There is no doubt about it: meetings are extremely beneficial and helpful for your sobriety. It doesn't matter if they're Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous; as long as you are getting support from others who have been in or are in your shoes, you will most likely benefit from their advice and stories.
Unfortunately, as for myself, my benefits had reached a brick wall after attending meetings day in and day out.
Where It Began
To start things off, I will admit that I initially exchanged meetings for drugs. I would sit at the club where our meetings were held for approximately six to eight hours a day, drinking coffee and hitting a meeting every hour or so. At first, it was exciting. Like any other newcomer, I sat on my pink cloud, praying and hoping for a change—and it happened. My attendance in meetings was undoubtedly the reason I had gotten sober and stayed sober.
They were also the reason why I fell off of the wagon too. I got tired of it. I got tired of seeing the same people, hearing the same stories and getting the same advice. Although I had switched up my meetings from NA to AA and visited different locations, I still had the same feeling of monotony.
After falling off the wagon and into heroin, I attended meetings on and off. I also got sober here and there but never reached the same point I was at in the beginning. I couldn't grasp what the meetings had to offer me. It was the same vicious cycle over and over as many other people have also endured. I had the tools in front of me but I didn't know how to use them.
After learning so much from meetings—from chairing to sharing to meeting newcomers and old-timers—it just wasn't enough.
Why I Quit
After I officially stopped going to meetings, I'll admit that I was completely lost and confused. I stopped going to meetings for a long time and didn't have the slightest idea of how I was going to get sober on my own. But I did. I did get sober on my own. Afterwards, I even decided to give meetings another try—only to be disappointed once again.
I would never recommend quitting meetings, mainly because I have seen them work wonders in friends and other members of the fellowship, but there are a couple of reasons why I quit attending and why I firmly believe that while meetings work, they may not work for everyone. Some of these may sound a bit familiar.
1. I was criticized for my particular lifestyle choice.
One of the biggest hurdles I had to overcome was giving up drugs. At the time, I was still actively drinking, but in my true and honest opinion, it wasn't alcohol that turned me into the addict who would do anything for a dollar—it was the junkie in me. I was able to have a drink and walk away. When I mentioned that I hadn't done heroin in a week but went to the bar on Friday, I was criticized; ridiculed; even lectured to the point where my hard work in staying off of drugs felt miniscule, causing me to relapse once again. I am obviously well aware that a drug is a drug and in order to stay sober, you must avoid all substances, but a person should never feel that his or her sobriety isn't good enough.
2. The 13th step.
This doesn't happen everywhere and while I did enjoy women's meetings, it's impossible to avoid contact with males if you're having coffee at a location where meetings are held. Not only was this a huge problem for me, mostly because I always thought they were trying to be my friend rather than have a hidden agenda, but also because this was one of the biggest reasons I tended to relapse—the opposite sex.
3. People’s stories may be similar, but they aren’t the same.
I had a huge issue with the fact that my story was never my own. It's true: we all share similar stories, similar qualities and similar battles, but everyone has their own personal reasons and challenges that they must face and overcome. Even during times of sharing, I often felt like I was constantly being compared with others rather than given advice to help my specific situation.
The End Result
My end result, like my story, is unique to me. Do I recommend meetings? Absolutely. If I hadn't gone to meetings, I definitely would have never learned how to stay sober, how to build a strong support system and how to help others in their times of need. Do I go to meetings anymore? If I am feeling close to a relapse, I utilize the tools that I have but I also consider online meetings as a more viable option to get the advice I may need to continue.
Meetings are a wonderful method to assist in your journey to sobriety but it's okay if you feel that you may need to try other things along the way to achieve your goals of staying sober.