Finally, Something Nice About AA
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Finally, Something Nice About AA


what are AA meetings likeWith addiction and drug-related deaths at an all time high, being in the field of substance abuse treatment has suddenly become big business. And after 80 years of quietly helping countless alcoholics and addicts recover from a seemingly hopeless state of being, the granddaddy of all 12-step programs has been under more scrutiny and criticism than ever before—mostly from non-addicts, scientists and other people who know little to nothing about how the program works.

All I can say is, jealous much?

A Day in the Life

Since 12-step groups are non-profit and about as far from corrupt as you can get, good press or bad press or no press—it’s all the same to AA. But as an advocate for anything that has helped so many people (and is totally free), I found it nice to see a good, old-fashioned pro-AA piece in the media. Nothing fancy, no claims to be the only or most effective or number one way to get sober, just a tiny snapshot of the program and a glimpse into some of the lives it has saved.

The article, which was written by a non-member who received permission from the group to sit in, describes the setting of the meeting (church basement, of course), the kind of people that attended and the sort of things that they shared about (while respecting each member’s anonymity, of course). The objective of the piece seemed to be to help shatter the common assumption that AA is bunch of lifetime losers who look like they are barely keeping it together as they shakily sip Folgers coffee out of short Styrofoam cups. Are these kind of people sometimes at AA meetings? Absolutely. But they are also sometimes at the movie theatre, at the grocery store or shopping next to you at Target. Does that mean you are going to stop going to those places even if you want to or need something?

The Truth About Members

You want to know who else you will find in an AA meeting? High-level executives, powerful lawyers, Harvard graduates—even the President’s Chief of Staff needs a meeting every now and then (I am obviously talking about Doug Stamper from House of Cards and not Obama’s Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough). Certainly the cast of characters at a 12-step meeting is wholly dependent on the location (Los Angeles vs. Lubbock, TX) but ultimately, the disease of addiction does not discriminate based on gender, race, creed, sexual identity or financial status and since AA works for a lot of people, you will see a variety of people from all walks of life there.

But more than “hey look, we aren’t all freaks,” I wish that the article touched on the fact that while yes, many AA members have colorful and outrageous stories about their drinking and drugging careers, many do not. As much as there is a general consensus that alcoholics are a bunch of borderline homeless people, there is the same commonly held idea that someone has to have gotten a DUI, been arrested, woken up in a foreign country or came to after a black out in a wedding dress on the altar in order to qualify. This simply is not the case. There are plenty of members who joined 12-step because they felt like their lives were unmanageable due to their use. This can be as simple as coming to work hung over too many times and not knowing how to stop it or using rent money to buy coke once. While these aren’t the most exciting stories in the world, they are bottoms for the people who had them and it would be nice for the world to know that you don’t have to lose a job, crash your car or overdose to be a candidate for a life beyond your wildest dreams (aka sobriety! Sorry, I am feeling super cheerleadery today).

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About Author

Danielle Stewart is a Los Angeles-based writer and recovering comedian. She has written for Showtime, E!, and MTV, as well as print publications such as Us Weekly and Life & Style Magazine. She returned to school and is currently working her way towards a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. She loves coffee, Law & Order SVU, and her emotional support dog, Benson.