It’s been 29 months since I made the decision to step away from AA. If you read my first article about leaving AA here, you know it was one of the most difficult decisions I ever made in my whole life. And it wasn’t because my intuition or my soul or my heart were at odds with leaving – it’s because everyone I knew in AA kept telling me I was going to die, or relapse or a combination of both. It’s as if my entire life was on the line and that’s how other people made me feel. (And unfortunately, I believed them).
At some point in my recovery, I started learning to trust myself. I didn’t believe that trusting myself was possible in the beginning of my sobriety, but maybe that’s because I had a head full of AA and therapeutic treatment communities that told me I could not trust myself. I had been programmed to believe certain things about myself:
- I was born with a disease that was incurable and would never leave
- I was inherently selfish, self-seeking & self-centered
- If I didn’t go to meetings or work the steps, I would never recover
- Recovery was conditional and only possible if I worked the 12 steps of AA and had a spiritual experience
- That I could not trust myself – THAT I COULD NOT TRUST MYSELF EVER
I have since been de-programmed from this language so I can’t even remember all the lies I used to tell myself & actually believe. I would speak at treatment facilities and talk about what a miserable, awful person I was and how I was born inherently selfish. I can’t believe the things I used to say about myself and the things I wanted other people to believe about themselves. I kept pointing out my flaws, and my faults, and my defects and in turn, I kept noticing your flaws, and your faults, and your defects.
Leaving AA was one of the best things I ever did for my self-esteem and my self-worth. Joining AA was also one of the best things I ever did for my recovery. The thing is AA did help me. I will never deny that. I didn’t know of any other options and so when I finally started participating, and listening, and actively working the steps – my life did start changing in miraculous ways. The promises came true. And they are still true today – regardless of my involvement in the fellowship.
This is not meant to be another piece about how terrible AA is – because I am not the one who wants to hate on a method of recovery that works for people. I also actively encourage people to check out a variety of modalities because I don’t think there is one way or one path. I know there are multiple pathways to recovery and I am glad more people are speaking out on this very topic.
However, I have a story. And my story matters. And maybe you, the reader, will identify with this story and come to understand that the fear-based belief of death or relapse without the 12 steps is false and not real. Yes, some people who leave AA do relapse – and some people who are actively involved in AA relapse. Relapse happens. You can call it a slip or a mistake or a chance to learn or a lesson – but drinking or using after periods of sobriety happen.
I left AA in March of 2016. I went to a few meetings after that initial period of leaving because I was still afraid and had been programmed with a belief that without AA – I would not succeed.
In the last year and a half, I have been to one meeting. The meeting was an Artists in Recovery meeting in Dallas which I absolutely love. And also, I would actually like to go to more meetings, but leaving AA was one of the most traumatic events of my sobriety. When I hear people start telling me what to do – and tell me I am powerless or selfish or that I must be a really bad person in recovery because I don’t sponsor people – I start to cringe. I can’t take the language anymore. Even the parts I love about AA are left unlovable because I can’t go to meetings due to the outdated concepts that are promoted.
Maybe this will change. I am allowed to change.
When I left AA – I went through Hip Sobriety School and learned so much more about myself and my path. I started a blog about my sobriety and I started being honest with people about who I was, what I wanted, and what I deserved. I read more. I had been told to not read self-help books so I somewhat had stayed away from that. But, I devoured books.
I devoured the extra time I had to do the things I had so longingly been wanting to do but had not been able to do, due to the rigorous schedule of my AA commitments and meetings. I put my feet in the grass. I closed my eyes. I attempted to practice Kundalini. I started meditating. I inhaled essential oils. I grew closer to my family. I started breathing easier. I started learning about who I really was outside of what AA had programmed me to believe I was. It was refreshing. Truly.
I stopped hiding the fact that I was a person in recovery who did not agree with the 12 steps. I started holding myself accountable to the truth. I made friends with women who accepted where I was in my path – regardless of my affiliation with AA. I had so many friends leave me after I left AA and maybe I left them too. I don’t really know. But, I also had friends who stuck by me and didn’t give a shit about how I recovered. I became proud of myself. I found my voice. So much good happened because I took the time to listen to my intuition and to trust myself.
I love my recovery. I shout about it. I breathe recovery. Not because I think I have to – but, because I love to. I reframed my thoughts about alcohol and drugs. It wasn’t just something I had to give up – it was actually a beautiful gift that allowed me to truly see myself and know myself – to be present and aware – to be in pain and be OK.
Recovery will always be my greatest gift and the thing I am proudest of.
I fell in love with a man who is sober and has the same ideals as me. We don’t do meetings –but we do connection and community. We find people who believe in us and support us. We hang with people who do AA and we hang with people who don’t do AA. But, we share a message of hope. We share our stories, not only because it helps us, but because it helps other people too.
I have so much more to say about this topic and I will write easier pieces so you can digest. But, I just want you to know that if you are thinking of leaving AA – you can do it. I want there to be one more piece on this beautiful internet that shows that people can recover outside of AA.
I hope this finds you. I hope you know you are safe and loved and valuable and you have every right to trust yourself. You can trust yourself. I love you