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Old 12-13-2018, 03:45 AM   #1 (permalink)
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My Struggles with the 12 step program


Hi All,

Decided to post here after a somewhat turbulent 2018 - I began going to AA meetings a year ago... attended for about 8 months but actually stopped going for a few reasons.

Initially it helped.. but while I managed to stay sober for a while.. kept relapsing. I would try to work the steps over and over.. it got to the point were i became severely depressed and actually going to the meetings made this worse. In the end, my sponsor would tell me 'You arent ready yet'.

I felt a huge amount of 'learned helplessness' during the meetings.. and frankly, I found certain things which were said by the older members (who have a lot of sober time) to be utterly depressing.. one example is 'if we dont drink.. all we have is a daily reprieve, a stay of execution'.... this sense of doom just destroyed me. I'm not super young but, I'm 30... so I was one of the younger members of that group. Hoping for any feedback because I'd like to give it another shot and hopefully make it work this time...

Thanks!
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Old 12-13-2018, 04:20 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Lone,

There a tons of AA folks here that can hopefully help you w positive information.

Unfortunately, my experience w AA was in your direction, but I didn't relapse.

I am not going to AA bash. Someday AA might be my saving grace.

I think your age helps you recover from relapse easier. You haven't kindled enough to have a strong Physical and mental motive to quit.

At least you want to quit. That alone is the 90% solution. Understanding the nature of addiction and being ready to suffer like hell helped me get this far.

I had horrid anxiety, some agoraphobia/paranoia when I quit. Basically, I was going insane. That is what booze does to us drunks. Eventually it fries our brains and we go wacky.

But, I had moments of serenity that made me believe i would get well. Time healed me. But, it took this long.

I pray w gratitude for another sober day and for strength every night.

SR taught me everything I needed to stay this sober.

I read and post almost daily.

Hope this helps you.

Thanks.
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Old 12-13-2018, 04:27 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Hi Wolf,

I'm sorry to hear that you've been struggling. I think every alcoholic goes through the process of wrestling with their addiction to come to a place of acceptance. Some folks do it while learning to work the steps, others do it before ever taking action to combat their addiction. You seem to be one of the former types - it doesn't mean that you are incapable of becoming sober through a 12 step program.

Initially, getting sober is a lot like playing defense - it's all about learning what you have to do to not drink. Dealing with withdrawal, PAWS, stressors, life events, unpleasant people and circumstances. It's a lot... but it's a necessary part of the process. A guy I know in my home group likes to say, "If you want to stay sober, first you have to stop drinking." Which sounds pretty stupid, because if you're not drinking, aren't you by definition sober? What he is referring to is emotional sobriety - which when I first heard that term I became angry because it seemed like moving the goalposts after the game had started. It took me over a year of not drinking to really begin to accept my alcoholism - in the same way I accept the color of my eyes: it just is what it is, without judgement or remorse.

The person who commented on the quote you mention I think did a disservice. Here's a longer version of the same section:

We are not cured of alcoholism. What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent upon the maintenance of our spiritual condition. Every day is a day when we must carry the vision of God's will into all of our activities. (pg 85)

To me, this is like playing offense. We start by playing 'defense' - getting through the early weeks and months of sobriety by doing whatever we must to not drink. That phase is like preventing an "own goal." It is critical to not drink, but to really learn to live in sobriety, we have to learn to "play offense" which is what the third sentence of that quote means.

How exactly do we get there? It comes as part of finding our higher power, and learning to live a life that leaves the world a little better in our wake. Will our lives become perfect? No. Will we find that perfect love, that perfect job, and bask in the adulation of all we meet? Sorry, not happening. But learning to live a life that we can be humbly proud of, serving others and becoming a better employee, spouse, neighbor, and friend - this is one of the gifts of sobriety.

We are sure God wants us to be happy, joyous, and free. We cannot subscribe to the belief that this life is a vale of tears, though it once was just that for many of us. But it is clear that we made our own misery. God didn’t do it. (pg 133)

Your sponsor may be right, that currently you're not entirely ready to go to any length to not drink today. Or perhaps you have the misfortune of a crappy sponsor and a somewhat misguided homegroup. I can't know the answer to that, and frankly those are issues of the past. The real question is: what are you going to do today to stay away from the first drink? My last drink was mid afternoon December 20, 2009 - but I still have to answer that same question every morning. Perhaps that is what the old timer in your group was trying to convey.

I can say this: I have gotten so much more from my sobriety than I hoped or imagined on Dec 19, 2009. Today I truly love my life, and I want that for you as well. But first, you have to answer that question, just for today.

