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  #1  
Old 08-07-2010, 12:27 PM
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Default Thoughts On The 12 Steps And Recovery In Our Society Today

For a number of years all I could do where sobriety was concerned was make it for a few months at a time before relapsing. That went on for more than 23 years; drinking, smoking pot, smoking crack, shooting meth, coke, heroin, dropping acid, and eating pills. I partook of all those substances at one point or another and there was a time when I didnít think Iíd ever have the 3 years and 5 months of sobriety that I do now. Things changed when my willingness to stay sober became stronger.

There had to come a point when I became willing to cut myself loose from all the drama that goes on within many 12 step groups and programs. Working the steps and living a life of sobriety is one thing, but the truth is many people who are involved in A.A., N.A., and Overcomers have other motives for being there. Sobriety and a relationship with God or a higher power take a backseat to getting laid, finding a girl friend, finding business contacts, hanging out with the boys, social events like dances or weekend retreats, and kicking it for an hour or so at a group. There are many who would argue that point, but in the 25 years that I have been around these 3 programs the people who do well where sobriety is concerned are the ones who focus on working the steps and working with others for the sake of sobriety itself, not becoming engrossed in all the other activities or possibilities which are not a part of the 12 steps. I didnít go there to find a soul mate, I went there because I couldnít stop drinking and sticking a needle in my arm. If abstinence and sobriety are the most important things in my life for the sake of staying alive and out of prison then, I have to keep it real regarding what I do when Iím at a meeting or interacting with someone in the program.

It took a long time for me to realize that where romance is concerned among those of us with addictive personalities, we are too much alike in the wrong way. Often times we react to problems and struggle with them in the same manner. For whatever reason, it proves to be that we are not good for each other on that level. Iíve been in several relationships with women who are members of 12 step programs and inevitably we broke up under some of the hardest circumstances Iíve ever endured. Those experiences have taught me a lesson that I am very serious about today and that is, I donít date or become intimate with someone in the program. Iím there to stay sober; Iím not there to get laid.

As a result, I go to more menís meetings and make it a point to stay away from groups that are meat markets or body shops for dating and hooking up than havens of recovery and a place where I can become closer to God which is where I need to be. When members of a group within a 12 step program become the focal point or higher power to another member, itís usually done so because an individual cannot identify with God. The group is their higher power and as a result, it puts an emphasis on people being first in their life and God second. There has to come a point when that changes. God is God and people are people, but people are not Gods. Only God is God. Many of us who start out in the program obviously have a problem with God since we canít stay sober on our own or of our own efforts where allowing Him to work in our lives is concerned. Thatís why the steps are so powerful and effective. They give us a process or a manner of living that bridges the gap and makes what was impossible to do, possible. It takes time, a good sponsor, self discipline in sticking to the program, and staying focused on achieving the goal of sobriety. The program works, but it works a certain way.



