We often hear alcoholism described in the rooms of AA as a cunning, baffling, and powerful disease. During a closed discussion meeting of my home group, one member referred to alcoholism as “insidious”: something that proceeds in a gradual, subtle way, but with very harmful effects. Looking up insidious in the dictionary, he discovered that it was derived from the 16th century Latin words insidiosus ‘cunning’, from insidiae ‘an ambush or trick’, and from insidere ‘lie in wait for’.
The discussion continued on how in AA we protect ourselves from being ambushed and picking up the first drink. The common theme was that we band together*: to solve our common problem we go to meetings, talk to our sponsors (sometimes), and work with others; we immerse ourselves in the society of Alcoholics Anonymous; and we form meaningful connections with people.
I am a member of AA because alone – in isolation – I did not possess the necessary strength to stop drinking. I recall many nights sitting on the couch guzzling vodka straight from the bottle and thinking “I can’t go on like this – I really need to stop drinking”. Over time I had become a solitary drinker, trying to hide my problem by isolating. My world was collapsing, and occasionally I would try to sober up using the sheer force of my will power. Though I wanted to stop drinking, I couldn’t seem to align my thoughts and will with any meaningful action that would result in sobriety. It wasn’t until I connected with AA after a stint in rehab that I was finally able to find a way out of the mess I had created.
In my view it is not a mysterious or supernatural power that keeps me sober. There is tremendous power in the fellowship of AA. It teaches and encourages me to practice new behaviors, provides me with a sense of spiritual value and purpose, and sustains my sobriety through mutual exchange and understanding. In my experience, connection with others in AA is an essential element of recovery and sobriety. Along with recovery and service, unity is one of the three legacies of Alcoholics Anonymous, and to stay sober I must keep that connection alive. By following the suggestions, guidance and collective wisdom of those who have searched before me, I try to stay connected with the fellowship, strive to live my life by adhering to the spiritual principles embodied in the 12 steps, and to the best of my ability be available for service to others.
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
– Helen Keller
* Social scientists believe that the formation of social groups is an evolutionary mechanism, passed down from our primitive ancestors who needed the tribe in order to survive. Modern humans seek out “membership in groups instinctively, for most of us are descendants of ‘joiners’ rather than ‘loners.” We are essentially pack animals and running with the pack ensures survival.
– Forsyth, D. R. (2019). The psychology of groups. Retrieved from http://noba.to/trfxbkhm
This article was written by a member of Stony Brook Freethinkers. It is scheduled to be published in the October 2019 edition of the SIA Bulletin.