I've been sober for about a year and a half. I've been in AA for most of that time. I'm having trouble with the idea of being powerless over alcohol. I instead feel empowered by making the right choice every day. I want to leave AA but am told that I will surely die if I don't work the steps and go to meetings. Should I leave AA? - In Recovery
Thanks for your letter. Congratulations on your sobriety! It is hard to answer you without knowing what you mean by “having trouble” with step 1; I would encourage you, as did the founder of AA, Bill Wilson, to figure out what these 12-step concepts mean to you personally. You might decide you are not powerless over booze, as long as you stay away from the first drink. Some would argue that AA helps people stay away from that first drink and that without ongoing support, a recovering person’s life can become so unmanageable that the person finds he or she must drink again. Others feel that once they stop drinking, life becomes manageable again and ongoing participation is not necessary. As the recovery saying goes: For some people, stopping brings an end to problems, for others stopping means the real problems have just begun.
Sometimes there is very black and white, “either/or” language in the program, which isn’t everyone’s experience. (A client of mine told me he was instructed to “forget therapy” and only do AA, which he fortunately ignored.) While it is wise to respect the power of addiction, there is middle ground between AA and death. You might, for example, try working with a sponsor who is open-minded in helping you define your own terms. You might try going to fewer meetings before stopping altogether. The program can help some people bring order to issues like work, relationships, finances, and so forth. But not everyone. The bottom line is your safety and well-being. If you find you can have a happy, sober life without AA, there is no “law” that you have to stay. Many people with addiction find they need the consistent structure provided by a 12-step program and build their life around sober friends and activities, while others use the program as a “bridge back to life,” and some people find it doesn’t work for them at all. I say, take it one step at a time, stay honest with yourself, and see what works best for you. Good luck, and thanks again for your question!