even the crying) 😉

    And yes, sometimes life can surprise you, indeed. Good job, and do call those ladies… they will be there if you reach out.

    • FitFatFood January 9, 2014 at 5:22 pm #

      Crying is good sometimes eh? I remembered why last night 🙂

  5. wren1450 January 9, 2014 at 2:03 pm #

    Wonderful message. I read every word and “starred” it as a keeper. I am so, so glad you had a positive experience. You sound great. I slipped badly last night after 9 days, but am getting right back on the horse. Your message inspired me to go to an AA meeting today or tomorrow. I have not been for several weeks. Thanks so much for writing. Joan B.

    • FitFatFood January 9, 2014 at 5:08 pm #

      Huge hugs to you. Huge huge hugs. I was there 3 days ago. And I’ve had 100 day ones, as you know.

      If you think you’re ready, go. I felt it was the right time, but it’s a very personal decision so see how you feel x

  6. AuntieLex January 9, 2014 at 2:36 pm #

    Wow, FFF… I am so proud of you! I have been doing tons of AA research, and self doubt all the way.. I reached out to an AA person yesterday she gave me some tips and ideas and times and places for meetings.. I hung up feeling a little better, but still unsure if I could gather up the courage to go.. You’ve inspired me my dear… Thank you… And be proud of yourself.. You deserve healthy happy sobriety!

    • FitFatFood January 9, 2014 at 5:10 pm #

      Ahh thank you Auntie L!

      It all just made sense to me, which I never expected.

      You know, my fear about going to AA was that it would make me believe that I WASN’T an alcoholic, when I know that however you label it, I have a problem that affects every area of my life.

      Because I forgot about how much or how people drank and focused on WHY they drank and what they’ve discovered about themselves since, it all helped.

      If you feel like it will help, dip your toe in the water 🙂

  7. jenisthesoberist January 9, 2014 at 2:56 pm #

    For me, the higher power piece has made all the difference. I am not particularly religious, but once I began praying to the universe things got easier. I love knowing that AA is there if I need it, too. I went to a women’s meeting a week after I quit drinking, and still think that I will go back eventually. Anyway, your experience sounds cathartic and illuminating. You are right where you need to be! Yay! xx

    • FitFatFood January 9, 2014 at 5:12 pm #

      SO much yay Jen. Honestly.

      Isn’t it funny sometimes how we can slave away and agonise and fall over and then all of a sudden it just shifts.

      I’m still very wary, but I feel deep down that this is going to be the thing that really changes things.

      Did I say YAY?!

  8. carrythemessage January 9, 2014 at 4:19 pm #

    I am going to admit something – this brought tears to these guy eyes of me. More of a mistiness. Not full fledged tears. I am a guy and we don’t cry, OK??? (gets tissue). Seriously, I did mist up. I can’t tell you how much this made me think of myself. I could have written this almost word for word. No exaggeration. the whole thing of the timing, of relating, of knowing that I was in the right place at the right time, etc. And the fact that I knew deep down in my hear that things would be OK. Oh my God, that still needs to be heard. Intuitively knowing this…that’s my HP at work. God is a word – doesn’t have to be that Catholic or religious attachment to it. It’s of your understanding…no one elses.

    it will be tough at times, especially at first…but stay there. Lean on those beautiful women, call them, tell them what is going on. no judgemet…they have been there. And for the dudes, don’t let them startle or intimidate. Most of the most gentle, kind and loving people I have met in AA have been men (then again, I relate to them differently…ha ha). We’re all there for the same reason.

    I am so, so happy for you.

    Now excuse me while I get this dust that just won’t get out of my eye…


    • FitFatFood January 9, 2014 at 5:14 pm #

      OH STOPPIT PAUL 😉 *sob*

      It gives me huge faith that you relate to this- look at you now!

      Ahhh this comment has made me feel great and optimistic. Thanks.

  9. primrosep January 9, 2014 at 4:44 pm #

    Very glad it went well for you. Really, really glad. Take tissues next time 😉

  10. lucy2610 January 9, 2014 at 5:05 pm #

    FFF I am SO pleased for you. It sounds like a fantastic experience and I’ve been turning over the idea of going to a meeting myself. I got a step closer today through you 🙂

    • FitFatFood January 9, 2014 at 5:19 pm #

      Thank you.

