When people asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up, chances are “a member of alcoholics anonymous” was never any child’s response. Personally, I wanted to be a doctor… and a circus clown.
During our addictions, the last thing we ever want is to become a part of Alcoholics Anonymous, yet, here we are. Except now, it is less of a punishment and more of a second chance at life. So now that we are here, and our only option is through, how do we actually become members of something that we wanted nothing to do with, but is the only thing that can save us?
These are the guidelines you will hear at every AA, NA, CA, or any other fellowship meeting. Go to meetings, get a sponsor, work the steps, stay in the middle. Simple, but not easy. Here is how to do it.
Go to Meetings
In the beginning, meetings can go one of three ways, depending on where you are in your stages of detox.
- You feel completely relieved to have found “your people” and you immediately know you are home.
- You are still in a state of mental fog and remember literally nothing apart from people saying words, clapping, and then standing and holding hands at the end.
- You feel completely uncomfortable in your skin, everyone within a ten-foot radius makes you want to throw punches, and you probably leave before the meeting is over.
Regardless of how you feel in the first meeting, it is important that you actually make it to a second one, and then a third, and then a fourth. Keep going until you don’t mind going anymore, and then keep going until you look forward to it.
The point of meetings is not for group therapy or to pick up a cutie. The point of meetings is so newcomers can find people who have been relieved of the obsession to drink and get high, and who can share how they did it.
Once you’ve dried up a little bit, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are a place to make connections. For most of us, isolation is a comfortable place. We prefer not to get close to others because it makes it easier when we want to run away or to hide. Meetings break us of this habit.
The more we go to meetings, the more people remember us. The more people remember us, the more they will get to know us. The more they get to know us, the more we get to “the middle”.
Get a Sponsor
The next crucial step in being a member of Alcoholics Anonymous is, you guessed it, working the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. In order to do this, you’ll need a sponsor. Here are the requirements for a sponsor:
- They have worked the steps with a sponsor of their own
- They have had a spiritual awakening as the result of working the steps
- They have the time to work the steps with you
A sponsor can look like many things, but apart from working the steps, they will guide you in how to get involved and stay connected in the program. Sponsorship isn’t supposed to feel like a dictatorship, or like a parol officer. Instead, it is intended to provide you with measures of accountability that will save your life in the long run.
These suggestions will look like :
- getting to a meeting early and staying late
- helping pick up chairs
- driving a newcomer if you have a car
- making coffee
- reading meeting literature
They might seem like annoying, meaningless tasks at the time, but once you get to the place of being excited to go to a meeting, you will realize that these small experiences are often the reason why.
Staying in the Middle
At some point or another, you will hear an old-timer tell the story of pack animals in the wild, and how those that live on the outskirts are the ones that get picked off by predators. They will relate this to Alcoholics Anonymous and the fellowship that binds us.
They are not wrong.
Humans are pack animals, despite all of the addict instincts that tell us that we don’t need anyone. As previously mentioned, when we stay isolated, we are more susceptible to relapse for many reasons.
The first and most dangerous thing that will take us out, is ourselves.
When we are well connected to the Alcoholics Anonymous fellowship, we will have sober supports, friends, and our sponsor, to tell us when we are being crazy. When we are alone, we just have our own thoughts. As we well know by now, our thoughts are the root of our troubles.
So, in order to stay in the middle, to stay alive, we do those silly things our sponsor tells us to do. We:
- Work the steps
- Make sober friends
- Get a meeting commitment
- Reach out to other sober people
- Think about ourselves less and others more
- We reach out to newcomers and we talk to old-timers
- We stay for the whole meeting
We stay in the middle, a part of AA, because without it, we will end up back where we were, or we die. That is just how it is with us. Sadly, a majority of us will have to test this experiment before believing it’s true.
For those who make it back, who come back humbled and beaten down by their research, there is often a feeling of regret, because they knew how easy it was compared to using, they just never wanted to commit.
The only requirement for Alcoholics Anonymous membership is a desire to stop drinking. However, the only requirement for long-lasting and enjoyable AA membership is through becoming an active member of the fellowship. When you are ready, find yourself a sponsor and ask them how.