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Taking a Break from AA

Lately, I’ve been going to fewer meetings and reaching out to fewer people. It’s considered a dangerous situation by some hardcore AA folks. It may be, even if I have double-digit years sober. I’ve heard all the stories of people cutting back on AA activities gradually, only to eventually relapse again. It makes sense, but perhaps those stories are self-selecting in that those people who attended less do eventually come back. The ones who stop attending and stay sober are the people you don’t hear from since they’re not going to meetings.

I like my alone time

I have always been very introverted. It was a handicap before AA. It held me back from life, from friends, and from becoming the best “me” possible since I was afraid of joining in social activities.

My first sponsor saw it as a flaw. He suggested I share in every meeting in order to get over my social anxiety, which I started doing. My heart pounded for a good 6 months each time I shared, but it became comfortable eventually. I never got to the point where I enjoyed sharing. It always has felt like a chore after 10+ years sober.

I have to admit AA improved my social comfort. I made friends, got better at conversation, and grew more self-confident. I always preferred being alone, however. I get the most entertainment by, well, entertaining myself. I enjoy reading, art, writing, and the outdoors more by myself. I don’t think any amount of AA will change that or make me an outgoing person.

As much as I want to be more outgoing, it is always more strenuous to act like someone I’m not. I had to accept that “fake it till you make it” doesn’t actually mean you’ll like it once you make it. I don’t like being socially engaged all the time.

I keep a small circle of friends

AA feels like everyone needs a large circle of friends and that’s the right way to do it. I’ve always kept a small circle. I don’t need to see a bunch of friends at a meeting to feel energized. I spend one-on-one time with them outside of AA and meetings. It’s enough to stop me from becoming isolated.

Trying to keep up with a lot of people felt like an obligation. One that I self-imposed, I admit. However, meeting more people at a meeting eventually didn’t improve my social circle. I still stuck to the few long-term buddies I knew. So meetings started feeling like a way to listen and bide an hours time. They don’t feel like a place to build relationships anymore.

I never liked sponsoring

I sponsored for a few years and never felt better engaging in it. I worried I’d say the wrong thing and the person would relapse or blame me for things blowing up in their lives. I never accepted that I didn’t have the power to get people sober, as everyone explains. It was an immense pressure to guide someone through the steps and AA in general.

It didn’t help that the third guy I sponsored fired me and soon ended up OD’ing. Deaths are a natural part of spending time around addicts, but his death hit close to home. He was a great guy as well with a generous and warm personality. It hurt to know I didn’t reach him and I somehow felt a little responsible.

I don’t feel like a know any better than the guy that has one week sober. Who am I to say how someone else should work the program? I make the same dumb mistakes as I’ve done all my life. I think I’m an idiot most of the time. So I didn’t get comfortable sponsoring or see improvements in my life from doing that hard work. I quit sponsoring several years ago.

I have immense respect for the guys who enjoy sponsorship and do it well.

I don’t feel like this is a permanent situation or complete opting-out

I don’t hold any resentment towards AA. I believe I am taking a temporary break after being all in for many years. I still pop in every week and stay in contact with my home group. I am no longer beating myself up for not going to “x” number of meetings a week or calling “x” amount of AA buddies.

It’s liberating. But it’s also nice to know I can get more involved at any time and don’t have to keep up any membership dues to stay a good-standing member of AA.

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