Ben Kenney Margaret Cretzmeyer 42:129 3/3/04 Alcoholics Anonymous and Al- Anon I attended an AA meeting that met at Uptown Bills coffee shop in the basement. That meeting was on Feb. 19, at 12:10 p.m. The Al- Anon meeting I went to was on Feb. 24, at 7:00 p.m. at the Lutheran Church on 2301 E. Court St. They were both open meetings. AA At the AA meeting I went to I had all sorts of anticipations of what it would be like. I figured that I would see both men and women, different races, ages, occupations and backgrounds. This was mostly true when I got there. The meeting was downstairs in the basement of Uptown Bills coffee shop and was pretty hidden. When I got to the coffee shop I had to ask where the meeting was because there was no indicator or sign of what was going on when I got there. The room in the basement was filled with chairs. I was the first person there and then another middle aged white male who looked like he was probably middle class came in. I introduced myself, told him of my purpose and he welcomed me. I felt very comfortable. We then arranged the few missing links of chairs in the circle. Some of the chairs were different and some were alike. There were a couple couches in there as well. There was a wall in the middle of the room that rose from the floor, half the height of the ceiling and half the distance from wall to wall. After a while the room filled up and the meeting started promptly at 12:10 Right at the start of the meeting the man who seemed to run the meeting asked if there were any new comers or visitors. I introduced myself to everybody, stated my purpose and asked if I would be making anyone uncomfortable. Everybody welcomed me and made me feel very comfortable. No one had any problems at all. Looking around the room after it had filled up I noticed that there were all kinds of people there. Some black, some white, some old, some young. There were a couple men and women that were dressed nicely and looked to take care of themselves. It was a lot like the AA book said. “We are people who normally would not mix. But there exists among us a fellowship, a friendliness, and an understanding which is indescribably wonderful. (17)” There were some of the constituents that sort of did and then there were a couple that seemed like vagrants, but after hearing them talk, all of those original thoughts were shallow judgements and observations. There must have been about twenty or so people there. The meeting started with one man, who seemed to be in his mid twenties. He talked about how he was sober for a few months and how he started drinking again and at this point he had been sober for a few months. He talked about how he did have a spiritual awakening and the last time he did not. He says that is what had gotten him the success and faith in sobriety this time around. He seemed to be all for AA and he also said that he was so for it that there were times that he thought he scared newcomers at AA meetings because he spent so much time preaching to them about it after the meeting. The good thing about AA is that everyone is there on their own will. “We alcoholics are men and women who have lost the ability to control our drinking. We know that no real alcoholic ever recovers control. (30)” This is important because everybody at the AA meeting had addressed this, realized it’s truth and willingly come to meeting. The first step. People at the AA meeting seemed to feed off one another’s subject matter or conversation. For example Susie would say, “Yeah, I feel the same way. It’s like what Mike was talking about. I’ve spent so much time on step one, that I don’t know if I am where I should be.” Even though in all actuality, each member is probably right where they should be. It went around in an orderly circle and everybody had a chance to speak. There were only two people who passed and had nothing to contribute that day. I myself spoke, and shared personal experience. People were glad that I spoke of myself and my own viewpoints at the meeting. They seemed to genuinely care. Another thing that I noticed at the AA meeting was the language. It wasn’t the cleanest language but I was in no way offended by it. There were people who would swear just because it seemed like it was part of their day to day vernacular but there were also people who swore for effect in what they were talking about. I think that the language helped characterized people and give them identity. My initial reaction upon leaving the meeting was a very positive one. I thought that what was going on was a really good thing. I could tell that it was good for the people at the meeting and I felt that it was good for me to experience the whole procedure and see how it worked. By saying it worked, I think that it does work, just like they say at the end of the meeting. Al- Anon The Al- Anon meeting was on Court St. at the Lutheran Church in Iowa City. I got directions beforehand because I wasn’t quite sure where it was. I was the first one there, just like the AA meeting so I asked a woman at the church where it was. She directed me to a smaller chapel inside the church and I waited outside the room and called my father. I saw woman walk up to the room and open the door. I got off the phone with my dad, walked in the room and introduced myself. I told her what I was there for and she said that it was no problem and to make myself comfortable. The room filled and the meeting started promptly at 7:00 p.m. The room had stained glass and a small podium in the front. It only had seating for twenty or so people so it was not very big at all. Al- Anon began with the reading of the twelve steps. Every body says one and passes so I read step 11. There were only 11 people at the meeting. After the reading of the twelve steps the woman who seemed to be running the meeting did the days reading from the Al- Anon book. After she did the reading from the book the floor was open for discussion. Anyone could talk who wanted to and when; they just had to wait until one person was finished before the next could begin. The attendees were all different. There were older women, a young female law school student that really reminded me of my third grade teacher, middle aged men and women and one man who was mentally retarded. My feelings at this meeting were not as comfortable as the AA meeting. Everybody was really nice and welcoming but it felt a little cult- like to me. I could tell it was doing good for people there, because if it wasn’t certain people would not have been there for 10 years or 5 years. If there was no success I would assume that people would stop going. There was also a woman, a wife of an alcoholic who had been going less than a month. What I really got from this meeting was the horrible things that alcohol can do to families and relationships. “But for every man who drinks others are involved– the wife who trembles in fear of the next debauch; the mother and father who see their son wasting away. (104)” this was for the people that were affected by alcoholics. I felt that it was a little more depressing than uplifting like the AA meeting was. The thing that really got to me was the young man that was mentally retarded. He was wearing sweat pants and a leather jacket. I would estimate that he was in his mid to upper twenties. He took time to talk at the end of the meeting and he said that his mom was drinking again. He said that he figured the best thing to do was just get away so he would be going to Florida within the next week. The only thing was, that he would be flying there and he would be on the plane all by himself and he had never done that before. He said he was a little scared about it but he hoped that everything would be ok. After the meeting people stood around and talked. The woman that was sitting next to me talked to him after the meeting and consoled him. When I was leaving and thanking people for sharing their meeting with me a man gave me some information on Al- Anon and told me, “Anytime.” The thing about Al- Anon was that the people there were examples of how alcoholics affected them. They were pieces into the puzzle of resentment. “It is plain that a life which includes deep resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness. (66)” Resentment can kill the alcoholic and it hurts the loved ones too, if they start drinking again. The fears of alcoholics are their problems, not the problems of their loved ones to fix. I think that AA works for some people for certain reasons. First of all the desire to change. The people at AA all seem to have the desire to change whereas if they didn’t have that desire, they probably wouldn’t be at AA. I can see it not working for people who are forced to go and don’t care about their treatment or do not recognize that they have a problem. I think that AA helped these people stay sober because, like they said at the end of the meetings, “Keep coming back, it will work if you work it...”Honestly, the only people that I could see not benefitting from the twelve step program, are the ones that do not care, do not want to change, do not have the courage, or the people who have not admitted they have a problem. Alcoholics Anonymous: This is the Fourth Edition of the Big Book, the Basic Text for Alcoholics Anonymous. Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, INC. New York City. 2001.
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