I haven’t been to an AA meeting since February or March 2006. It has been apparently of no consequence. I do not have any greater or lesser desire to drink. There are days when I wish I can take a drink, and days where the thought is absent. It was that way when I was a regular at meeting attendance. I simply outgrew it. Bear in mind, this is just my experience, my path, and I don’t judge anyone else’s meeting attendance. But I will talk more about AA meetings and why in my opinion they should be abandoned after a while because they inhibit one’s spiritual growth as a Catholic Christian. I am just proposing my thoughts, accept or reject them as you will.
Abandoning AA meetings won’t harm AA or cause it to eventually disappear. New people will always show up and will be helped by others with a few years of sobriety. Early AA did very well with that model. With no more that 4 years of sobriety by the oldest member, they produced the first “Big Book”. Maybe that’s the best way for AA to “Keep it simple.” When an organization gets as large and as old as AA, and members stick around for decades, attending meetings and such, it tends to get set it its ways, and its culture. Despite AA’s lack of traditional governance, it still has become something of a large institution and I wonder what the early AA’s in the 1930’s would have thought of that, 70 years later. But the point of this post isn’t to be critical of AA’s structure, so if the early AA’s would have approved or disapproved of AA today is irrelevant.
Anyway, perhaps the best way for AA to keep it simple and just focused on learning the basics of living a sober life is for members to move on after a few years. Join, get sober, learn the Twelve Steps and how to apply them in everyday life, re-learn how to react to things, and then stop attending (at least regularly). It is hard to grow spiritually when you are essentially transferring your dependence on alcohol to dependence on meeting attendance. It has been my experience in meetings that the same people say the same things about the same topics. This can be just as spiritually stunting as alcohol was despite its being healthier and safer.
What is needed is for members to discover a deeper spirituality than a design-your-own Higher Power and an idea that has evolved to beome morally relativistic. “It doesn’t matter what you believe in, as long as you believe in something,” is what AA’s insistence on a individualistic Higher Power has become. It was originally intended to be an idea that would enable members to continue to hold their personal religious beliefs and practices without the fear that another religion is being forced upon them. You practice your religious Faith, and meetings supplement that practice. But it has largely mutated into the notion that one religion is just as good as any other. This is wrong. Not all paths to heaven are equal. Catholic Christianity has all the Gospel and Apostolic tools needed for one to achieve salvation. Other paths may indeed get you to Heaven, but Christianity is the only secure roadmap plotted out by God, and Catholic Christianity is its fullest expression. (Go to the sidebar and read the posts under the label “Church”.)
So, what to do if you’re a Catholic faced with the need to attend meetings? Go. Do the “90 meetings in 90 days” recommendation. This is largely to ensure that you will at least get the basics of AA, as in 90 meetings you’ll probably be exposed to every kind of meeting and topic you’ll ever see. (If you live in an area that this is impossible to do, try online meetings. They’re just as useful. I might join one that may be Catholic in membership. If I do it’ll be just for the occasional refresh of Twelve Step philosophy.) Get the “Big Book”, along with the AA text “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions”. Another is “Experience, Strength and Hope”, a book containing the personal stories from previous editions of the Big Book” that are no longer included in the current edition. Other good AA books are “Living Sober” and “Daily Reflections”. Both titles are self-explanatory, the latter being a good 12 Step quick reference. Other books are the three Grapevine anthologies “The Best of the Grapevine, vols 1-3”. The Grapevine is AA’s ‘official’ magazine, its “Meeting in Print”. There are other, more specialized Grapevine anthologies, but if you only want a few, go with those. Also, find a sponsor, someone who will personally guide you through the 12 Steps and is a sounding board for your AA experience. He or she (almost always a person of your gender) should be a person who will respect your decision to remain firmly and primarily Catholic.
It has been my experience that rank-and-file AA’s tend to be wary of any form of spirituality that threatens their primary belief that AA is the only way to maintain sobriety. It may be the oldest and most successful method to focus on alcoholism, but it isn’t the only way. This fixation is why I feel that AA’s Higher Power” concept has developed the way it did. You are free to believe in whatever you wish, but AA remains the centerpiece, religion gets subordinated to it.
AA is a fine tool, when used properly and in moderation. Excessive use of it can derail or subvert your spiritual growth. Use it as a tool, but only one of many.Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)"The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"