Why I Need a Break from My Regular Meetings
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Why I Need a Break from My Regular Meetings


I live in a fairly small town, with a corresponding tight-knit AA enclave that took some getting used to. It was initially daunting to share my deepest darkest stuff with people, and hear theirs, knowing I would later run into those same people at the market, the coffee shop and the movies, where we would both be required to pretend that none of it ever occurred. After a few years, I got used to it though, and happily blabbed my experience, strength and misery, without any self-consciousness. Who cared if people knew my stuff, when I knew theirs? They were here too, which made us strangely even. I would happily wave at my fellow AA-ers in the frozen food aisle, and try not to scan their cart for vodka bottles. We were compadres, not the booze police, and I felt grateful to be part of the coolest secret club in town.

Yet lately, when I saunter into those same meetings, or see those people, I feel neither comforted nor serene, but rather as if I am amongst a bunch of mentally unwell people who have already made up their minds about me. I see it in their eyes—we have witnessed each other on too many bad days, and now I am trapped by their image of me, and I do not like what they see. I also don’t love what I see in them.

One day a while back, a guy in our local rooms who is “not all there” (and this is amongst people who are generally not paragons of sanity) saw me in the parking lot at the market. I avoided eye contact, because frankly I wasn’t in the mood.

“Hey,” he yelled out, and then to my horror added, “I know you from the meetings!”

Perhaps he skipped that whole “anonymous” part.

I have since made amends to him for ignoring him, and he to me, and have been pleased to see him get far less annoying and slightly more grounded the longer he’s sober. I became if not excited about seeing him every week then at least used to it. I figure we were all recovering in our own ways at our own pace, and who was I to judge?

Besides the parking lot yeller, there are other people in the local meetings I am not always thrilled to encounter. There’s Misogynistic Cologne Guy, whose scent fills the room before he even gets in it. I don’t have a problem with him, per se, but I know women who no longer attend meetings that he does because he’s quite comfortable talking about “banging chicks,” which not everyone find amusing. Also, once when some of us were talking about the allegations of rape against a celebrity, he dismissed them as “a bunch of bullshit.” The other day, Misogynistic Cologne Guy led the meeting, which, because it is across from a pre-school, has “No strong language” written in the format. He said “fuck” loudly no less than six times, and no one admonished him. I, on the other hand, led the meeting the week before, swore once, and immediately had six people jump on me not to swear. I guess it’s the double standard that I might take issue with.

Then there’s Reformed Slut, who has a problem with herself, and thus every time I share, she looks at me with a bemused, heavy and serious expression, never nodding in empathy even though I know for a fact that we are very alike. When I led that meeting, she publicly gave me what I can only describe as a backhanded compliment. I discussed it with my sponsor and several others, and they think I’m wrong, and I am willing to entertain that notion, though no more excited to sit and recover with her. I thought the women in AA were supposed to be less cunty than normies? Maybe she just has a “bitchy resting face,” but this is a person I have picked up off the ground emotionally many times (not to mention, alas, loaned her money) and yet when I share she gives me “that face” and I just can’t.

Add to that the movie star I will never get to sleep with, and the two cute actor types I have slept with, and you can start to understand why I feel like I’m not walking into the most welcoming environment. Did I mention that there are three much older men, at least one of whom I catch at every meeting openly leering at me? I shudder to think what a younger, more vulnerable, newer woman feels when faced with this, since even after six plus years of sobriety it makes me want to run screaming for the adjoining hills, if only I could be sure that those hills had a liquor store.

I know I need to write some inventory on all this, but I’m hoping maybe this was at least the beginning of it? The fact is, I am well aware that I am egotistical, self-absorbed, judgmental and negative, and in the end this hurts no one but myself. Also if I’m going to “bang” dudes from meetings, there is a price I will have to pay.

So I have started focusing on women’s meetings in both AA and another fellowship, and also on activities that are more about my spiritual practice. I don’t know if I need a break from my local AA-ers, or they need a break from me, but I am not going to force myself to go be amongst people when I am just not feeling it. I know I came into AA to save my life, but why bother saving it if I have to hang out with these people?

Stay tuned for the next installment, once I write the inventory, so I can present you with the same character defects from my new meetings.

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About Author

Susanna Brisk is a writer and Sexual Intuitive® who has over a decade’s sobriety from alcohol. Her tell-it-like-it-is missives on sex, love, dating, divorce, parenting, mental health, recovery, and BDSM have been read by the better part of a million people on Medium, Dame, sexpert, thoughtcatalog, yourtango, Sexual Health Magazine, and Real Sex Daily. Her latest book “How to Get Laid Using Your Intuition” went to #1 on Amazon in the Sexual Health category.