      I just got the point that I knew I truly wanted to go. I set aside every preconception and it worked.

      I just need to work out how and when and how often I’ll make this a regular part of my sobriety. Today is the first day I haven’t had a craving since I’ve been trying to stop. They’ll come in the future hard and fast and often, but just for today I’m off that hook and that’s a joy in itself 🙂

      • lucy2610 January 9, 2014 at 5:24 pm #

        I am so stoked for you 🙂

  11. losedabooze January 9, 2014 at 5:06 pm #

    Thank you for sharing your experience in such great detail. It truly does sound like you’re right where you need to be!!

  12. momma bee January 9, 2014 at 5:53 pm #

    Do you remember several weeks ago in my blog I expressed I was thinking of going to a AA meeting…. you said it wasn’t for you but to blog and let you know how it went. I went to a meeting and never got out of the car. I sat in the convenience store parking lot next door and watched all the men go in. I chickened out. All the “older men” scared me away. It was like I was 12 yo and I couldn’t do it. I’m 39, I don’t need to be scared of “older men”. I am so proud of you that you went. This is AWESOME to read and so motivating to me. Thank you for sharing and I look forward to hear how your next few meetings go.


    • FitFatFood January 9, 2014 at 5:58 pm #

      Ahh yes. And I didn’t think it was for me at all. But turns out I was wrong.

      The last thing I expected to be scared by was the men thing- I generally get on with men better than women as friends to be honest- but I think it’s harder because they LOOK like they’ll be hardcore alcoholics. Like they’ll have reached rock bottoms that I couldn’t relate to.

      But in reality they were vulnerable and sensitive and lovely and reflective and funny and I was wrong about that too.

      So lesson of the day: don’t always trust your gut instincts. Scare yourself a little.

  13. Chris Highcock January 9, 2014 at 9:31 pm #

    A really good post to read. It sounds like you are turning a corner. I hope the doctors appointment goes well.

  14. happierlikethis January 9, 2014 at 10:55 pm #

    Proud of you and happy for you. Told you that you were feisty and brave and you are. Very. X

    • FitFatFood January 10, 2014 at 11:53 am #

      *does the sassy samba all over your WordPress reader”

      Seriously thank you.

      I have it in me to be that, and I am when sober, but when I drink it all goes, and that’s why it’s important to stay on the Sassy Side and not pick up the first drink 🙂

  15. readingcreature January 9, 2014 at 11:29 pm #

    You are an amazing woman. I watch. Lurk. Admire. And- confess it – resent, sometimes. But it’s wolfie invading my thoughts. I’m still in the spiral. This time last year I was ready to go to AA, so at rock bottom. I hauled myself up by a few centimetres and have made do with that ever since. Made do. Rather than fully lived that year of my limited time on earth.
    There’s no punchline. No neat resolution I can offer to this comment.

    Except to reiterate that you are amazing and courageous. And I wish I had half your resolution and strength of character.

    • FitFatFood January 10, 2014 at 11:52 am #

      Big hugs to you. I am SO glad you responded- I’ve been wondering how you are.

      Do you know what, this thing is SO TOUGH. I’ve spent such a long time falling over and failing and choosing drink when I know it’s the wrong option.

      I’ve asked myself repeatedly how I can be so rubbish at tackling alcohol when I’m so determined in other areas of my life.

      And the conclusion I’ve come to is quite simple: alcohol is SO incredibly powerful and addictive it makes us weak where otherwise we might be strong.

      The second I took the blame away from myself it really helped me stop beating myself up for my mistakes. And now I feel more equipped to tackle this head on.

      I think you’re far too tough on yourself, what you’re trying to do is hard. Really hard. And it’s not you that’s failing, it’s the alcohol that’s winning.

      Do you want to email me and we could meet again? Even if you’re not ready to stop drinking, we could meet and chat and eat cinnamon buns 🙂 I find meeting people in real life helps- the say after I last drank I met Carrie and looked like a bag of shit and felt terrible but it reminded me that I want sobriety more than I do drinking. – drop me a line x

  16. Lilly January 10, 2014 at 5:43 am #

    I am so proud of you and happy for you. Good for you for being brave enough to front up and go. You took a chance, did something that took real guts, and found yourself in the right place at just the right time – that is amazing.

