The first AA meeting I remember going to was with my mom when I was about 5. I’m sure there were others when I was younger. My mom went through the backdoor of AA into Al-Anon, but spent quite a number of years in AA first.
She went to AA because she didn’t know about Al-Anon and she was married to a raging alcoholic in active addiction… my dad. She drank a bit along the way, but she was a black belt co-dependent. I learned from the best! lol
I started drinking at 15. I had a pretty normal drinking career for a teenager. I loved the feeling! A kid with PTSD, anxiety, low self-esteem and the start of bipolar disorder, having a drink that removed ALL of that was amazing! That sentence was the key. I drank heavily at periods in my life because I was self-medicating conditions which weren’t yet treated.
My first AA meeting was in San Jose, California a few months after my 21st birthday. My boyfriend at the time got his 3rd DUI with a resisting arrest charge tagged on. I went to a meeting to support him. I got a sponsor and worked the steps. Not drinking wasn’t an issue at all. In working the steps, I began to learn about myself and started the long process of my therapeutic healing. I was 25 before I had a drink again.
That relationship had ended, quite badly I must admit, for a variety of reasons. Mostly, we didn’t like each other! How it lasted that I long, I will never be able to fully explain. Low self-esteem was the main ingredient in staying in that relationship.
My high school friends had all gone off in different directions. We were far apart and had little to nothing in common by that time, so I ended up spending time with a girl I knew as a kid. Our moms were friends from the program. R is a pretty messed up individual. She went through a lot and never got any help for it… so she partied and made all the same mistakes her mom did. Very sad. Hanging out with her, I drank. A LOT! I can’t say I didn’t have fun. I did. I had a lot of fun for the short time I did it. We stayed friends for many years, but I stopped hanging out with her much because our lifestyles were so different.
During that party period of my life, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I started treatment. The insane trial of medication regimes that never worked quite right and side effects that were worse than the symptoms they were meant to treat on top of serious therapy. I started off in a 4 hour a day, 3 days a week outpatient treatment program. I struggled for many years with medication compliance. A VERY common thing for those of us with bipolar disorder!
Lithium mixed with alcohol can be deadly, so I stopped drinking again. Once again, stopping and staying stopped was NEVER an issue for me. I didn’t have cravings. I’ve never experienced the insanity of trying to find my next drink, hiding, all of the things typically associated with any addiction. Alcohol complicated my life because I only drank when I was unmedicated and I was out of control.
I’ve spent many years in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. I’ve had many sponsors over the years and worked the steps more times than I can count. My longest period of sobriety was 13 years. I’ve had good years and bad. Sobriety itself was easy for me. LIVING isn’t. lol
Growing up in a family full of addiction and mental illness running through multiple generations on both sides, I missed the guide on how to live. You know, the things people who grow up in healthy (relatively speaking) families just know. I didn’t know how to do feelings. I didn’t know what real friendship was or that boundaries were a thing that actually happened outside of a therapy office. I missed a whole bunch of literal life skills, like budgeting for instance, because my mom was too busy in survival mode to teach me. I was supposed to learn all of my life skills through osmosis because she did them while I was in the house.
When I went to AA, I found people who were willing to slow down and teach me things and hold my hand when I was afraid and love me even when I was really crazy! The most loving thing anyone ever said to me was when a guy I ran around with all the time said, “You’re a fucking nutball, Jodicey, but I love you!” as he wrapped his arms around me. It was in the rooms of AA that I found total acceptance. I also learned responsibility for my actions and how to love and be a friend. I stayed sober in the rooms of AA not because I battled with alcohol or its effects in my life, but because I found a family… a place where I was safe! Not drinking and calling myself an alcoholic was a good trade off to be loved and accepted.
AA saved my life for different reasons than most who go. I got everything I needed to succeed in the world as a functioning adult… even with a mental illness. Ultimately, I stopped going because I’m not an alcoholic. I was lying to people who loved me so I’d fit in. I miss the comradery of the fellowship and a place to go any time, any place where I instantly fit if I just feel like being with people.
One of the hardest parts of being involved with AA is once you’re known there, you can rarely be seen as a normie again by anyone who knew you. This saddens me, as I know others like myself, who needed help for a time and then found they can drink like a gentleman.
I still work everyday at keeping my co-dependency under wraps. I work versions of the steps on an almost daily basis to help me stay sane. lol I don’t just mean in my bipolar and anxious ways! Act rather than react. Check my motives. KISS (keep it simple, stupid). Practicing HALT. Am I hungry, angry, lonely or tired? Do something about those basic needs before I act on anything else. Fairly simple stuff. (They just happen to help the mood stuff, too.)
I have a drink now and then. I may even tie one on periodically. There is alcohol in my home at all times which is far less tempting than the box of ice cream bars in the freezer! lol I take my medication daily, as prescribed. I have an active life with responsibilities, friends, and more balance than I thought possible for many years.
The intent of this post is NOT to discourage sobriety to have anyone question their own need for sobriety. It’s simply MY personal experience. I gained a lot, though it cured a different symptom than what I went for.