All the best,
Eddie
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Old 12-13-2018, 04:34 AM   #4 (permalink)
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As a secular person, I find myself too far removed from the twelve steps as they are practiced, though I don't think I would have been able to begin my recovery without coming into contact with the caring people that I have known in AA as a means to coming to reality with the fact that I'm an alcoholic.
Nor do I find myself completely comfortable with the idea that alcoholism is a learned behavior that can be treated through strictly psychological means. As far a programs go, that kind of leaves me between a rock and a hard place, or so it seems, but I draw upon some of the principles of AA and the practices of what I know about SMART or AVRT to help me along the way.

* I do find that what I am seeking is trans-formative. I cannot be the person that I was previously, fundamentally.
* I focus on my values and interpret those in ethical terms of what my behaviors mean to me and for others.
* I address my medical needs as somebody who has mental illness (depression and anxiety).
* I recognize that my ego can be both a hindrance and a source of strength as self-esteem.
* I practice cognitive behavioral therapy to recognize my thinking and try to alter my perceptions of it.
* I seek outside help in the form of a community of addicts that can help me to validate my approaches and refine them along the way.
* I have a safety plan for when I cannot help myself.
* I am not drinking for today. I don't see that as a condemnation or daily reprieve, but as an act that is recurring evidence.

None of these are original ideas from me, and I am happy to borrow from others as I go. I am a bit of a loner but I am not alone. These are my "steps".
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Old 12-13-2018, 12:11 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I think there are great principles in the program, but like you I found the harsh feedback counterproductive. Like you, I was told I was not ready for recovery. I was told to go away till I hit a real bottom. I know for many people that kind of talk is a wake-up call. But for some of us, it is not.

But guess what? I left. I got better.

A good therapist. Good friends. And more confidence in my ability to recover made all the difference.
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Old 12-13-2018, 12:22 PM   #6 (permalink)
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AA has worked for millions of people, but there are a huge number that have gotten and stayed sober using other means.

My bottom was ending up in rehab. While there I learned the first step of AA and took it to heart. Normie drinkers do not end up in rehab. I decided that I would never drink again, as that was the only way to assure that I wouldn't end up back in rehab.

Tried to continue with AA, but it just wasn't a good fit. I don't like the whole higher power thing...which is kind of the point, so I couldn't really work the steps. Plus I found the whole idea of constantly "working" on sobriety just kept me in that state. I discovered with cognitive work and therapy that it was relatively easy to keep my promise to myself and just not drink.

I'm not suggesting that you should definitely stop trying to make AA work. Just that there are other alternatives, and don't use this as an excuse to resume drinking.
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Old 12-15-2018, 07:25 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Hi All,

Decided to post here after a somewhat turbulent 2018 - I began going to AA meetings a year ago... attended for about 8 months but actually stopped going for a few reasons.

Initially it helped.. but while I managed to stay sober for a while.. kept relapsing. I would try to work the steps over and over.. it got to the point were i became severely depressed and actually going to the meetings made this worse. In the end, my sponsor would tell me 'You arent ready yet'.

I felt a huge amount of 'learned helplessness' during the meetings.. and frankly, I found certain things which were said by the older members (who have a lot of sober time) to be utterly depressing.. one example is 'if we dont drink.. all we have is a daily reprieve, a stay of execution'.... this sense of doom just destroyed me. I'm not super young but, I'm 30... so I was one of the younger members of that group. Hoping for any feedback because I'd like to give it another shot and hopefully make it work this time...

Thanks!
Most people quit drinking on their own. AA offers a philosophy that appeals to many people, but it's not the end all be all in recovery. In my rural area, it was the only game in town.

I needed flesh and blood people who understood alcoholism, and with whom I could celebrate sobriety. AA offers that, not that all the people there do, but there are enough who are genuine and sincere in their joy about sobriety. That's what I needed.

The rest of the philosophy, the 12 steps, the 12 traditions, the spirituality and higher power was fluff to me. I gave it a quick shot, but rejected it fairly quickly. As AA says in one place in the book, take what you need. I took that seriously and took the fellowship, while I tossed the rest.

The camping, the holiday parties, the Friday night get-togethers was to me a hands on laboratory where people could live and enjoy life without alcohol. This gave me more than just hope. It flat out showed me that alcohol was not necessary in human relationships or for life fulfillment. I am not a spiritual person. I don't have a mystic bone in my body. I need to see it to believe it. I needed to see happiness without alcohol was possible in a hands on environment, and I got that in AA.

