A Common Struggle:
“I am reaching out because I am struggling. I have ten months sober and I am not in trouble with drinking however I have decided to leave 12 step communities. I have encountered numerous abusive and dangerous people in that community. The only problem is I have this mode of thinking ingrained in my brain and am having a lot of difficulties believing that I am safe in life and from drinking without it. I feel stuck between going and being furthered victimized by AA and the danger of being alone. Any suggestions?”
Once again, an email spurs me to point out one of the many fundamental problems with AA. Even if you find it helpful in stopping drinking, by the time this happens, you are so brainwashed that you are terrified to leave.
Why does this happen?
As I wrote in my Guide to AA, “Who it Helps, Harms, Kills & Why,” AA works for people who never matured beyond the 10-12 year old level, if that. This isn’t unique to AA, but is a “membership” requirement in any cult where unquestioning adherence to a set of simplistic beliefs is required.
So what happened to the writer?
Alcohol is a regressant as well as a depressant. That means it reduces you from your normal adult functioning level to one that, temporarily, matches the cult’s requirements. But when you quit drinking and rebound to your normal adult level the cult becomes intolerable as it would to any adult. Unhappily, by this time you have become so indoctrinated, abused, humiliated, and brainwashed you are terrified to leave.
It’s an impossible position to sustain. Either you bite bullet, devise an exit strategy and leave, or you return to drinking in order to “fit” again into the cult’s demands.
AA endlessly responds to any questions with, “It’s your best thinking that got you here.” This admonition against ever thinking again is the mindless adherence we see engulfing us on every side these days. It wasn’t your thinking – it was your loneliness, boredom, trauma, anxiety, and… It’s your “best thinking” that warns you it’s time to escape the cult.
The “fix?” Get some temporary deprogramming help. Yes, it’s easier to fix a self-medication problem if you haven’t made a detour through the Steps, but that doesn’t mean you can’t kick the 12 Step Habit as well as the alcohol habit. Really, you don’t need either.
“If I only had the time to write…”
If you are anything like me, you are probably thinking along the lines of, “Oh, crap – now I’ve got the time, but…”
Also perhaps, again like me, 3+ months into this you have run out of most of the easy time fillers.
Of course I also have my immobilized leg to excuse even more possibilities.
The trouble is, inactivity, like alcohol, is a depressant. The less you do the less you feel like doing so you do even less and so on. Great downward spiral.
There are pretty decent suggestions for times like this: The usual, read, but also the less common, write. With any luck at all, you will not be going through times this turbulent again, though some of us have the 1960s and more recent troubled times for comparison. When we do compare, we discover shared disappointment that problems we thought had been fixed had only been driven underground, biding their time to blossom once again. Damn.
Still, not everything has gone completely to hell over the last half-century and, given our client demographics, most of you are now in your 50s, 60s, or – dare I say it – 70s. You have lived through the greatest 50 years of change in history. You have become your own personal guide to adaptation.
How about looking back at whatever has evolved since your work with us, and see what you changed, how you adapted to it, how much more/less happy you are as a result, and how this might have some bearing on the change that time and events inflict on all of us?
Additionally, what did you decide not to change?
After 50 years of “when I have the time,” I can assure you that I will never learn to type. Two fingers and a thumb have gotten me through 500+ newsletters, three novels, 2 memoirs, dozens of essays, and several dating sites. Not to mention several manuscripts awaiting a final review, “when I get the time.” Clearly, I am never going to learn to type and I can quit nagging myself about it.
I am also never going to take a cruise, visit Asia, Africa or South America. Why not? ‘Cuz I don’t want to.
How about having some fun, not with a “bucket list,” but a “not on my bucket list, thank you most to death?”
And if you want to help us both out, you can always schedule a free Zoom session and we can see how much older we’ve both gotten – as well as discovering how much wiser. Only if you can find the time, of course.