Saturday, April 7, 2012

It's Fun to be in the I-O-OH P (Not!): AA= Antipathetic to Asperger's

Just back from my third (and last for this week, thank goodness!) official AA meeting. We are required to attend three each week as part of the Intensive Outpatient Program, and for this reason alone I may have to leave the program. I don't knock it -- if it works for 99 out of a hundred people, then it's doing what it's meant to do. But I strongly believe at this early point that I'm the one in a hundred that it's no good for.

The second two meetings at least were not as bad as the first, because I had the sense of get out of there before they all started holding hands and reciting The Lord's Prayer. Now there's a point in itself. They pretend to welcome all beliefs, sects, denominations -- but let's say I were a Muslim Alcoholic. Holding hands and saying the Lord's Prayer would not be cool.

For my part, when it comes to God I don't say yes and I don't say no. I say, "Whatever happens will happen." But I also say: "Don't anyone dare shove your damn religion down my throat because I'll puke it up and shove it right back at you!"

The strongest adherents of AA insist that it's not a religious organization. And yet God is all over the place in AA, and the very structure of the meetings is similar to that of a church service.

Never mind. I can deal with that aspect of it, knowing that it's there, seeing it for what it is -- and also knowing that I do have a Higher Power -- and she works in the building next door. If AA is telling the truth about letting you decide who or what your Higher Power is, they'll just have to accept that.

No, the part of me that makes AA so difficult is the part of me that is strengthening again the longer that I'm sober.

It's not that I'm an anti-social person, as so many people have misunderstood throughout my life -- it's that I'm a non-social person. Alcohol loosened and opened me up and made me much more social than I truly am. The head psychologist who spent a total of fifteen minutes with me before rushing to judgement after hearing a fraction of my issues was quick to dismiss my self-diagnosis as being someone with a mild case of Asperger's Syndrome, and gave it a completely different name -- more to prove that he was The Boss and would be Making the Calls than for any good reason. Then a third guy came to my room and gave it a third Completely Different name.

And you know what? I no longer care what anyone wants to call it. The fact is that I have a  social disorder, the symptoms of which seem to be pretty much the same across all three diagnoses.

And when I stepped into that first AA meeting on Thursday night, my heart shot up into my throat and it was just as if my soul was lifted out of my adult body and deposited back into the body of that little kid in the First Grade who sought out the most remote, emptiest part of the playground and just sat there in silence, waiting for the bell to ring.

Here was a gymnasium full of people, all of them strangers, not one of whom I could talk to.

My old instincts took hold, and I went straight to the back of the gym, where I sat with my hands pressed between my knees and my shoulders hunched.

If there's anyone left out there who doesn't know how I feel about large gatherings of Strange People (and to me, most Normal People are Strange), I'll refer them to an earlier post on this blog called "A Nightmare of Hell." I went into this meeting in a state of serenity and strength, knowing that alcohol would not be a problem for me that night. I came out of it desperate for a drink, clawed by anxiety and fear, so upset that I shouted out loud and scared Whitey.

Instead of drinking, I took one of my anxiety pills and my last mood-evener of the day, poured myself some ginger ale. By mid-afternoon of the next day I had finally regained my Happy Place, the place where I knew that I was safe from drinking.

But then there was another AA meeting last night, and another this morning, and I sure hope this gets easier as the four weeks in IOP roll on ahead of me. Because if it doesn't, I will be buyig a bottle and relapsing before you can say "Danger Will Robinson!"

Not all solutions work for all people. I understand that most Normal People like Rituals and Large Gatherings -- but I can't stand either one. And since neither AA nor I will change anytime soon, I guess we're about to find out what happens when an Irresistible Force meets an Immovable Object. . .

-- Freder.


  1. Doug, this is tough me talking again, so brace yourself - this whole process is not going to be easy. It simply isn't. And attending meetings is not going to solve your problems. But ATTEND THEM ANYWAY. And stay away from the bottle the whole time. (I'm assuming you no longer have any alcohol in your house, that you've poured it all down the drain or given it all away. If not, and if you really want to make changes, you need to get rid of it all within the next hour. Now.) Life will be harder before it gets easier. Change works that way. You have to decide you want to be sober, and you will need, in time, to deal with the rest of the issues you've been suppressing for so long. Don't let that scare you away. It's like eating an elephant - one bite at a time. You have to decide you want this for yourself, not for your employer, or the local law enforcement, or society in general. It's not easy, but it is the only way I know to finally make the pain go away. And it takes time.

    You have many people around you, supporting you, rooting for you. But you have to do the hard work. And here's one of the secrets - the more work you do, the better your progress. The more you find reasons to fight it, the harder it is. And I expect, like all of us, that you'd rather be happy than wasting your time fighting change. There is no guarantee of happiness, but take stock of how happy you've been so far. Only you can improve your lot in life. This is your chance. Don't pass it up.

    You deserve a happy life. Only you can build it. It's your turn.

  2. Wendy, I'm way ahead of you! In fact, I should post next about where I am and (at least in part) how and why I got there, so that nothing can be misconscrewed!

  3. Well, compadre, I know at least one friend who's volunteered to go to AA meetings with you. Scheduling might not make it possible to attend _every_ meeting together, but you could do _some_ of 'em ... and we both know the friend in question isn't exactly what one would call "reverent." There might even be a laugh or two along the way. I'm not saying this to challenge your perception of these meetings -- we both know I don't like Big Groupy Things any more than you do! -- but to say, "There are ways to tinker with the mixture to make it at least incrementally more palatable than your initial experience." Something to think about, perhaps ...

    Meanwhile, credit to you for feeling the urge to pour a drink and not giving in to it. I believe that makes the score since Tuesday Freder - 5, Liquor - 0. That's a great start ... and just think how great it'll be when we can say Freder - 7,307, Liquor - 0 (which would be just about 20 years, by my reckoning)!

    We'll be talkin', I'm sure!


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