How we get to sobriety can be through AA, on our own, with or without the spirit world, or with some other program. I could care less what cat I had to skin to get there. AA was all that was available to me at the time, but I still had to sort through it to decide what was helpful and what was not.
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Old 12-30-2018, 04:01 PM   #8 (permalink)
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* I do find that what I am seeking is trans-formative. I cannot be the person that I was previously, fundamentally.
I think this hits the nail on the head perfectly. The question is 'How can this be accomplished?"

Back before AA, the famous physician told one chronic alcoholic that he had never had any success in treating people in whom the condition existed to the extent that it existed in him. Jung knew of a few rare cases where severe alcoholics had recovered after what he called "vital spiritual experiences". Professor William James gave 22 lectures on this subject.

More recently I have heard Professor of psychiatry Doug Selman state that there are still cases for whom the only hope is some kind of "conversion experience". Still more recently I heard Professor Jordan Peterson talking about what he called "Mystical experiences" which are brought about through the use of psychodelic drugs. I guess that would be similar to Bill Wilsons ideas with LSD, later found by Selman's researchers to have some validity.

Peterson says that although it is not known how these experiences happen in the scientific sense, as in the mechanism is not well understood, the results cannot be argued with. The subject is a completely different person, and you can't argue about that.

Jung and Selman have one thing in common, even though they live in different times. After many years of clinical experience with chronic alcoholics, neither can suggest a therapy or process that will help such severe cases, beyond the idea that some kind of conversion experience is needed.

William James in his book, Varieties of Religious Experience documents many examples of such experiences which appear to have occurred on a random basis, as in the sufferer was not under treatment or actively even seeking such an experience. The person was totally transformed just the same. What this suggests is that it can and does happen outside of AA or even seperately from any religious connection or belief in the individual.
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Old 01-01-2019, 11:26 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I guess it depends on what is available to you in terms of services in your area. If AA is the only one then go to the meetings and then just do your own research on how to see alcoholism/ drink disorders theoretically.

I am not sure I could cope with an AA meeting now. I just feel discussions were limited to the context of AA premises. Like I felt you weren't able to explore an issue or query because you begin to expect what response you will get back (most of the time).

You are kind of told simply what to do rather than exploring what options to take. Many say that if you leave AA you will fall back to drink but that is not due to AA being super effective for everyone but the fact people only have AA to go to. So if they stop going there, they have nothing.

It's tricky, I do see good things in AA too but it is not for everyone. I think people want a definite answer of how best to recover and I don't think there is.

Many, many reasons play a part, sometimes the individuals fault, sometimes not.
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Old 01-01-2019, 11:59 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I guess it depends on what is available to you in terms of services in your area. If AA is the only one then go to the meetings and then just do your own research on how to see alcoholism/ drink disorders theoretically.

I am not sure I could cope with an AA meeting now. I just feel discussions were limited to the context of AA premises. Like I felt you weren't able to explore an issue or query because you begin to expect what response you will get back (most of the time).

You are kind of told simply what to do rather than exploring what options to take. Many say that if you leave AA you will fall back to drink but that is not due to AA being super effective for everyone but the fact people only have AA to go to. So if they stop going there, they have nothing.

It's tricky, I do see good things in AA too but it is not for everyone. I think people want a definite answer of how best to recover and I don't think there is.

Many, many reasons play a part, sometimes the individuals fault, sometimes not.
I found the common sense approach in the text Living Sober a big help when I joined AA.

..there is no prescribed AA "right" way or "wrong" way. Each of us uses what is best for himself or herself—without closing the door on other kinds of help we may find valuable at another time. And each of us tries to respect others' rights to do things differently. Sometimes, an AA member will talk about taking the various parts of the program in cafeteria style—selecting what he likes and letting alone what he does not want. Maybe others will come along and pick up the unwanted parts—or maybe that member himself will go back later and take some of the ideas he previously rejected.

However, it is good to remember the temptation in a cafeteria to pick up nothing but a lot of desserts or starches or salads or some other food we particularly like. It serves as an important reminder to us to keep a balance in our lives.

In recovering from alcoholism, we found that we needed a balanced diet of ideas, even if some of them did not look, at first, as enjoyable as others. Like good food, good ideas did us no good unless we made intelligent use of them. And that leads to our second caution.

B. Use your common sense. We found that we have to use plain everyday intelligence in applying the suggestions that follow.