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Old 08-07-2010, 03:50 PM
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well put! congrats on makin it work! my own peace of mind and to know today is not judgement day and i am not the judge, it takes all kinds to make the world go round is what i have to come back to.
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Old 08-28-2010, 12:46 PM
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I have used the 12 steps to stay sober for many years, without it I would be dead. Myself, I go to the original group or to the women's closed meetings because i so badly want to pop that lil girl in the mouth who keeps popping her gum in the back of the room.
I have seen people date and actually marry within the groups I have attended. I say whatever floats your boat but myself I don't see hooking up with another drunk because then there would be another person I would have to worry about staying sober...and believe me I have enough to worry about within myself.
Anyway, good post Firebrand. I think the meetings I hate the most are the one's court ordered and these people take the meetings as jokes. It's useless to try to go to them and even more chaotic trying to leave because they swarm the door getting out so they can get to their next party.
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Old 08-28-2010, 02:59 PM
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You said it Firebrand. Like anything to do with making positive change in one's life, it works if YOU work it and don't allow yourself to get sidetracked by other people's perceived 'agendas'. Being honest about one's own intentions and concentrating on working the steps and traditions will keep you taking one day at a time, one step at a time... KISS..........
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Old 08-28-2010, 03:44 PM
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I appreciate the kind words and thoughts. It took a long time to get honest about why I couldn't stay sober for so long, but I once I did my life began to change for the better. I can see from all of you that there is truth in this and it's from people like you that I learned how to live a good life instead of the one that almost killed me.
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Old 09-08-2010, 09:59 AM
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It seems you are working an honest program.
Congratulations on your continued sobriety.
I had 14 months clean and sober, then drank again the end of May for a week, and as hard as it was i got back centered on my program.
When i tried to get sober when i was younger i had alot of trouble with people 13 stepping me, and i was so insecure i let them. I wanted so badly to be loved.
Now i am there for one reason only, i want sobriety and i want Spiritual Growth. Well, thats two reasons.
When i was introduced to the concept of A God of My Understanding, then wonderful things began happening.
I try and stay away from defining God, I just know God Is and Is a Gentle Powerful Force...I have felt It's presence...when you feel It, you KNOW it. I have been most fortunate that i can say i understand the saying, "Be Still And Know I AM."
The 12 Steps have given me a wonderful guideline to face anything that can come up in a day.
They provide a place of sanity within the storm of insanity that seems to whirl around us.
Its like after having gotten so lost in the world, you are given a map to find where it is you want to go.
Most importantly, it was Spirit that came to Bill W. and freed him of his alcoholism, and from him that Spirit has touched one soul after another to what i believe is now millions of sober alcoholics and addicts.
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Old 09-08-2010, 11:33 PM
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Beautifully said, SpicaRigel. I appreciate your honesty and what you've shared. It means alot hearing this from someone who's been at for awhile. God bless you, my sister in sobriety.
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Old 09-09-2010, 12:25 PM
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Just a question if I may, for anyone who is comfortable commenting about their experience of working toward sobriety during incarceration. As one of the fundamental principles of 12 step programmes such as AA and NA is anonymity, is it reasonable to expect confidentiality among other inmates in the group? Is the 'what is said here, stays here' commitment (generally) honoured and respected in addiction recovery groups inside?
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Old 09-09-2010, 03:33 PM
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Hmm...it's supposed to be no matter where you are, but....I don't know. I've been to A.A. meetings in prison that were taken with seriousness and I've also been involved in meetings where people weren't for real at all. It just depends. Some guys are serious about their recovery in there and some go to meetings just to get out of their cells. There are those too who go to meetings inorder to take care of gang activities and cross talk that will ruin a group if something isn't done to stop them. It can get out of hand. A.A. in prison is something that is up and down. It's a difficult venture to keep a group or meetings on an even keel very long it seems like. Without strong leadership from a freeworld volunteer there are many A.A.groups in prison that don't make it very long.
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Old 09-10-2010, 02:32 AM
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Hmm...it's supposed to be no matter where you are, but....I don't know. I've been to A.A. meetings in prison that were taken with seriousness and I've also been involved in meetings where people weren't for real at all. It just depends. Some guys are serious about their recovery in there and some go to meetings just to get out of their cells. There are those too who go to meetings inorder to take care of gang activities and cross talk that will ruin a group if something isn't done to stop them. It can get out of hand. A.A. in prison is something that is up and down. It's a difficult venture to keep a group or meetings on an even keel very long it seems like. Without strong leadership from a freeworld volunteer there are many A.A.groups in prison that don't make it very long.

Thanks Firebrand
Do AA meetings in prison include volunteers from the outside? Does it make a difference? As AA is a programme that is by design without 'leadership' (except perhaps a 'chair' for the meeting) how is the integrity of the group maintained? Part of me thinks that if one wants help for their addiction they will attend AA mtgs regardless of where/when/how but on the other hand I question whether attending a self help group where some members may have nefarious motives for attending, confidentiality is not respected and information may be 'traded' or used against the person on the range, may infact be counterproductive, even dangerous....?
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Old 09-10-2010, 12:02 PM
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There has to be a volunteer present to chair a meeting or it doesn’t happen. If a free world volunteer doesn't show up let’s say for example, the 7 p.m. A.A. meeting held on Tuesday night at a Texas prison facility like Dawson State Jail in Dallas which is the last place in prison that I attended meetings, then all the prisoners had to go back to their dorms. It a violation of Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) policy for a group of inmates to hold any organized activities in an unsupervised setting without some type of staff or free world volunteer approved oversight.

