As a recovering alcoholic, I know what it’s like to lose control. I’ve been guided by my cravings, given into vice, and flung myself head-first into a life I couldn’t handle without so much as a second thought. Heck, I barely gave anything a second thought. But once I’d hit bottom and lost everything I’d held dear, I knew that something had to change. And after trying to pick myself up time and time again only to fall back into the habit, I realized I couldn’t do this alone. Now, three years after walking down those cold concrete steps into the musky church basement for my first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, I can honestly say that this group saved my life.
My Alcoholics Anonymous Story
I had grown up just outside of Seattle, WA in a picture-perfect suburb. I had everything: a great house, friends, wealthy parents, popularity. It was, on the surface, a childhood fit for a magazine cover. And despite being handed everything in my life like a new car at high school graduation, my college tuition paid in full by my parents, and even my own condo during school, I squandered away every opportunity I’d been given. You see, I’d always had a bit of drinking problem. I started sneaking booze from my parents’ liquor cabinet when I was 15 and since I was always out of the house on weekends, I had no problem hiding it from my parents. Then again, they were big drinkers too (I guess it’s in the genes) so maybe they wouldn’t have even cared. By the time I hit college, I’d developed a pretty strong habit. The binge drinking atmosphere of college covered up my problem for a while but eventually, I stopped attending class and had to drop out completely. My father got me a job at his company but old habits die hard and, yet again, late nights and hungover mornings soon resulted in me being fired. After that, my parents had had enough and cut off all contact until I dried out. That was 10 years ago. I’d since moved into a dilapidated studio apartment in Seattle Washington where I could barely scrape by on my gas station attendant paycheck. I’d gone through dozens of jobs, just as many girlfriends, and had no real friends to speak of. I was too depressed to function without a drink or two in the morning, several at lunch, and however many I could stomach in the afternoon. With a mountain of debt piling up behind me and my landlord pounding on my door every morning, waking up had become a burden. But when I lost my job (again), I knew it was time for a change. I only wish I’d seen the signs earlier. After searching for Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in my area, I saw that there happened to be one right down the road. And even though I dreaded it, I knew this was the only way I was going to get support for my recovery. After all, I had no one else. Never before had I felt such a sense of community as I did with AA. While opening up was tough at first, the brutal honesty of these people was inspiring and I soon looked forward to telling my story. And when it came time to finally put down the bottle, which I admit I didn’t do immediately, I had the support of people that knew what I was going through and could help guide me along the way.
The 12 Alcoholics Anonymous Steps
The 12 AA Steps are the true heart and healing power of the program. They provide a kind of spiritual guidance that’s proven instrumental in many people’s recovery, mine included. Many people ask if these steps have to be completed in this exact order. After all, some steps are just plain inconvenient at times. Can’t you just come back to them later? The truth is there aren’t really any rules set in stone about the process. Many people tend to skip around or neglect steps entirely and still move on to a sober and spiritually rewarding life. In fact, you don’t even have to believe in God to finish the program, even though several steps address a higher power. But the truth is, many of these steps tend to build upon one another. Giving up control lends way to the hope of trusting in a higher power. Committing to that power lets us see ourselves more clearly. Skipping steps might end up making the program more difficult down the line. And while I’ll admit I was tempted to skip a few, especially when it came time to make amends, I stuck to the plan and am happy I did so. Here they are as Alcoholics Anonymous has them:
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
The AA Slogans
During my first few AA meetings, I noticed that people kept repeating the same phrases. The first few times I heard them I just thought they were random little snippets that people would throw into their stories. But as time went on, I realized that these Alcoholics Anonymous slogans were actually a critical component of the entire program. These short reminders and inspirational sayings were so quick, so memorable, that I soon found myself repeating them throughout the day, especially during trying times. These phrases are just some of the AA slogans I’ve come across. Hopefully, they’ll help you think twice before acting and keep you inspired like they did for me.
- One Day at a Time
- THINK (Thoughtful, Honest, Intelligent, Necessary, Kind)
- Let Go and Let God
- Easy Does It
- Listen and learn
- Together We Can Make It
- First Thing’s First
- Live and Let Live
- Principles Above Personalities
- Keep It Simple
Alcoholics Anonymous Books
Even after two years sober, I still attend meetings every now and then. Sometimes its once a week, other times once a month. Every now and then I’ll be looking for a meeting every single day but, thankfully, those don’t happen too often anymore. One thing I have found that helps keep me committed and focused on a sober life is reading Alcoholics Anonymous books whenever I can. They usually contain personal stories that range from the slow degradation of a functioning alcoholic’s life down to the tragedies of those who’ve hit rock bottom and picked themselves up to help others learn from their experiences. These AA books, along with collections of daily meditations and reminders, can be truly instrumental in adhering to your desire to stay sober. They certainly were in mine.
- Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous by Alcoholics Anonymous
- Living Sober by Alcoholics Anonymous
- Experience, Strength & Hope by Alcoholics Anonymous
- As Bill Sees It: The A.A. Way of Life… Selected Writings of A.A.’s Co-Founder by Bill W.
- The Craving Brain: Science, Spirituality and the Road to Recovery by W. Anderson Spickard Jr.
Find a Meeting with the AA Meeting Directory
If my story has inspired you to take the step towards a sober life through Alcoholics Anonymous, I encourage you to find a meeting close to you and attend. They take place in each and every state as well as in multiple provinces in Canada and in Bermuda. Take a look at the Alcoholics Anonymous Meeting Directory to find a meeting near you. You can also find a list of Adult Children of Alcoholics or ACOA meetings in your area as well. Taking the path of sobriety isn’t easy. In fact, it’s harder than most people can even imagine. But with the support and guidance of the people you meet in AA, you can rest assured that you won’t be doing it alone.
Alcoholics Anonymous (1952). The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Retrieved from https://www.aa.org/assets/en_US/smf-121_en.pdf Alcoholics Anonymous (n.d.). What is A.A.? Retrieved from https://www.aa.org/pages/en_US/what-is-aa National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (n.d.). Alcohol’s Effects on the Body. Retrieved from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/alcohols-effects-body