Like almost any other ideas, the suggestions in this booklet can be misused. For example, take the notion of eating candy. Obviously, alcoholics with diabetes, obesity, or blood-sugar problems have had to find substitutes, so they would not endanger their health, yet could still get the benefit of the candy-eating idea in recovery from alcoholism. (Many nutritionists favor protein-rich snacks over sweets as a general practice.) Also, it's not good for anybody to overdo this remedy. We should eat balanced meals in addition to the candy.

Another example is the use of the slogan "Easy Does It." Some of us have found that we could abuse this sensible notion, turning it into an excuse for tardiness, laziness, or rudeness. That is not, of course, what the slogan is intended for. Properly applied, it can be healing; misapplied, it can hinder our recovery. Some among us would add to it: "'Easy Does It'—but do it!"

It's clear that we have to use our intelligence in following any advice. Every method described here needs to be used with good judgment

http://aaposigintergrouptrinidad.org...ving-Sober.pdf
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Old 01-02-2019, 04:57 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Pretty much anyone who has read my contributions to the AA, other programs - or ANY program- option knows that I have found success to date with a very dedicated AA program. I'm happy to share in a PM more on that - here are a few thoughts, pulled succinctly from above comments and my immediate thoughts on some things said.

Hearing "you're not ready yet," made me furious for a long time. But those who told me that were spot on. That is something each of us has to honestly, sincerely, absolutely accept and then act on if we want to get sober.

Do you want to get sober for good?

I had many "reasons" to rail against AA for a long time - none of them well-founded, and all because I wanted to keep drinking.

Truly working any program means a specific, strategic, active approach. AVRT and SMART people and those whose recovery centers on SR can chime in with what this means to them. I can say that I had to fully commit to AA - not just attend meetings - by doing the things recommended specifically starting with 90 meetings in 90 days and get a sponsor, and start working the steps.

Eddie's post has some significant points about AA that better express what folks in meetings sometimes say (like some old timers - I've seen plenty who are basically just mad old men who simply don't drink, and others who are there to share the good promises of the program that can come true for folks getting started).

Bottom line, I absolutely believe we can't do this completely alone. Anyone who finds an active path to getting and staying sober is a big time winner in life and makes this world a better place.

Hope you stay with us and begin to forge a fulfilling sober life for yourself.
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Old 01-04-2019, 04:25 PM   #12 (permalink)
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I personally got a lot out of AA and the step work, and from the AA folks on SR.

However, I also found that AA made me feel worse about myself in some aspects. The tough love, harsh treatment that was not deserved, focus on "character defects", powerlessness, loving others but nothing about self-love or boundaries, strength, etc., just did not boat well for me at all. It was not what I needed. I didn't fit neatly into the "AA box". I don't have the type of personality that does well in AA and neither does one of my sponsees. I never pointed this out to her--she figured it out on her own and I'm trying to help her find her own truth without my own recovery experience getting in her way.

AA works miracles for many people. I've seen it first hand. But it's not the answer for everyone. I'm finding a better fit for me is therapy. But I wouldn't have gotten to where I am now without AA. That being said, a lot of negative stuff happened during my time in AA that made things much worse for me. I agree with you about the "learned helplessness" and this is something therapy helped me with. I also used to get more depressed with a lot of meetings I went to except for one that was solution based which eventually became my home group. Everyone who spoke was very positive.

The daily reprieve thing isn't meant to be depressing. It is there for people who think "I did all the step work, now I'm good." It means we have to work the steps every day. It's not daunting. For me, my way of working the steps every day is just paying attention to my thoughts, words, and actions and learning from what went well and what didn't.
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Old 01-04-2019, 06:01 PM   #13 (permalink)
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I personally got a lot out of AA and the step work, and from the AA folks on SR.

However, I also found that AA made me feel worse about myself in some aspects. The tough love, harsh treatment that was not deserved, focus on "character defects", powerlessness, loving others but nothing about self-love or boundaries, strength, etc., just did not boat well for me at all. It was not what I needed. I didn't fit neatly into the "AA box". I don't have the type of personality that does well in AA and neither does one of my sponsees. I never pointed this out to her--she figured it out on her own and I'm trying to help her find her own truth without my own recovery experience getting in her way.

AA works miracles for many people. I've seen it first hand. But it's not the answer for everyone. I'm finding a better fit for me is therapy. But I wouldn't have gotten to where I am now without AA. That being said, a lot of negative stuff happened during my time in AA that made things much worse for me. I agree with you about the "learned helplessness" and this is something therapy helped me with. I also used to get more depressed with a lot of meetings I went to except for one that was solution based which eventually became my home group. Everyone who spoke was very positive.