Aside from that, you have to bear in mind that sobriety does not have the same sense of urgency as a priority within prison that it does out here in the free world and because of that there is a great need for someone on the outside to bring the message or the true spirit of A.A. to men and women in prison. Many of us out here in the free world go to A.A. to avoid going to or returning to a place like prison for the sake of freedom, but for those who are already in prison it’s a different mind set. They’re faced with the dilemma of “what do I have to do in order to make it out there once I am released” or “can I stay sober once I get out?”.
Most of us already knew we had a serious problem with alcohol and or drugs a long time before prison came along.

In terms of “reaching a bottom” that is required in order to submit to the 12 steps, people who are in prison are faced with several months or years of remaining in a state of limbo that is an extreme example of what it means to hit bottom because of how long they’re in there before getting out. Emotionally, they don’t have the support system to work with in there often times needed to grow. A lot of seeds are planted where the A.A. message is concerned, but the rain or love needed to help it grow is in short supply. You’re alone in there even when there are hundreds or thousands of other men around you.

It’s a hard thing to say, but many men who go to A.A. meetings in prison will often times say what they think others want to hear for the sake of approval or being the center of attention when they speak on a topic for 1-2 minutes. It’s a chance to have some one pay attention to them if only for just a moment. There are days, weeks, possibly even months in prison where you find that the only time someone speaks to you is when they want something from you in terms of food items or commissary items that cost money or they speak to you because they’re mad at you and it has to do with control issues or power. I wasn’t well liked among everyone that I did time with in prison because often times I saw beyond all that and I wouldn’t let other people run over me.

Do people break the anonymity aspect of meetings by not respecting “what you hear here stays here”? Yes, they do. You have to be careful about what you say in A.A. meetings in prison. People have other ulterior motives for being at meetings besides gang related activities like doing drug deals, selling cigarettes, passing weapons and that sort of thing. It happens all the time.

Every prison facility is different. TDCJ i.d. units are better ran and than places like Dawson State Jail in Dallas. Dawson is a private prison ran by CCA (Corrections Corp. Of America) and it’s about as ghetto as it gets. If you look up the word “ghetto” in a dictionary, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a picture of Dawson State Jail right beside it. Enough of that.


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Old 09-10-2010, 03:07 PM
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[quote=Firebrand;5651814]There has to be a volunteer present to chair a meeting or it doesn’t happen. If a free world volunteer doesn't show up let’s say for example, the 7 p.m. A.A. meeting held on Tuesday night at a Texas prison facility like Dawson State Jail in Dallas which is the last place in prison that I attended meetings, then all the prisoners had to go back to their dorms. It a violation of Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) policy for a group of inmates to hold any organized activities in an unsupervised setting without some type of staff or free world volunteer approved oversight.

Aside from that, you have to bear in mind that sobriety does not have the same sense of urgency as a priority within prison that it does out here in the free world and because of that there is a great need for someone on the outside to bring the message or the true spirit of A.A. to men and women in prison. Many of us out here in the free world go to A.A. to avoid going to or returning to a place like prison for the sake of freedom, but for those who are already in prison it’s a different mind set. They’re faced with the dilemma of “what do I have to do in order to make it out there once I am released” or “can I stay sober once I get out?”.
Most of us already knew we had a serious problem with alcohol and or drugs a long time before prison came along.

In terms of “reaching a bottom” that is required in order to submit to the 12 steps, people who are in prison are faced with several months or years of remaining in a state of limbo that is an extreme example of what it means to hit bottom because of how long they’re in there before getting out. Emotionally, they don’t have the support system to work with in there often times needed to grow. A lot of seeds are planted where the A.A. message is concerned, but the rain or love needed to help it grow is in short supply. You’re alone in there even when there are hundreds or thousands of other men around you.

