On April 2nd and 3rd I attended meetings of the Serentiy Group, a local meeting group of Alcoholics Anonymous that was held at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Fairfield, CT. 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 were a total of 15 people present, including myself.
The group was primarily made up of males; there was one female aside from myself. The age of the group members were 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 me in, and made me 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.
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 every one 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 noticed social learning theory present because the group talked about building self-control and reducing the inclination to indulge in self-inflicting behavior. 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, it’s 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.
Individual strain theory was also present in the sense that they all talked about their issues and what each meant on a personal level. They referred to the frictions and pains experienced by each as he or she looks for ways to satisfy his or her needs, i.e. if the goals of a society become significant to an individual, actually achieving them may become more important than the means adopted. 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 make the road to recovery achievable.