The daily reprieve thing isn't meant to be depressing. It is there for people who think "I did all the step work, now I'm good." It means we have to work the steps every day. It's not daunting. For me, my way of working the steps every day is just paying attention to my thoughts, words, and actions and learning from what went well and what didn't.
Well said.
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Old 01-05-2019, 05:12 AM   #14 (permalink)
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^^^To Ken's last line - it makes me think of a statement I hear people, in AA and not, say sometimes that always rings true: "don't drink, and don't be an a**hole."

The take what you want and leave the rest mantra you hear in AA can, to me, also be expressed as: here are good rules for living. (AA says the 12 steps are "suggested" as ones that have brought successful sobriety to us)

Get out of your self/ego
If you do something wrong or hurtful or [ ] , apologize and try not to do it again
If you've done crappy things in the past, apologize to people- and accept whether they in turn accept the regret you have, or don't and then move on
Do good turns for others, big and small
Seek and give support from others who have the kind of life you want
Change your thinking and habits from selfish, self-destructive and so on to positive and life-enhancing

All of this starts with not drinking, and as I say - living my own best life, and only giving a seat at my table to people (alcoholics and not) who are trying to live theirs.

Sure, all that is expressed in the 12 Steps - it's also expressed in all kinds of self-help books, religions, Marsha Lenehan's (sp) pioneering work for CBT treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder, good counselors and psychiatrists, the good folks of SR....
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Old 01-10-2019, 02:52 PM   #15 (permalink)
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I have been in AA for almost 8 months. The people I have encountered have been very warm and accepting. I have not had a drink in 224 days and am working through the steps, although I am having a difficult time.

I am keeping an open mind, but I am an agnostic at best. I knew going into the program that it was anti-intellectual in nature. Ie. Just follow the path and you "could" be ok. I get some comments or odd looks, from die hards, when I mention my concerns in sharing. No, I don't call AA anti-intellectual at meetings. They are starting an agnostic and atheist meeting shortly near my location, which I am certainly going to try. The powerlessness and giving up free will are just a couple of things that seem counter intuitive to me.

However, as I read more books on recovery, I get more confused, which leads me further away from AA principles. I don't mean to bash AA, I am just sharing where I am at in recovery. Then the AA voice hits "Keep it simple stupid"

The meetings are beginning to become boring and a little depressing. However, I made a commitment to sobriety and I am going to work the steps and then reassess. Yes, I realize the step aren't to be done in a weekend.

Any input from anyone who feels/felt the same?
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Old 01-10-2019, 06:32 PM   #16 (permalink)
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mcconth,
i haven’t been in the same place exactly but certainly can relate to seeing the AA suggested program as anti-intellectual in nature. i did see it that way.
it isn’t, bough. it presents itself as a spiritual solution, a spiritual program/ design for living, and that is exactly what it delivers. it is not meant to be intellectual, analytical, or scientific.
by the time i got there, after having been sober for a while, it was exactly what i needed and wanted, and i have kept my intellect quite intact while implementing “the principles” in my living.
when i first got sober, i couldn’t see my need for any “spiritual” anything relating to my alcoholism.
i know many agnostics “in the program”, and many have more difficulty with the chapter intended for them in the BB than they do with being an agnostic following the steps
i will try and find you a secular thread i think might be helpful.
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Old 01-10-2019, 06:49 PM   #17 (permalink)
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https://www.soberrecovery.com/forums...ml#post4132817 (My experience as an atheist in AA)
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Old 01-10-2019, 07:39 PM   #18 (permalink)
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You're not alone in this. I can certainly relate. I found AA to be depressing and actually contributed to my drinking. It was downright dangerous for me to continue to go. Thankfully, I stopped going and have been better off without it.
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Old 01-10-2019, 07:53 PM   #19 (permalink)
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we-ee-lll...I reckon it was your alcoholism contributing to your drinking bradly - but I'm glad you've found last sobriety anyway

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Old 01-14-2019, 07:55 AM   #20 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bradly22 View Post
You're not alone in this. I can certainly relate. I found AA to be depressing and actually contributed to my drinking. It was downright dangerous for me to continue to go. Thankfully, I stopped going and have been better off without it.
I got a lot out of my step work and my former home group. That being said, I could have written your above post myself, and I am so glad someone finally wrote this. I personally found that many meetings, especially open discussion meetings, made me worse. They were downright depressing as well as pink-cloudish in nature. I could also sense when someone wasn't being authentic and was bullsh*tting, just to have a positive-sounding share. Solution based meetings weren't like that, fortunately, but there aren't enough of those around.
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