In early recovery, I was angry, bitter, confused and stark raving mad but knowing that now didn’t help me much then.

Sometimes, a simple saying that I heard in a Twelve Step meeting might set me off, quotes like ‘stinkin thinkin’ for instance. Whenever I heard this I’d imagine myself as a cartoon character from Looney Tunes, Wile E. Coyote sticking dynamite in his ears and Road Runner lighting the fuse. I didn’t want to hear it! It really bugged the shit out of me – stinking thinking? I stink not!

Another thing I heard said often was this zinger: “It’s easy to stop drinking, it’s staying stopped that’s hard”, hearing that one sent the barometer in my brain shooting through the top of my head. The first thing that came to mind was,  “If it was so fucking easy to stop drinking why are all you nut jobs sitting in this room talking about it? Shouldn’t you be getting on with your perfect alcohol free lives and leaving us losers to it? In fact, hearing this made me think I was in the wrong place or at least the wrong meeting; all these folks obviously didn’t have a problem like mine, because it seemed that when they wanted to stop drinking, they just stopped!

I couldn’t relate at all because once I started drinking I couldn’t stop until I passed out. When I came to, either the next day or in a few hours, I’d start drinking again immediately to block out the guilt, dread and eventual withdrawal symptoms. In fact I’d only stop when my body physically rejected the alcohol. Whenever this happened – which was often – I’d take sips, throw up, take more sips, throw up until somewhere along the way I’d pass out in a pool of puke. That was how I stopped drinking; it wasn’t because it was easy, it was because I had lost control over my bodily functions.

Another saying I heard was, “Stick around for the miracle to happen” – Hmm, I’d hardly say any of the people I saw in those meetings qualified for the Vatican’s  ‘Call-in a miracle line”. Nope, I didn’t see any miracles going on there and definitely no images of religious icons in the tossed out coffee filters. Thankfully, I was desperate enough to want to know why these people stuck around, why did they quote all these useless sayings and why did some of them look so happy? At first I thought it was because they came to gloat, “Look at me, you poor bastards, I don’t have a drinking problem and you do”.

Turns out, I was more like Wile W. Coyote than I realized because no matter how much he got hurt, blown up or tossed into a bottomless canyon in his attempts to catch the Road Runner, he always tried again, trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results. That is exactly what I did with my drinking, I drank and drank, hoping that this time, I could just have one drink and stop, or this time I could control my drinking and drink like other people.

Thank God I stuck around and took the dynamite out of my ears and starting listening. I realized what these people were actually saying was that it wasn’t necessarily easy to stop  drinking,  it was just a little easier than staying stopped.  Because the truth is, most of us will swear off the booze time and time again only to pick it up a day, week, month or even a year later. I was one of these people, and the only thing that stopped this nightmare cycle for me was to commit to a program of recovery and in my case it was Alcoholics Anonymous.

After a few months in AA, the sayings didn’t bother me as much, if people got something out of them and they stayed off the sauce for another day, who was I to judge? Plus I began to see the miracles they were talking about, whether it was someone opening up and sharing for the first time or a milestone celebrated by someone who was clearly a different person than they were when they first walked into the rooms. And yet another saying I heard began to ring true whereas before when I heard it, I almost lost the plot completely. This I had heard many times,  “There’s good news and bad news, the good news is there is a solution to your problem, the bad news is, we are the solution”.

They were right about that one too.

  1. sam says:

    If I could put into words how it was for me, then this is EXACTLY how I would put it – Thankyou, brilliantly done. Typically, I also sat there rattling away wishing everyone would STOP talking AT me about themselves, for fuck’s sake what about ME!!! Yes, sheer emotional and mental torture kept me going back and eventually I had enough clarity to actually HEAR what they were saying – Thank God for the Fellowship and the 12 Step Program as I’m now enjoying my 6th year in sobriety. Please write more.
    Sam – England

  2. Chaz says:

    Hey Georgia… I too can relate.

    I find myself to be a non-conformist. I didnt want to sound like the people I feld were mindless drones plugging into the AA matrix and spouting the same lifeless sayings.

