Field Study At AA

On Wednesday March 15 and 22 I attended meetings of the Serentiy Group, a local
meeting group of Alcoholics Anonymous that were held at the Congregational
Church in East Bridgewater. The meetings started around 8:00 pm and went until
each member was given the opportunity to speak, or to share their feelings in some
way. There was a total of 15 people present, including myself and my companion.
The group was primarily made up of males, there was one female aside from my
companion and I. The age of the group members was pretty much middle age (late
30s to 50s).


Before attending the meeting I was very apprehensive about going, for many
reasons. The main one was that I did not know what to expect. I was unsure of
who was going to be there, if I would know anyone, or if anyone would know me. I
felt as though I was going to be invading the privacy of those in attendance. Upon
arrival at I felt very extremely uncomfortable for two reasons, the obvious age
difference, and the male to female ratio. The uneasiness passed quickly as the
members of the group welcomed us in, and made us feel as if we were a part of the
group. I think that part of my initial nervousness was due to the fact that I did not
know what to expect, I was unsure as to what a drunk would look like. Once I
arrived I realized that they do not look any different than anyone else. My initial
impression was that the meeting would be very depressing, a bunch of drunks sitting
around telling stories about how alcohol ruined their lives feeling sorry for
themselves. Once I met these people and began conversing with them I knew I was
wrong. I think that I felt this way because of the negative stereotypes that are
attached to being a drunk, and not what the positive effects of a group such as
Alcoholics Anonymous could be.

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In this small group of individuals I found somewhat of a family structure.
These people cared not only about themselves, but each other as well. They all
shared their addiction to alcohol, which brought them together. The outlook and
attitude of these people was very optimistic. This surprised me considerably because
I had expected the meeting to be full of negativity and pessimism. The warm
welcome that this group gave me showed me how much that they do care and how
willing they are to help others afflicted with alcoholism. The one thing about this
group that surprised me the most was how openly they referred to themselves as
drunks. I had always thought that it would be an insult or degrading to a recovering
alcoholic to call them a drunk. I realized that I was wrong. Being a drunk is what
each and everyone of these people is, and in order for them to begin the recovery
process they need to first admit to themselves that they are indeed a drunk.


One belief that seemed to be held universally among all of the members of the
group was that AA has one purpose. That purpose is to help alcoholics deal with
their addiction to alcohol. An AA meeting is where you go to discuss the effects of
alcohol on you, it is not time to air your dirty laundry about problems with other
substances. If you want or need help coping with your addiction to alcohol, AA is a
solution, if you want help with other addictions, AA is not a solution. Each member
of the group wanted to help themselves and anyone else who needed or desired it.
The group strongly believed in the 12 steps, focusing heavily on the fourth and fifth
steps as being the bridge to true recovery, saying that the recovery process began
once you crossed the bridge. It seemed as though each person in the group gained a
strong sense of who they were and what was important to them to survive. I was
given the impression that they had an idea of how important they are to themselves
and their family and how important alcohol was to them.
One major concept that came up throughout both meetings was the idea of
one day at a time. It was this idea that helped each of them to become sober and
how they hoped to remain sober. Alcoholism is not like a cold or the flu, its not
gone when you wake up in the morning, it will always be there. When alcoholism is
looked at on the short term basis, one day at a time, rather than on the long term, a
week, month, or year, it makes sobriety more realistic and more manageable.
Sobriety was not a term that was used a lot throughout the meetings, instead the
term not drinking came up quite a bit. I was given the impression that this was
because of the pressure that is implied by the word sober.


Both the 12 steps and the 12 traditions are major players in the lives of those
in the group. The meetings and their lives seemed to revolve around them. At each
meeting they read about the fifth step and the fifth tradition. They discussed both
the step and the tradition ate great length, and what each meant on a personal level.
They took the idea of taking inventory on themselves very seriously. It was as
though they felt once they completed this process they were truly on their way to
recovery.


Although I only attended two meetings with this small group of people, they
taught me a great deal about helping myself. They let me know that to get through
it you need to be brutally honest with yourself. They showed me that alcoholics are
ordinary people just like you and me, and what they need most of all is support and
understanding.


I found this group extremely informative and helpful and I would highly
recommend any type of self help organization to anyone who feels they need help
dealing with the problems in their everyday lives. I believe that a group such as The
Serenity Group, would be extremely beneficial to those who had a problem with
alcohol. Their positive attitude and outlook that they posses makes the road to
recovery achievable.