Putting Sobriety First

By Constantine Van Sickle

Alcohol Anonymous open meeting, 7035 NE Glisan 12×12 club Portland 12:00am

This past Saturday was the first Alcohol Anonymous (AA) meeting I have ever attended. It was certainly eye opening to a be apart of a different type of community and witness the physical and mental warfare people go through daily. I was accompanied by a friend that is not a alcoholic herself, but her family has history of alcohol abusement. There were about 15 people at the meeting including us, which is rather small, but it didn’t feel as small as it was. The meeting started off with some verses from a book, and then the elected facilitator asked if there were any newcomers, which at that point, my friend and I made our presence known. The meeting continued with the facilitator calling on people to explain their sobriety story and/or their weekly struggles.

The first thing that struck me when I sat down was the diversity of people. Young attendees, old attendees, male attendees, and female attendees, all with different backgrounds and ethnicities, all in the same room. They all had one thing is common, the constant struggle of alcoholism. Also, every single person attending the meeting was so grateful and loving. I felt like I could just pour out my problems to anyone of them, and they would just sit and listen. Everyone was so genuine and willing to go out of their way to help us. A little while after the meeting started, an older gentlemen of the group came up and gave us his number and said , “If you ever need help or just want to talk with a drunk, call me.” The atmosphere of the meeting was welcoming and by the end of the meeting, my friend and I had a list of numbers.

My friend and I were later caught off guard when the facilitator asked for us to share. With my friend being more on her feet then I was at that moment, she started to talk about her problems being the recipient alcohol abusement. She explained to the group that being an alcoholic is not only physically and mentally damaging, but also very damaging to family members and friends. She explained how eye opening and helpful it was to listen to these recovery stories because it gave her a look inside the alcoholic mindset and the struggles they face every single day. Even though neither one of us are alcoholics, by the end the meeting, we both came away with something that made us think about our lives.

Everyone that shared had amazing and uplifting stories, but out of the people that shared, two speakers stood out me as very personable to my life and gave me some food for thought. One of the two speakers was a middle aged women. She explained that “being sober is not just refraining from drinking, but sobriety is a lifestyle, you can’t become sober without first changing your lifestyle to fit sobriety.”

The second speaker was a middle aged man. He stated the reason why he started drinking and why he couldn’t stop drinking. It was because he was afraid that he couldn’t  have fun being sober. He now looks back and says that part of his life was not fun. He couldn’t keep a job, lost all his friends, and his life was a mess. For me, this was definitely one of the more relatable things said all meeting. When I attend parties, there is usually alcohol and the alcohol is intended to create fun. We live in a society where if alcohol is not at a party, then it is not a “fun” party. What he said was a wake up call for me because he displayed what would happen if that type of thinking went too far.  

The community that AA has is one of the strongest and caring communities I have ever been apart of. This meeting has changed the way I think of alcoholics, and it gave me a lot of insight to what they struggle with each day. I cannot wait to attend more of these meetings in the future.