    That was until I discovered first hand that the same people for whom I had developed a ditaste were right a lot of the time. And when I got desparate enough to follow their hair-brained suggestions, I actually got results.

    I began to feel and think differently. I actually felt some hope. The lifelong feelings of anxiety and depression began to lift (aka, a new freedom and a new happiness).

    But I had to discover it for myself. And I also discovered I could absorb much of the program without giving up my individual identity. I did not have to become a conformist. I simply work the program to the best of my ability in authentic ways.

    I often phrase things the way that makes sense to me. Not unlike updated translations of the Bible. Often times, people who “speak AA” sound similar to church folk who speak in King James english.

    Even though I have a distaste for King James English, it does not mean the truths spoken are without power. I find ways past my biases (weaknesses) to hopefully discover truth.

    I dont believe I have ever used the phrase, “Stinkin thinkin”. I connect with what it says, but the phrasing just isnt me and I dont conform easily. So I would be more inclined to say for instance, “well-worn habits of thought” as I often describe what I believe “stinkin thinkin” describes.

    I do not see where AA ever asked us to adopt lingo or culture. I see it as nothing more nor less than a group of people who found what worked for them sharing it with others. Yes, many get carried away to cultic and evangelical extremes. But where doesnt that exist in matters of great importance? A certain number will get carried away, militant, whatever.

    I am glad… no, extatic, to say I remain sober now for years. And I no longer wake up mornings thinking of how I can kill myself without hurting anyone else.

    Thats good isnt it?



  3. friendofbw says:

    I’m glad I stumbled upon this post. I actually loved the sayings when I first came in (8 weeks ago), but now they’re starting to drive me crazy. I needed to be reminded that they don’t repeat these mantra’s just for fun…they’re actually true. Thanks, great post.

    • Georgia W. says:

      ‘Live and Let Live’ was a saying I liked from the first time I saw it in a meeting, so I always remind myself of that one when I start making judgements I shouldn’t be!
      Well done on 8 weeks – awesome!

      • Anonymous says:

        Right now I keep repeating “don’t quit until the miracle happens.” Because I keep wanting to run from the program (though I don’t think i actually will). Ijust know something good is gonna happen if I stick around.

  4. Chaz says:

    Looking back to when I first walked into the room of a 12 step meeting, I am confounded at how complicated my thinking was and what complicated matters I made of most things. Yet this is entirely typical.

    Thus the perpetuation fo the expression, “Easy Does It”. I think it is so essential to focus exclusively on one or two very simple things, say for example:
    – making it to just one more meeting
    – looking for similarities, not differences

    Leave everything else on the shelf. EVERYTHING. None of us can process an infinite number of things at once. In fact, our tendancy to do so is often one of the things that kept us drunk, high, gambling, whatever.

    I have seen this work effectively time, and time again. The items on the shelf are addressed one at a time over time. Just for today, choose one or two things that are attainable and do them. Tomorrow will show up all on its own and we will deal with it and its issues when it does.



    • Georgia W. says:

      Sound suggestions Chaz, thanks for sharing.

    • chris says:

      love your posts dude….u are very wise…..any advice on getting children that hate you back in your life….i am searching for answers….

      • Georgia W. says:

        Hi Chris,
        Thanks for your comment. All I can say is what worked for me and that is to keep your word, always do what you say you are going to do, call when you are supposed to, be where you say you are going to be no matter what. Rebuilding trust takes time and we are an impatient lot by nature! All you can do is suit up and show up for life on a daily basis, be rigorously honest and trust that if you keep doing the right thing, things will get better.

        Good Luck my friend.

  5. Colleen says:

    I love your blog! Thanks for the inspiration and motivation. Keep doing what you’re doing, I’m sure it’s helping a lot of people. I know it’s helping me.

  6. Bobby says:

    Thank you for your thoughts. Being grumpy in early recovery is understandable. Not listening to AA jargon is even more understandable. However, eventually the words become more than sayings and they take on the role of becoming beacons of strength. Recovery includes reaching for them to calm us down and convince us that we are not alone. If it can become a cliche in AA , it is usually valid to some degree. I love Wile E. Coyote because he never gives up. Thank you for sharing with us and good luck with your sobriety.

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