There are several reasons Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud notes in favor of attending some sort of self-help group. Attendance can help stave off relapse, but on a more basic level it provides a place to talk and to be heard and to be understood. It doesn't have to be the 12-steps. There are other alternatives, some are quite effective and might be a better fit given a person's location or belief system. The fact is, regardless of belief system, we need a place to talk about The Things We Don't Talk About.
"I’m no shill for AA. (No member is: They're anonymous at the level of publicity. It's attraction rather than promotion.) The AA slogan factory drives me nuts. More about this in a moment. I hate the coffee. The Higher Power thing is tough for some people to swallow. Some people stay away from 12-step meetings because they don’t see themselves in the people around the tables or hear their stories told in the tragic stories of others. That is the point in going: To make sure you’re communicating what is stressing you before you go back to the drinking and become those tragic stories. You go because you don’t want to become The Alcoholic You Don’t Want To Be.
I screwed that one up, big time.
When I first went to a 12-step meeting, I was Alcoholic. No Doubt About It. But I didn’t hear myself as I presently was in the stories. I heard the horror stories. I was a functioning, maintenance drinker with a great job, two cars, etc. I didn’t have this low bottom I heard in the other stories. So I walked away, not realizing that day could have been my bottom. Their stories of grief and shame weren’t me. I had great empathy for their ordeals. What I failed to see was that they were a gift, showing me where I was headed, not where I was. That these ordeals of theirs were mine if I didn’t make that day my bottom. They were the Alcoholics I Didn’t Want To Be.
At the dawn of AA in the 1930s, the makeup was men and women with low, low bottoms. Over the years, that changed mainly because those who had hit low bottoms were able to raise the bottom to a level where it applies to Alcoholics-in-training like me who hadn’t had a low bottom. Yet. I failed. I didn’t listen . . . there’s that communication thing again . . . to what they were saying that they, too, were one day in the same shape I was. And then I became the Alcoholic I Didn’t Want To Be a few years down the road. While we have to talk about the stuff we don’t talk about, it pays to listen. A lot. I go to 12-step meetings for this, but there are other options out there, too. Use them. Most are free. All are free of excuses not to attend."
--from Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud: Relapse and the Symptoms of Sobriety, pgs. 104-105 (image: ThampaPon)
Alcoholics Anonymous has -- you guessed it -- a slogan. Sometimes, the clichés get it right. Meeting Makers Make It. Especially when it comes to beating relapse. Doesn't have to be AA, though it works for me and many. Just GO.
Details on the third literary award for Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud, plus the new radio interview replay is available at alcohologist.com... and please read the new interview with Scott Stevens at Christoph Fisher Books. Mr. Fisher is an acclaimed international historical fiction novelist from the UK.