Last night I attended an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting. It was a fascinating experience, and I have to say that I learned a tremendous amount from it.
One of the big things going on in my life right now that I haven’t written much about is the fact that I am taking a group counseling class. I LOVE it. It is one of the most interesting classes I have ever taken and I have learned a tremendous amount in just a few short weeks. Going in, I had serious doubts about the efficacy of group counseling and the possible impact it could have on a person. I have totally changed my mind and think that the group dynamic is extremely powerful and a very strong agent for change. That being said, I haven’t written much about it because a lot of the work we do in the class is very personal and confidential. I could write a bit about it since no one who reads knows who is in the class, but I just don’t feel like its right.
Attending the AA meeting was an assignment for this class. I was required to either watch the movie “The Breakfast Club” (which of course I’ve seen numerous times, who hasn’t?) or to attend an AA meeting and write a paper on the therapeutic factors involved in such a group. Since I’ve seen “The Breakfast Club” before, I decided to do something different. I chose the AA meeting.
Last night, my recent views on the power of the group process were totally confirmed.
The meeting I attended was not far from where I live. On this yucky, rainy evening, approximately 15 men (yes, all men, I was the only woman there – so much for being inconspicuous) dragged themselves from their homes in order to come together to share and offer strength to each other. The men were from different ethnicities and ages, but they had one commonality that allowed them to easily relate to one another – they were all alcoholics.
The meeting began with reading a story from a fellow alcoholic. Then the men went around the room and got to share whatever they chose. Each man shared something, whether a little or a lot, of their struggle with alcohol and drugs. And each of them made mention of the fact that they were happy to be at that meeting.
You might wonder why anyone would be happy to be at an AA meeting. Well, I guess happy could be relative – it’s certainly better than being drunk and doing things in your life that are out of control. Some of the men discussed events that happened prior to their sobriety including drunk driving, being kicked out of restaurants and being so desperate for drugs that they would brave any weather or circumstances to get them.
And now, these men brave all kinds of weather and circumstances to attend AA meetings. To help one another. To face their demons and do battle with their temptations on a daily basis. Which is incredibly brave.
What I saw in those men last night was tremendous courage. Because they had to take a long, honest look at themselves at rock bottom. Then they had to accept their problems, take responsibility for them and do incredibly hard work to change. They don’t have to do it alone. That’s what the meetings are for – to support and be supported. But they have to put in the work and go the distance and fight the fight.
So many of us have problems that we won’t face. That we hide behind and cower from. And many of those problems are not nearly as difficult as the ones I saw the men at that meeting had overcome.
The men at that meeting might have been alcoholics. But they were also amazingly strong, incredibly brave and fighting hard. And helping others do the same. I am in awe of them.