Individual histories behind alcohol addiction are varied but one thing all members of Alcoholics Anonymous share is the desire to put chemical dependency and the self-destruction they suffer behind them.

 Members of AA acknowledge personal responsibility for their problem, accept spiritual guidance and find emotional support through the common bond they develop with fellow members. Each has the same purpose: to overcome the crippling effect of alcohol addiction.

The programs 12 Steps and 12 Traditions are built on a spiritual core and fundamental rule of anonymity, providing a comfort zone for those reaching out for help. Coffee, snacks, books and literature are provided, including a free book.

There are no dues or fees. Outside contributions are declined. Any extra money is sent to the main office in New York to fund the free books.

There is birthday night once a month celebrating AA birthdays and anniversaries: 30, 60 and 90 days; six months; one year; 18 months; then every year. Members receive a special coin to acknowledge the anniversaries.

There is a secretary, treasurer, general service representative and a literature coordinator who finds AA approved books. Ideally they are sponsors who have worked through the 12 steps with someone. The head of the group, a trusted servant, rotates and someone volunteers to chair the meeting.

The meeting starts on time with a moment of silence. Some people walk in late. Then they talk about why they are here. Members read through the 12 steps and follow with the 12 traditions. They refrain from crosstalk and allow all to share.

At a recent group meeting at Key Peninsula Community Services, members were quite willing to talk about their personal issues under the protection of anonymity. Quotations were recorded by number rather than name.

Below are some of their stories.

“Alcoholism is a physical problem. We process alcohol differently. There are mental, obsessing, knee-jerk responses to life. We make a decision every day, and maintain a spiritual condition that we remember every day that keeps us going. We have rules. You have to believe there is a power greater than you in this universe. The only person who can reach an alcoholic is another alcoholic.

“People come and go. Most are here by choice. Some come in at a judges order, then they stay. If you follow the steps, it makes the urge go away. We are learning how to live. We turn into a family. We are not a glum lot. Dont take yourself too seriously. Self-supporting people and recovery change with unity and service. There is a group conscience. There are all kinds of members, from teens on up. Sometimes we have husbands and wives.”

“I can be a devious, conniving person. I think Im so perfect when Im drinking. I believe my fantasies and delusions. Were like a family. If I didnt feel comfortable here, I might blow AA off. When I come to AA, Im glad I can deal with things. Im lucky Im still alive. Im like my own worst critic. Its about progress — not perfection. Im glad Im here tonight.”

“My old lifestyle required alcohol. Ideas conflicted in my head. I used to argue with myself out loud. I didnt think my drinking was that bad. Im learning how to do what other people do, taking care of myself. Im committed to doing the right thing. You take something good that you have and you clone it. Its a ‘we thing. Im glad youre here for me, and Im glad Im here for you.”

“I used to make it to three steps, then Id give up and leave. This time I came back willing to do them all. It was amazing how fast I got through them all. I didnt know I had any assets. Its therapeutic to let it go. This program has saved my life.”

“I had a pretty good upbringing, but all the adults drank. Thats what you did. Thats how you grew up and bonded. Now, Im the odd man out. Drinkings not enjoyable. The amount of money I wasted. I make the same amount, but now I have things.”

The meeting ended on a positive note as everyone stood in a circle and held hands in prayer.

Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are at 7 p.m. Sunday, Wednesday and Friday at the Key Peninsula Community Services, 17015 Ninth Street Court, in Home; and at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday and 7 p.m. on Thursday at Key Peninsula Lutheran Church, 4213 Lackey Road.

The first Friday of the month is an open meeting. All are welcome, members and visitors alike.

For other meetings and information, call (360) 326-2841.

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