It’s a hard thing to say, but many men who go to A.A. meetings in prison will often times say what they think others want to hear for the sake of approval or being the center of attention when they speak on a topic for 1-2 minutes. It’s a chance to have some one pay attention to them if only for just a moment. There are days, weeks, possibly even months in prison where you find that the only time someone speaks to you is when they want something from you in terms of food items or commissary items that cost money or they speak to you because they’re mad at you and it has to do with control issues or power. I wasn’t well liked among everyone that I did time with in prison because often times I saw beyond all that and I wouldn’t let other people run over me.

Do people break the anonymity aspect of meetings by not respecting “what you hear here stays here”? Yes, they do. You have to be careful about what you say in A.A. meetings in prison. People have other ulterior motives for being at meetings besides gang related activities like doing drug deals, selling cigarettes, passing weapons and that sort of thing. It happens all the time.

Every prison facility is different. TDCJ i.d. units are better ran and than places like Dawson State Jail in Dallas. Dawson is a private prison ran by CCA (Corrections Corp. Of America) and it’s about as ghetto as it gets. If you look up the word “ghetto” in a dictionary, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a picture of Dawson State Jail right beside it. Enough of that.
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Old 09-10-2010, 03:10 PM
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Thank you Firebrand for sharing your candid insights of prison life and the issues pertaining to A.A. within the walls. Your comments have stimulated considerable thought and more questions then I had realized I had. Thank you very much.....
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Old 09-14-2010, 10:10 AM
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I would like to share a little about what my husband has shared with me while incarcerated...

When we met and married 13 years ago, I knew there were issues...alcohol & drugs. We went through that period where I wanted so badly to change him and ultimately coming to the realization that I couldn't help him, unless he wanted to help himself.

Fast forward to April 2009 when he first went into the NC DOC system, where he has a little over 7 months to go...and since then has attended AA, 2x a week...I think at first it was a distraction for him to get out of the dorm twice a week. Within a month, his thoughts began to change and I could tell a difference in the way he viewed the meetings. Now he is the class president and head speaker along with the community sponsor that comes in and truly enjoys the meetings.

