Abigail on AA

  • Here are a few words Abigail Berry (1973-2015) wrote about AA in November 2014:

    I made a firm decision in early 2013 while sitting in a women's meeting (in LA, a very AA-infiltrated city, but not the first place I experienced AA) that I would never Sponsor anyone no matter how much pressure I got (because I did not want to inflict on others what I was going through with my Sponsor), and this even though I could not yet envision a life where I wasn't stuck in AA. I now see this firm determination to go against the injunction common there "never say no to an AA request," as an important precursor to leaving. A "First Step," if you will :-) 

    Then one day this Spring after some tough months, I shed some silent tears in a women's "double winners" (Al-Anon and AA) meeting. The (celebrity) "leader" of the day noticed and put me on the spot to share. When people did this to me, I'd begun to feel (and sometimes even say) "you asked for it" and speak my mind.

    So that morning I was honest about my sorrow due to life-altering effects of untimely and devastating hormonal/health issues I'd just discovered, and which I belatedly realized had contributed (along with other hellish life challenges) to my emotional turmoil the previous year (resulting in my seeking relief in drinking after 10 months of abstinence in 2013.  My then Sponsor, who was looking forward to "giving me a cake" (as they do in CA) at the big see-and-be-seen meeting she had me attend each week, took my drinking after 10 mos. very badly. She took it out on me in a way that even some other AA women, in whom I confided her retribution, agreed was sick). 

    By now it had been about another 5 months since my last drink. This meeting leader had me read "On Aceptance" at the end off the Double Winners' meeting. I could not decide whether she was in effect cross-talking at me or just freaking clueless. 

    I now thank her and the woman who told me about the meeting, and who (despite the meeting's Al-Anon component) could not refrain from harassing me after the meeting about getting a Sponsor and yelling demeaning insults at me when I simply said I was taking it easy because I'd been burned so badly. They led me to seriously ponder why I'd put up with so many people in AA being so mean to me for so long, while expecting me to "keep coming back" to lap it up. 

    After being further screwed over by unscrupulous businesspeople in AA, I determined this Summer that I was done with AA "for good and all" (to paraphrase you know who!). 

    I discovered the Orange Papers and Stinkin' Thinkin' in June while temporarily in another city in a new state, and was stunned at how many people shared my experience. Orange's emphasis that AA vs drinking to death is a false dichotomy saved my life (I feel dumb even saying that I let myself be pushed into that mental AA corner, but I'm still struggling to live as if I am an OK person -- and deserve recovery and to stay alive -- despite rejecting AA). 

    As it happens, I then moved to yet a new city (in the same "new" state) where any people I meet will know me simply on the basis of being another human being -- who they may like, dislike or reject based on normal criteria (my behavior and presentation, their prejudices, etc.) -- rather than being judged, marginalized and discarded in my entirety by people (who, ironically, had I met them outside AA might be able/willing see beyond my inability to play dumb and spout their "random, irrelevant 30's cult religion" (as someone put it) to appreciate the aspects of me that have value). There are some decent qualities I had that have survived AA, I believe (and my reactive, self-sabotaging drinking at AA et. al.).

    But for too long I thought AA would be a support system and invested too much time and effort there -- neglecting to develop a social circle based more on true affinity (and yes, some normal social skills). A social circle where perhaps I would not be an untouchable, a pariah, as a "chronic relapser" (I always came clean if I drank. Not getting to that year "cake" recently cost me some devastating heartbreak. But then, I probably do NOT want someone who is not free, but beholden to their AA group in their life choices.) 

    I am aware, however, that it would be a mistake to assume ex- or anti-AA involvement would be any different absent other values in common. So it's been a lonely road. Even some of my (blood) family cannot speak about recovery without spouting "jails institutions death," "bottom" myths, etc.  But as they say in South America "better alone than ill-accompanied." (When I was a kid, before I knew about AA, I also saw a bumper sticker in Spanish that said "Better to be a well-known drunk than an anonymous alcoholic," lol.)