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Alcoholics Anonymous: not just for Hollywood

Hi, I’m Gretchyn and I’m in the same boat.” I butchered the widely known mantra.

“We’re not a cult,” was one of the first phrases to console me as I took a seat in the Campus Health Service meeting room, very much after hours at 9:25 on Friday night.

The meeting began with a short prayer, which happened to be one of the pre-written Christian prayers I actually liked: the serenity prayer. So I hesitantly joined in.

Afterward, another young woman introduced herself as an alcoholic and began what I assume is another part of every meeting: the reading of the “12 steps” and purposes of Alcoholics Anonymous.

On first mention of “the big book,” I became a bit wary that this was a reference to the Bible, but soon realized that it was a sort of AA textbook. The 12-step program, which I learned is prudently paced and requires real commitment, is not a quick-fix leading to never needing another drink in your life.

It is based in spiritual principles, but is not claiming any religion or religious beliefs. All these members accept that there is some sort of power larger than them, a power in the universe that they have to realize they are consequence to in order to fight the grasp of alcohol on them.

“I thought I was crazy,” is a statement that many of those gathered around me would agree to.

Before accepting you have an illness related to a substance, it is easiest to just see the related failings as a fault in yourself rather than a weakness that needs to be addressed in order to avoid future mistakes.

I knew nothing going in. Well, nothing other than I was unsure if college students could even be considered alcoholics and that I’d been told of this meeting because someone thought it could possibly help me.

No, I never expected this to be a cult, not before or after I heard a few statements recited in unison or everyone introducing themselves as an alcoholic.

I am in a sorority, so I know how important and comforting ritual can be and I quickly understood that the “and I am an alcoholic” was repeated because members want to acknowledge as much as possible that they have an illness that is not curable and that no matter how many decades someone has been sober, he or she still has to actively treat their alcoholism every day.

The group was started in 1935 by two professional men: a New York stock broker and an Ohio surgeon who had decided that they needed help curbing alcohol’s effects.

Today, AA has never accepted donations from outside the community, had a paid governing counsel or been affiliated with any other religious or non-religious group.

Will I return? Well, I guess that is for me to decide and for you to probably never find out; I can say that I met many wonderful people with varying life experiences and a similar desire to befriend me and give me advice on what I was going through.

Beside the Friday meeting on the third floor of CHS, there is one every weekday at First United Methodist church on campus at 12:10 p.m.

I was told that this group has even more UA-affiliated attendees and is a slightly shorter meeting. These groups are closed, which means they welcome newcomers that want to know more about why alcohol has such a control over their lives and what they can do about it.


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