Updated: Mar 27, 2019
This is my story of leaving AA.
I moved some really fucking heavy furniture last weekend. Remember how we all thought we were invincible when we were in our 20’s? I pretty much still think that I am and that I can do anything. But, after moving the furniture, my muscles were left in a state I am not accustomed to. My left forearm was useless. It felt like my muscles were minced meat. I somehow made it through a hockey game and went to pick up the last piece of furniture that wouldn’t fit in the first load: a TV. It was the lightest TV I have ever lifted. And it was sooooo hard to move it from my friend’s car into mine.
Afterward, I was talking to her about my forearm muscles, urging her to feel my tight ropey muscles and mentioned, albeit jokingly, that I needed some Flexeril. She was like, “Can you even have that?” She was with me through my whole “heroin days” 10 years ago. I looked at her blankly and asked, “Why?
I had taken Flexeril a couple of times when I dislocated my shoulder 11 years ago, and the doctor gave it to me. But, it made me fall asleep, and I don’t like the feeling of being super sleepy. This is ironic because I loved heroin and people often equate heroin to sleep. However, I am human, and humans are unreliable characters, often contradictory. I didn’t tell my friend about the valium I’ve had stashed in my purse since the Earthquake on Nov. 30th. My husband and I joke that sometimes just having a valium available is valium enough. That is another drug, like its cousin Xanax, that I never understood the draw—but addictions are funny things and people like what they like. The meth addict thinks they would never stoop so low as heroin and vice versa.
I can’t accept the idea that addiction to one substance means an addiction to everything mind-altering and that one must remain hyper-vigilant forever and ever. I don't think that my addict is doing pushups in some dark corner of my psyche while I carry on with my life, waiting for me to cross paths with a junkie trying to offload some black tar.
Some people call this ignorant, and I say good for them. I don’t care.
The black/white approach to recovery is what eventually led me out of the rooms of AA and propelled me into my current style of recovery. I don't believe that I have a disease that I need to recover from. I did have a really unhealthy habit and way of dealing with my life that led me to high-risk behaviors, and now I don’t have high-risk behaviors, and I meditate to get better at life. Of course, it isn't this simple, but you get my point.
Anyhow, I loved my time in AA and am forever grateful for it, but, I got to the point where, if I heard the same person share the same goddamned story about how they got sober 15 years ago, I was going to scream. This was the meeting: same 5 people would share same stories mixed with some fresh blood sharing whatever they felt moved to share then Samantha, who would always come in late, would share at the very end of the meeting something dramatic. Every. Damn. Sunday. It was like groundhogs day. I could have moved on to another meeting, but I believed that most of my recovery happened in doing things like hanging out with my family, going to yoga classes, playing hockey, etc.
My sponsee at the time started to have doubts with the program. She didn’t like proclaiming she was an alcoholic every time she shared because when you claim something, it makes you that. I got it. If you tell yourself enough times that you're a piece of shit, you will start to believe it. If you tell yourself you are awesome, you will believe it…Though I could not deny being a heroin addict in the past, I was no longer a heroin addict—just a suboxone addict. My days of being a heroin addict did not define who I was becoming (and yet it totally did, more on that later)
The straw that finally broke that camel’s back was when I hurt my back in a yoga class. I had always silently judged people with “back pain” because I thought they were just being pussies. Then I had real back pain. My husband was helping me in and out of chairs. Walking was a feat. So, I decided to try weed as a painkiller. I feel like I need to qualify this with, I am not a weed smoker, I might partake a few times a year when I have a feather in my cap, but back then, because I was deep into AA and only took suboxone, I never used the weed, until I hurt myself. I took a few puffs off the weed pipe once or twice at night until I didn’t need it anymore. I told my sponsor. She was like, “whatevs.” She told her sponsor. Her sponsor was like, “She relapsed.” I was like, “Nope, that’s dumb.” Relapsing for me would have been getting a bunch of oxycodone from my doctor and having a party, not using the weed as a painkiller.
That was it. After that, I left.
I think AA was a fantastic stepping stone for me when I first got clean, but as I grew and changed in recovery, I moved on to something different. In Maia Szalavitz’s book Unbroken Brain, she wrote about her favorite AA slogan. Take what you like and leave the rest. I took AA's advice.
My fall from AA grace reminded me of my fall from Mormon grace. When I was 14, I went to a Mormon summer camp. The camp was super fun except that people would get up and share the testimony of their faith in front of all of the campers at our nightly meetings. I am not sure what the hell came over me, but I felt compelled to go up there in front of everyone and say, “my testimony, is that I have no testimony.” and then cry in front of more than a hundred young women. Though my fall from grace with AA was less dramatic the sentiment was the same: I felt that I no longer had a testimony of faith.