It is very easy for him right now, because he is not exposed to the day to day struggle of choosing not to have that drink...The hard part will be when he comes home...Thanks for listening!
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Old 09-14-2010, 01:33 PM
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No one really knows what any one of us will do when we get out in terms of learning from the past or living in it all over again. The thing that I see as a good sign of change is when someone like your loved one makes the effort while they're in there to do something constructive with their time and apply it to bettering themself when they get out.
There are many who just bide their time or find a way to stay in trouble while confined, but for those who make the effort to change for the better, the future out here in the free world looks much brighter than for those who don't. It's very important to face your inner demons while incarcerated because if you don't all you've done where prison is concerned more less looks like a break or a vacation you took to get rested up for more heartache and hardships to bear out here upon release. I wish the both of you the best in the future.
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Old 09-14-2010, 05:45 PM
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Thank you for your insight. My son is attending NA meetings while in prison, but says that most of the inmates are there for a break and don't take it seriously. He still goes, but I think he is frustrated that there isn't more involvement. He would really like a sponsor, but that's also hard to do when you're incarcerated. He's written to NA several times inquiring about Sponsorship Behind The Walls, but hasn't received any response from them. Is a sponsor important when you're in prison and, if so, how can you go about finding one who is willing to correspond by mail? Thanks for anything you can offer - and congratulations on your 3 plus years of sobriety.
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Old 09-15-2010, 10:07 AM
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In regards to the 12 steps in relation to our society today, i became very aware of the spiritual conflict between Muslims and Christians as the anniversay of 9/11 approached...very strong opinions everywhere.
AA states we stay out of public controversy.
The 12 steps have given me the insight to realize its not important what other people believe, thats their right to believe whatever they want.
It also says we are a program of attraction, not promotion.
So many people think that have to convert others to their religion, to "save their souls"...
The 12 steps remind me daily that i need to focus on me and what needs to be fixed in me...not in the world around me.
...after all...That's in God's department isnt it?
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Old 09-15-2010, 02:18 PM
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I very much agree. One of the best sponsors I've ever had in A.A. is a native of Iran and Muslim by faith. I haven't seen him now in about 4 years, but he knew how to reach me in a way that many could not where sobriety was concerned. I've been an Episcopalian all my life and Fred always encouraged me to continue going to church and tke hold of the spiritual gains afforded me.
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Old 09-17-2010, 12:47 PM
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Hey Fireband, your post caught my eye because I myself was ocne an addict, I stress once...why because that is something that comes into someone exisitance only once. However many of us relapse we are still once an addict. The struggle many have is staying sober. I did not like A.A. and N.A. meetings because mostly every one bragged on how that got here stuff and how much they came up on. That only made me want to go out after the meetins. I did not like the useof sponsers or being one. Had one bad experience and like the first time I picked up (that itself was a bad experience) I gave up on all the so-called worldly in those rooms advice. When i was totally ready to stop I did so and everyday of it was easier for me even when time got shacky and rough I made it with picking up. I been through many recovery center mostly the ones fro women and children and they all sound the same things to one degree or another. I learned early on to take what applied and store the rest for later. Like today what I did not use in the beginning I learning to use today. I have just recieved my certificate in Human Services and one course away from my AA in Human Services. Going on fro my AA in Alcohol and Drug Studies. My goal is to be a Alcohol and Drug Counselor.
Although my personal opnion on rehab or recovery seems contradicting in my view it is the prime factor why I chosen to become a counselor. My experince wont get my the job I seek and I want to give back that that was given freely to me. The entire world of recovery needs a major over haul. Alot of upgrading and the fisrt place (one of the places) it need to start is in the prison system that has only become a revolving door. Inmates convicted of drug related crimes only get some detox time and then they return to the streetshaving no where to call home and no job training or skills. The prisons are all warehouses mena nd women alike have to chose to get their life back because the system only steal it away and each time they are sent to prison anothe rpart of their life is destoryed. Mostly because each time one goes back to prison they lose family and friends taht get tried and who cares.
I wish to close on this note...recovery and rehab starts with S.E.L.F self worth, self esteem, self respect, self LOVE, without it there is no recovery for oneself.
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Originally Posted by Firebrand View Post
For a number of years all I could do where sobriety was concerned was make it for a few months at a time before relapsing. That went on for more than 23 years; drinking, smoking pot, smoking crack, shooting meth, coke, heroin, dropping acid, and eating pills. I partook of all those substances at one point or another and there was a time when I didnít think Iíd ever have the 3 years and 5 months of sobriety that I do now. Things changed when my willingness to stay sober became stronger.

There had to come a point when I became willing to cut myself loose from all the drama that goes on within many 12 step groups and programs. Working the steps and living a life of sobriety is one thing, but the truth is many people who are involved in A.A., N.A., and Overcomers have other motives for being there. Sobriety and a relationship with God or a higher power take a backseat to getting laid, finding a girl friend, finding business contacts, hanging out with the boys, social events like dances or weekend retreats, and kicking it for an hour or so at a group. There are many who would argue that point, but in the 25 years that I have been around these 3 programs the people who do well where sobriety is concerned are the ones who focus on working the steps and working with others for the sake of sobriety itself, not becoming engrossed in all the other activities or possibilities which are not a part of the 12 steps. I didnít go there to find a soul mate, I went there because I couldnít stop drinking and sticking a needle in my arm. If abstinence and sobriety are the most important things in my life for the sake of staying alive and out of prison then, I have to keep it real regarding what I do when Iím at a meeting or interacting with someone in the program.

