" The good news about Alcoholics Anonymous is, the network is already in place when you walk into your first meeting. You may not feel it immediately but give it some time - it grows on you."
I know how it feels to drag yourself into your first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. Whether you’ve got a “nudge from the judge” or you are sick and tired of being sick and tired, walking into a strange place feeling defeated and vulnerable takes some real courage. I remember when I was at the bottom of my barrel, I had a directory and looked to see where the next meeting might be and drove by - but I decided not to go in. You know why? Because sitting outside of the meeting was a disheveled homeless man sitting on the step. I looked at him and thought, that’s not ME?! So, I went home, still miserable and crushed, but too egotistical and delusional to see that was exactly where I belonged.
The beauty of getting Sober in Los Angeles, California is, the AA is ubiquitous as Starbucks. Granted, the city is HUGE and it’s a sprawling collection of neighborhoods with their own personality and culture, but that is the GOOD NEWS. There is literally a meeting going on all the time. Take your pick from the directory - or if you’re tech savvy, download the app “MEETING GUIDE” (the icon is a white folding chair on a dark blue background). All you must do is type in your zip code and it will give all the current meetings available. There are filters in the app too to specify what “type” of meeting you are looking for. Women’s, men’s, step study, big book study, round robin, speaker meetings, beginners’ meetings, LGBTQ etc. So technologically speaking, there is no excuse for not finding a meeting near you and checking it out. Since there are so many different meetings - if you don’t like the first one you try, there are plenty of others out there. I can say without hesitation, you will find meetings that will resonate with you. I promise.
So, you’ve found a variety of meetings to suite your needs and round out your recovery? When does this begin to feel like a “fellowship”? They say you get out of it what you put into it - which is true with just about everything in life. It is particularly applicable during your first year of Sobriety and AA. As you will soon see, the main ingredients of a healthy and robust experience with AA focuses on The Big Book of AA, the 12 X 12, and finding a sponsor (someone who has been through the steps, has a story or a personality that resonates with yours, and is willing to pass on what they have learned in the program). The Big Book has everything you need to know in the first 164 pages. The rest are assorted personal stories from alcoholics telling their stories and how they beat the alcohol/addiction. The twelve and twelve are the 12 steps of AA explained in detail with some moving observations about the alcoholic mind etc., that will flesh out any questions about what lies ahead for you to recover and live a sober and meaningful life.
In the beginning, your sponsor will often tell you to find several commitments at meetings. What does this have to do with a “sober network?” Everything! When you are new, it’s likely you have found yourself at a crossroads, where your old ways and old friends may have to be a thing of the past. It will likely be necessary for you to find a Sober group of friends who you can be social with and act as a warm blanket of accountability. How do you find new friends in AA? Especially when you feel so defeated and broken? You go to meetings a bit early, find the secretary of the meeting, and ask him/her if there are any commitments available? These will be exciting things like, making coffee, bringing literature, being the scribe for the meeting, greeting at the front door, helping put chairs away after - you know, those types of things. All these commitments can be thought of as bridges to freedom from self. With a commitment you become responsible, you get to know others who have commitments at the meeting (you all show up a bit early to set up), your name and face become. Sort of like “Cheers” - everybody knows your name… And that is a good thing, no matter how grumpy and miserable you are feeling. You will see the group will love you until you can love yourself. Boom! There you are, already acting like you own the place!
The simple fact is, we are not alone in this venture. We are ALL on a shared path of recovery, discovery, and healing. Think of it like this: You are on a sober cruise around the world with strangers who, through shared experiences full of vulnerability and truth, will become the friends you navigate life’s adventures. This is your “sober network.”