How I Justified Not Needing AA
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How I Justified Not Needing AA


“Maybe I don’t need this any more,” I said to myself out loud in the parking lot of a Los Angeles church. It was 7:30 on a Monday evening and I had just walked out of a women’s meeting; I felt disconnected, uncomfortable and like I didn’t belong in that room.

Many times I had listened to other alcoholics share about what had eventually become their indefinite leave of absence from AA—the disease whispering such absurdities as: “Meetings are useless with enough sobriety in your pocket.”

Given how active I had been in my program since the very first day, I always assumed that the voice wouldn’t dare to whisper in my ear like a malevolent, fucked up Jiminy Cricket.

“I’m not stupid,” I’d silently brag. “I won’t make the same mistake.” I heavily judged those who had drifted away and taken the gift of sobriety for granted.

I knew that I owed my new life to the program and to the tools I’d learned along the way—like having a sense of accountability within the community or simply telling the truth.

Life has been really good lately. My boyfriend is also a sober alcoholic, we have just moved in together and I even quit smoking. But, even though I only have a little over two years of sobriety, I recently traveled extensively and in that time went to only a handful of meetings. I justified the low attendance with how busy and rich my schedule had suddenly become.

I knew that not calling my sponsor for two weeks in the midst of my step work wasn’t wise yet I discarded the symptoms of alcoholism the same way I usually ignore the early signs that I’m getting a cold. And so I then let myself get even more isolated from AA, allowing the emotional distance to grow wider.

“I’ve got this,” I firmly concluded. “I’m not going to drink and I need a break from sharing experience, strength and hope and listening to people read ‘How It Works.’”

Weeks went by, and I moved to a new neighborhood quite far from my regular meetings so I stopped going altogether. The last one I attended was a 90-minute one and I wanted to leave after barely half an hour.

A few days ago—while driving on the 101 in rush hour—I felt irritable, discontent for no apparent reason and somewhat craving material stuff to give me an added value; a shopping spree sounded like an appealing way to temporarily feel whole again. I shared the feeling with my sponsor—who I had finally resolved to call—and admitted that I had contemplated a drink and a binge.

“You know, Alice, when you feel disconnected in AA, it’s usually because you are,” she said. She didn’t judge, but simply asked when I had last been to a meeting.

“The last one was 10 days ago,” I admitted.

Timing working the way it does, shortly after the conversation, two overwhelming and frightening obstacles appeared on the near horizon. Without stopping to pause, I exploded and went for the default road: in excruciating pain, I switched to self-pity mode and slept for 15 hours. I threatened my relationship with a man who loves me deeply and—driven by fear—behaved childishly and hurt him and myself. I had become the old Alice and discarded as useless all the principles that had been carrying me this far.

Fear soon became rage. All I could think of was that nobody had been calling me to find out how I was doing; people hadn’t asked me why, lately, I hadn’t been in the rooms. Most of the women that I believed were friends and companions at my regular meetings—meetings that had become difficult to reach because of distance and traffic—weren’t acknowledging my absence. I concluded they didn’t care about me.

To be honest, I had not called them either, but why, I asked myself, was I supposed to be the one keeping the relationships alive?

Then I thought: how could I possibly believe in a power greater than myself when my immigration status was at risk and my professional aspirations had not yet yielded the career I deserved? How was I supposed to daily recite the Third Step Prayer when all I wanted to do was scream at a God above that, for all I could see, he had betrayed me one more time?

I seemed to completely have forgotten to what extent I had always been taken care of.

I am currently working on Step Three—probing daily my levels of willingness to open the door on faith. Relying upon God is not exactly my primary instinct.

I have also recently committed to going to 30 meetings in 30 days to reconnect and gain perspective, rise above the present moment and trust the bigger picture.

I don’t know how long it will take and how things will turn out—if, for example, I’ll ever get the professional reward I impatiently and jealously crave. However, as of today, though I’ve been irritable and very depressed, I haven’t taken a drink or gotten high; I haven’t binged and thrown up and I haven’t cut myself. I slept my pain away for two days when I knew picking up the phone was a better solution and did some shopping, but hey, I needed new jeans. And it’s all okay. I’m a huge advocate of progress and not perfection, however slow that progress may sometimes seem.

Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Productions for RKO Radio Pictures (Trailer for the film) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (resized and cropped)

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About Author

Alice Carbone Tench is a writer and journalist based in Los Angeles. A former translator and interpreter from Turin, Italy, Alice moved to Los Angeles in 2010 and worked as a journalist and foreign correspondent for several Italian magazines, among which Vanity Fair, the Italian news agency ANSA and the online magazine Fine Dining Lovers. In 2011 she started a blog, Wonderland Mag, to share the American experience with her Italian friends, but the blog soon became something more, the source material for a book. Her debut novel, The Sex Girl, was published by Rare Bird Books in July, 2015. The book is currently out of print. From 2013 to 2015 she hosted the interview podcast Coffee with Alice. Today, Wonderland Mag has evolved into a candid portrait of Alice’s life: Stories of healing, of being a woman in today’s America, stories of food, love, and of how to dust off after a storm, to move forward stronger than before. Alice is currently working on her second book, a collection of essays from this blog titled Making Sense of Reality. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, keyboard player Benmont Tench and their daughter, Catherine Gabriella Winter.