Two weeks ago I celebrated 17 years of sobriety and was unable to attend a meeting due to being on vacation. I wished that I could have spent time with my fellow AA’s on this special birthday. I am often asked why after 17 years I still go to meetings and my response is always the same “Because I am an alcoholic” I know of several people in AA with a lot of time who stopped going to meetings. I even had a sponsor with over 20 years of sobriety who decided not to go to meetings as she did not want to deal with the newcomer drama. Many old timers stick together and are almost cliquey in their approach to meetings only going to meetings which their friends go to. This is not what AA is about and anybody who adopts this attitude is on a dangerous and slippery slope.
So why do I believe that meetings are an essential part of my recovery no matter how much time I have. It’s really very simple, I always want to be reminded of where I came from. Listening to the newcomer brings me back to the beginning to the horror of my drinking and the pain of early sobriety. I need to hear it because I know for this alcoholic I am always only one drink away from that very place at any time. I could not stay sober just with meetings I have to work the spiritual program to stay emotionally sober happy and healthy but the meetings keep me grounded and are an ever present reminder of what I am dealing with. I hear it over and over from people who have relapsed even with a lot of time under their belts talk about how they stopped going to meetings. I sometimes have a great week and like everybody else I get very busy. I can let my meetings slip. I will then attend a meeting and hear exactly what I need to hear to remind me that I am an alcoholic and I need to treat my disease or go back to being sick. At times I say I am afraid to stop the meetings because of the stories of relapse. The idea of drinking and going through the hell of drinking is enough to keep me going for the rest of my life. If I do not go to meetings I do not hear about the early days and the newcomer’s pain and I might forget what it was like. I also feel that it is very important for those of us with some time to be in the meetings for the newcomer. Sitting in their first or second or even several meetings in they cannot contemplate years of sobriety and its very important for those newcomers to hear from AA’s with several years of sobriety to give them hope. It is also very important for the old timers to be there and present to offer sponsorship to the newcomers. All you need to be a sponsor is to have worked all 12 steps and work the program on a daily basis however there is real value for the newcomer to have a sponsor who has a lot of experience to guide them through the steps. Long time AA’s have seen it all after sponsoring several people and can usually be a good guide when the newcomer starts to go off track.
I will never stop going to meetings and if you are in long term recovery and feel you can stay sober without the meetings think of our primary purpose to stay sober and help another alcoholic. How does one do that sitting in the armchair? I would say you get to be an old-timer by never forgetting where you came from because you are constantly reminded of why you never want to go back.