What's the worst that could happen?

And so Lorna enters Alcoholics Anonymous…

I knew this about AA: it was a group for alcoholics who wanted to remain anonymous. And not drink. I was such a clever girl.

Here’s what I didn’t know about AA but quickly learned:

  1. The Program consisted of 12 Steps  you had to “work” more or less in order, with the understanding that truly completing any of the steps was impossible.
  2. To stay sober you had to attend meetings regularly. All anonymous alcoholics emphasized this. Some had been attending for 20+ years. As a newbie, I was told “30 meetings in 30 days” as a minimum and then as many meetings as I needed so I didn’t drink. Forever. Until I died. Which seemed imminent.
  3. Having a Sponsor was mandatory. You needed someone who’s “been there before” to call upon when you’re tempted to swallow a bottle of NyQuil.
  4. Anonymous alcoholics required prodigious amounts of coffee, donuts, and cigarettes.
  5. The meetings (at least the ones I went to) consisted of an opening prayer, discussion about one of the steps, volunteer “alcohol war-story-telling,” announcements of attendees, and a closing prayer (complete with hand-holding).

Luckily Chuck was with me, because AA and I got off to a bad start.

Apparently Protestants love to host AA meetings. My first meeting was in a church. The Recovering-Catholic, Trying-Hard-But-Meh-Methodist, Decidedly-Anti-Diety Lorna wanted to run, not walk away–much like a Vampire with crucifix shoved in her face. Seven of the 12 Steps had some reference to a “Higher Power” or “God.” I wanted sobriety, not religion.

Wow, AA seems to have turned these former bandits into Believers. The Program is powerful.

Then there was the smoking. Back in 1984, smoking was permitted in nearly all public places, with the possible exception of a respiratory-care unit in a hospital. I’m sure the concern was about “lighting up” near all those oxygen tanks. My virgin lungs seized up within the first 5 minutes of the hour-long meeting.

Good old Ronnie. He must've been friends with lots of the people I met in AA.

Having a mandatory, anonymous social network for life didn’t thrill me. I liked my privacy. You’d never find me in a gang–not the Brownies, 4-H, or Girl Scouts. Serial best friends–that’s how I lived my social life. I didn’t even like big family gatherings. The thought of socializing regularly with a cadre of alcoholics in various stages of recovery for the rest of my life made me want to take up smoking.

That would've put an end to my interminable manatory social, ach um, life...

But I promised Chuck I’d do this. I’m a woman of my word and I’m not a quitter–well, in the case of drinking, I was a quitter.

Chuck also told me he wouldn’t leave me, but would never have children with me until he was sure I’d beaten my alcoholism. He must have forgotten I never wanted children. His ultimatum is what got to me, though. I had to prove I was worthy of him; and, by golly, I would.

I sat through the first meeting, with Chuck by my side. I was shaking so much he thought I was cold. I wasn’t. I was scared. The stories I was hearing were dreadful. The “bottoms” people spoke about were much lower than mine, but they spoke about them with unexpected humor. They also spoke of relapses and the need to keep coming to the meetings.

The time came for announcements. People stood and declared days, weeks, months, and years of sobriety–each followed by applause and “amens” from the crowd. Some received much-coveted “chips.” Then the leader–there was always a leader–asked if there was anyone new in the group. This was my cue. I stood on legs so weak and wobbly, I must’ve looked like a calf standing for the first time, and said the most difficult sentence of my life to date, “Hi, my name is Lorna, and…I’m an…an alcoholic.” They must’ve also thought I had a speech-impediment because it came out choppy and glurpy with tears. Applause followed. Applause?

Okay, so I didn't look quite that glamorous and they didn't give me a solid gold trophy or make me stand in front of a microphone. But the tears were real. And the applause...

After the prayer circle, happy, helpful people swarmed me. I got all kinds of advice (30 meetings/30 days, tips for quelling cravings), many offers for sponsors, where to buy The Blue Book (their Bible), and encouragement to stay for coffee and donuts. I was polite, listened, and got out as soon as I could.

I was overwhelmed with The Program and the kind, but intense, members of AA. They wanted me.

Once in the fresh air, my head and lungs clearing from the meeting, I knew in the deepest part of me that AA wasn’t for me.

Stay tuned to see if Lorna really is a woman of her word…