It took a long time for me to realize that where romance is concerned among those of us with addictive personalities, we are too much alike in the wrong way. Often times we react to problems and struggle with them in the same manner. For whatever reason, it proves to be that we are not good for each other on that level. Iíve been in several relationships with women who are members of 12 step programs and inevitably we broke up under some of the hardest circumstances Iíve ever endured. Those experiences have taught me a lesson that I am very serious about today and that is, I donít date or become intimate with someone in the program. Iím there to stay sober; Iím not there to get laid.

As a result, I go to more menís meetings and make it a point to stay away from groups that are meat markets or body shops for dating and hooking up than havens of recovery and a place where I can become closer to God which is where I need to be. When members of a group within a 12 step program become the focal point or higher power to another member, itís usually done so because an individual cannot identify with God. The group is their higher power and as a result, it puts an emphasis on people being first in their life and God second. There has to come a point when that changes. God is God and people are people, but people are not Gods. Only God is God. Many of us who start out in the program obviously have a problem with God since we canít stay sober on our own or of our own efforts where allowing Him to work in our lives is concerned. Thatís why the steps are so powerful and effective. They give us a process or a manner of living that bridges the gap and makes what was impossible to do, possible. It takes time, a good sponsor, self discipline in sticking to the program, and staying focused on achieving the goal of sobriety. The program works, but it works a certain way.


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Old 10-10-2010, 10:54 PM
donnal donnal is offline
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My son has been in and out of rehab several times and also tried AA seriously several times. He is currently incarcerated and he is happy to be clean and sober and serious about not wanting to use again once out, but...he has become sort of soured on AA in general and says he does not plan on attending AA once free again.

His AA experience led him to feel that some of the people tend to be pretty zealous about things, and he feels it really overly religious in nature. Which, he is very spiritual and believes in god but he likes to interpret things his own way and finds it off-putting when too much emphasis is put on a christian interpretation of things in the context of AA. I don't know exactly how to explain it but for anyone who has attended AA some, you probably know what I mean whether you agree with his opinion or not.

I don't know if anyone here may have had this same experience and then "come around" to AA again - I know I can't convince him, it has to come from himself. But I also know that when he was in AA and really working his program it was going great. So I wonder how he might try AA again, give it a fair chance, maybe approaching it a little differently this time? I think before he jumped in TOO enthusiastically, like going multiple times a day, just overboard sort of.

How do you find a good balance and how do you accept the parts of the program that you may not find entirely palatable?

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Old 10-11-2010, 01:09 AM
allmb allmb is offline
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Good post Firebrand,

I first attended AA in 1978; probably one of the very first court ordered. My home group consisted on 21 members 18 of whom had twenty years or more and six had over 30 years - in 1978! It was definately old school AA. It was an open discussion and we'd go around the room. It would go something like this:

My name is Mike and I'm an alcoholic, pass.

My name is Joe and I'm an alcoholic. Just glad to be here today.

My name is Frank and I'm an alcoholic, I'll pass.

My name is Angel and oh my God, what a week I've had... and I'd go on for five minutes or so...

followed by...

My name is Joe and when that happens to me I don't drink, go to meetings and work the steps. Thanks, that's all I've got.

My name is Peter and I'm sorry about your week Angel. When that happens to me I don't drink, I go to meetings and I work the steps. That's all for me.

My name is Charles and boy, have I had some weeks like that in sobriety. What I do when I have a week like that is... you know the rest. All the way around the room it would go till it got back to me and I'd wail, "But you don't understand!!!!" And then I'd go on for another five minutes or so after which I'd get a round table of:

"My name is Joe and I'm an alcoholic. I think I understand better what you are saying now Angel. When that happens to me I don't drink, I go to meetings and I work the steps. Thanks, that's all I got."

I wanted to kill them on a regular basis. But I didn't drink.

I moved away and came back twenty years later and went to a meeting and lo and behold I couldn't find anyone with over twenty years anywhere. The face of AA has changed and while it still works for some people, I've found that those most of us who had a taste of old time AA never adapted.

I don't go to meetings today; it works for me. But I've got a lot of twenty-four hours strung together now. I'd be reluctant to advise someone to choose another path early on in sobriety but there are other paths.
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