Do I need A.A. Meetings to Maintain Sobriety?
Much like the question “am I an alcoholic”, the answer to this question is up to you to figure out. During my long journey through addiction and recovery, I have met many people who got clean having never been to an A.A. or N.A. meeting. Similarly, there are people I have met who have a real fear of relapsing if they miss even one meeting. Neither of these addicts are better or worse than the other; I believe it is mostly to do with how our brains are wired.
The “Loner” Type
Personally, I would classify myself as a loner. That is to say that even before I became an alcoholic and began to isolate myself I preferred to spend the majority of my time alone. Even in sobriety contrary to the advice of therapists, friends, and family I seek to spend a lot of my free time by myself reading or walking. I don’t believe that this is the same thing as isolating because I am working on positive self-development and artistic hobbies while alone. I also have embraced my social side in those moments in which I do wish to be around other people and have a much easier time connecting with people. Because of these self-development and artistic pursuits, I have more to share with other people than when I isolated and simply drank and played video games or watched TV dramas.
It is my opinion (and let me make clear that I am not a counselor or psychiatrist) that the loner has less of a need to be around other addicts in order to maintain sobriety. We don’t get the same reinforcement (or need it) that other addicts get from meetings and hearing other people’s stories. In fact, I have heard from several other introverts that going to meetings sometimes causes us to crave our drug of choice because otherwise our minds are occupied by more productive things. I have found this to sometimes be the case as well; I have had several days since my sobriety date in which I didn’t think about alcohol or feel the need to “escape myself” even once but once I got to a meeting and someone started reminiscing about their past life the thought pops into my head “you know what getting drunk was pretty awesome, wasn’t it?”
That said, though, being involved with A.A. early in sobriety is still important. There is still the simple fact that if we introverts were able to get sober completely on our own, we would have already done it. In your early recovery A.A. will introduce you to sober friends who are able to have your back when you’re feeling the urge. At the tables, you will hear stories from people that sound exactly like your own and it is so important for us to realize that we are not alone or broken. It is empowering to know that other people have been through the same or worse situations and have managed to come out on top. You come to understand that if they can do it, so can you.
Let me preface this by saying that I am not an extrovert so this is all theory on my part. I can’t know how their minds work or understand what they feel when they are around people or when they are alone. However, from what I have seen at A.A. meetings the most outgoing and social people also happen to be the ones who claim that if they miss two days of meetings they will drink… no doubt in their mind. Extroverted alcoholics seem to get a lot of their momentum and positive energy from interacting with other people in recovery. For them, the best therapy seems to simply be sharing their story in great detail whereas when it comes to my turn to talk I give ten to fifteen sentences and I’m good. There’s nothing wrong with either method of sharing; some people are simply better at putting our past experiences into stories whereas introverts hit the bullet points and don’t feel the need to elaborate much. I think in that way we are a lot more logic-driven. It might also be worth noting that I’ve found extroverts to find much more comfort in church settings and religion whereas most of the introverts I’ve met are more content with Agnosticism or Atheism. I’ll leave that at that but when you think about the more “devout” A.A. members who can rattle off chapters of the book off the top of their head it’s basically never the introverts. I think they find a lot more safety in community environments than loners do.
What’s the Point?
The point is that if you have been going to meetings for a long while and have found that you aren’t struggling without them, you shouldn’t be afraid of that. You’ll hear over and over in A.A. that when people stop coming to meetings, they relapse. Sure! When people who need meetings stop going to meetings they will probably relapse. My point is simply that not everybody needs to go to a meeting every day. I still go to meetings a few times a week because I am in early in recovery and don’t want to take an unnecessary risk. If you are fresh out of a treatment center or are just starting to try sobriety on your own, I would recommend going to meetings every day regardless of what personality type you are.
I believe in following the 12 Steps wholeheartedly, I just don’t believe that all of us need someone else to hold our hands through those steps. If you are capable of honestly working through the steps on your own, do it. Make sure that you are being honest with yourself, though! Don’t just say you can do it on your own because you don’t feel like going to meetings. Regardless of whether you are an introvert or extrovert if you don’t fundamentally change your way of life there is a one-hundred-percent chance that you will relapse. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not next week, but you will. Addiction is a way-of-life disease in my opinion; once the chemical dependency has washed out of your body you are still addicted to the negative patterns in your life: isolation, laxity, apathy, and so on. If you don’t start changing those core character defects you don’t stand a chance at sobriety.