A friend of mine I met years ago through the ether admitted she was dealing with some ambivalence about AA. She said:
It seems like you’re not allowed to just “take a break” from AA if you can’t figure out what its function is in your life. I owe every single thing I have to the steps and AA. I would have no good things if recovery hadn’t been at the core and the forefront of my life. And I know this, and that’s what I struggle with. How does recovery change for us? Where should it go?
Since starting this blog I’ve encountered this question a bunch of times in different ways. Another reader talked about the question of how to find new ways of growing after spending a long time in recovery:
to me it is strange how addiction science and medical science in general knows all about the phenomenon of tolerance—wherein treatments (or dosages) lose effectiveness over time. yet when it comes to the exploding population of addicts with long-term sobriety, there is often little effort to reach beyond the obvious—go to more meetings, work the steps harder—for possible new paths to growth or survival. i have seen old timers drink, briefly, just to recapture that hope they had as newcomers.
I’m tempted here to mention how much “time” these people have, whether or not they’ve “gone out and come back” or whether they’ve had a huge amount of continuous sobriety—some of those seemingly indelible marks, like brands burned into us, that in 12-step groups for addictions people often use to track others’ credibility.
(Are you wondering these things? Would it change your view of what these people said if you knew how much “time” they have, or whether they’ve “gone out” at some point?)
My Unofficial Home Group
I go to a meeting at a university that isn’t an official meeting. It isn’t in the meeting list. We don’t take up a collection, we don’t contribute to the local, regional or world-services offices, we don’t have a group representative and don’t participate in the running of the local office. But there’s “real” recovery going on at this meeting, and I consider it one of my home groups.
“I love this meeting,” people say, and they bring other people to it the next week.
More and more people are hearing about this meeting (this is what happens with healthy meetings where there’s recovery that’s alive) and we’re growing out of the little tiny space. We might have to hold a group conscience to figure out what to do about it.
Are we “allowed” to go to this group? Are we “allowed” to think of it as a home group?
Are we “allowed” to have more than one home group?
The principles say no, but I do anyway; are we “wrong”? Are we hurting the fellowship?
(Am I being a “taker”?)
I know a number of people who go out and come back, go out and come back. Is it a possibility that some people might be able to abstain for a long time, while other people will wind up going out and coming back?
Are we “allowed” to keep going out, coming back, going out, coming back?
Are we “allowed” to take breaks away from meetings?
When have you felt censored or judged in meetings? How do you respond to that?