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[ Opinion ] [ Personal Narratives ]

5 Things I Learned From Attending AA (From a Non Alcoholic)

By: Nick In’t Hout

My name is Nick. I’m not an alcoholic and I have never attended an in patient alcohol treatment, but I did learn something from Attending AA last week with a friend. As someone fascinated with successful organizations and transformational communities, has always intrigued me. I wasn’t disappointed. Here are a few things I learned from Attending AA:

1) The gathering is called the daily attitude adjustment meeting. This is brilliant — there’s a community who calls people (daily) to view there life as a gift and adjust their tendency to be cynical, self-loathing, hopeless, and discouraged. The group was committed to honest assessments of their lives, working through their own list of bull shit excuses about not changing and inviting others to do the same — this was very appealing.

2) There’s a clear and strong liturgy that everyone is aware of (except first timers— one of the members noticed me and served as a guide through the morning’s activities, even finding a place for me to sit): an opening prayer, assigned readings from the Big Book, an opening testimony, a few assigned testimonies, and then an open floor and a closing prayer. Each of the elements supported the overarching story: we are powerless over our addiction and in need of help. Even with all the spontaneous testimony, the meeting began on time and ended on time, and participants kept their sharing to under 3 minutes. Respecting people’s time gave the gathering greater integrity.

3) The process for change was talked about often and the 12 steps to recovery were clear, I am assuming they learned this at a in patient alcohol treatment (they were hanging above the speaker). If I was an alcoholic, I would know what recovery required — what was less clear, was where I’d go today if I wanted help. Who would I talk to? Where would my immediate next step be? I’m assuming most guests are invited by a friend and would follow up with them about getting a sponsor — but this wasn’t clear to me.

4) As a first timer, having coffee and donuts in my hand made me feel comfortable. It’s the red Solo cup phenomenon that college students experience — there must be something about carrying food or a beverage among new people that reduces anxiety. Maybe this is why movie theaters can charge $15 for popcorn — it helps break the awkwardness of snuggling up next to strangers.

5) We reviewed the organizational principles. All of them. I don’t remember them all, but I thought it was fascinating that we took time to do this. Again, there was a no bs approach when it came to why we were there or what the goal was. Property ownership, political allegiance, financial ties aren’t why AA exists as the next step after in patient alcohol treatment and those present aren’t interested in self-promotion. I found this clarity and commitment to their mission refreshing.

Overall, I found the gathering inspirational and encouraging. Guests are always welcome at meetings and can be found by visiting the website.