I really meant to blog more after turning 25. But my adult life has had this way of pulling me along on a very fast, strong current of work, bills, social stuff and more work! A lot of it is enjoyable. Some of it isn't. But I can say it has gotten in the way of my blogging and writing - part of the problem is also because I write all day every day for my job, so I don't always feel like writing or reading when I get home. But I've actually come to find that creatively writing and reading has become a major comfort and source of inspiration for me, in spite of the fact that I write for a living.
Which actually has given me a small moment of pride. I think my teenage self would actually be a little bit proud of me, and that brings me a lot of relief because I am constantly questioning what I'm doing and if it's really what I want and if it's enough. Which it definitely isn't, because I'm asking myself these questions which I don't think I would be if I were totally happy. But I am a writer, and a journalist at that, which has an added bit of prestige and worth to it, because hopefully what I'm writing is helping people make decisions and lead their lives. Hopefully.
Anyway, what I wanted to write about today is why I stopped going to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) after almost three years of sobriety. It's kind of a long story, but a worthy one.
I first learned of AA the first summer I went to visit a relative that lived in Hawaii. I was 13 turning 14 and I went to a few meetings of AA and Al-Anon, just as a tag-along. I didn't pay attention much; I mostly scribbled poems in the old churches where the meetings were held with those little stubby pencils without erasers or I looked out of the window and daydreamed. But there was something about the meetings that struck me and stayed with me, even when I returned home to Florida.
As I grew up, I went back to Hawaii every summer. Each year, the amount of alcohol I drank and the variety of drugs I experimented with grew bigger and bigger. But so too did my adventure with spirituality, Yoga, meditation and the 12 Steps. I always felt caught between two worlds - my normal life in Florida with my friends where I was your average high-school student hanging out and getting into trouble and rebelling against any type of rule. But my other world was on a magical island in the middle of an ocean surrounded by spiritual, thoughtful and, in my young eyes, magical people.
At the age of 18, I finally decided to quit drinking and enter AA so that I could live with that relative. It was terrifying and incredibly liberating, as I was feeling depressed and stuck in a party lifestyle at the Univ. of Central Florida. I also decided to move to Hawaii to become a writer and pursue a spiritual lifestyle. So I did!
It was a wonderful and terrible and amazing period of growth for me, those two and a half years I was on Kauai. I'm so grateful that my life there is basically chronicled in this blog and I can't express how happy I am that I kept blogging and writing so diligently in my late teens and early twenties. I have a lot to look back on and reflect when I want to.
But nothing is black and white, there is no perfectly wonderful place or group of people, no matter how much spirituality, the 12 Steps of recovery, Yoga and Ayurveda is a focus. So it was with the people I was living and working with and where I was spending my time on Kauai. I liked the spiritual practices I was learning with that group, but at the same time I felt controlled and like I couldn't have views or desires that were different from my friends and spiritual teacher. When I did eventually say I wanted to go back to college and I wasn't sure about my future with the group, I was kicked out and no one ever contacted me again, which was incredibly painful for a long time because they were like my family for many years and I thought nothing would break that bond.
I stayed in Alcoholics Anonymous for another year and a half, even after I left Kauai and moved back to Florida to return to university. But as I integrated back into mainstream society after living on an isolated farm in an isolated group on Kauai and started relearning how to relate to people, I basically realized that I had joined AA mostly because it was one of the conditions to join that group on Kauai and not because I was really an alcoholic. (I was DEFINITELY a problem drinker though and used alcohol and drugs to cover up my feelings instead of dealing with reality.)
I do drink alcohol sometimes when I'm out with friends. But I only go to Al-Anon meetings now instead of AA. It was a difficult transition after 3 years of sobriety, and I questioned myself all along the way. I still watch myself carefully because I know that I have an addictive personality and it would be easy to slip back into problem drinking.
But here I am, still working the steps and dealing with some of the baggage and bad habits I picked up and developed during my childhood and I'm stronger than I've ever been.
I also made a YouTube video covering this topic! You can watch it below. Please comment with your thoughts and whether you have entered and then left a 12-Step program!