    And whatever works for you is what’s right for you. (You could also always check out other meetings too if you end up feeling like you need to find one with more women – the ones I checked out were probably 50-50 so it’s not necessarily the status quo everywhere).

    I look forward to hearing more about this new journey of discovery you’re on.

    Lilly xo

  17. Belle January 10, 2014 at 9:30 am #

    hoo-fucking-ray for you 🙂

  18. sobermalarky January 11, 2014 at 9:59 am #

    This is brilliant news, I too remember going through the same feelings. You’ve done a great thing for yourself here! Really well done x

  19. finallygotsomethingtosay January 11, 2014 at 7:48 pm #

    The more things change, the more they stay the same. My first meeting (in 1988) was much like you described. There were about 25 men in flannel shirts. Of course, it was rural Wisconsin, but still. I definitely felt odd. I was 19 years old, and everyone there was middle-aged or older (at least by my definition at the time). But still, when people started to talk, I related. So I kept coming.

    Thank you for taking me back there. It’s so funny, I remember back in early sobriety I thought that if I stayed sober for X amount of years I would be spiritually transformed, and my life would be perfect. The truth is, sobriety doesn’t do that. Sobriety levels the playing field; what you do from there is up to you. I still have problems, and my life isn’t quite as transformed as I might have imagined back then. But I don’t want to drink, and haven’t in years and years. I don’t wake up every day contemplating death. Even on the bad days, I never feel like I felt at 19 years old, newly sober. There’s a lot to be said for that.

    Hang in there. I won’t try to tell you what your path should be. I’ve found little use for that. People find their own paths, no matter what advice or warnings people might throw at them. Do I have my beliefs about what works? Sure. But they’re just that, my beliefs. I hope you find your answers. Keep at it. It doesn’t matter how you describe your Higher Power, as long as you believe there’s something out there that’s greater than you (that wasn’t a problem for me at 19… I believed everyone and everything on earth was greater than I was). At any rate, thank you for sharing. Truly. I need reminders.

    • FitFatFood January 11, 2014 at 10:54 pm #

      Wow this is such a brilliant comment. You have been sober since before I was born, which shows me you’re pretty brilliant at it.

      The higher power idea really clicked, and I hope it continues to. I’m reading the big book slowly and that makes a lot of sense to me too.

      I hated how selfish trying to be sober made me, all that thinking about me and my sobriety, and the ideas in the book have really released that pressure.

      Thanks so much for this comment- it meant a lot x

      • finallygotsomethingtosay January 11, 2014 at 11:32 pm #

        The age thing is slightly terrifying, but I’m a pretty young 44 so I guess I’ll ignore that. 😉

        As for selfishness… I don’t know about you, but drinking left me unable to give anything to anyone. I think of sobriety and the necessary focus on it (especially in early sobriety) as kind of like that rule on airplanes…. Should there be a change in cabin pressure, you put on your OWN oxygen mask before taking care of a child (or anyone else). That’s not selfishness, it’s common sense. If you’re suffering from oxygen deprivation you can’t take care of anyone. Similarly, if you’re drinking, you can’t even take care of yourself, nonetheless those around you. Sobriety is the best thing you can do both for yourself and anyone who loves you.

        One last thing: I am NOT brilliant at being sober. Yes, I got a sponsor. Yes, I worked the steps. Yes, I haven’t had a drink in 24 years. I can see how that would be mind-boggling to you, give your age. But here’s the thing: sobriety (and this is only my opinion) is grace. It’s nothing something I “did,” it’s something I was given. I don’t even know why. I know many, many people who have done all of those things I listed and still relapsed. It’s devastating. I have had former sponsors relapse, friends relapse… it’s always really hard. I am grateful for this piece of grace, but I need you to know that it is grace. Sobriety isn’t something you’re good at. I am not saying meetings, sponsors and the steps aren’t necessity, because I believe they are. But this isn’t a logic problem where A + B = sobriety. If only it were that simple.

        I wish you grace. I’ll be following your journey.


  20. fern January 13, 2014 at 12:51 pm #

    Wow, you took a giant step forward walking through those doors. It was hard for me to begin AA (I can handle things on my own. HA!) But the fellowship really is amazing. For some, like me, it took time to trust and it’s a slow process but worth it to find a new joy. I look forward to following your blog.


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