Fellowship. Camaraderie. Kinship. Affiliation.
The program of A.A. exemplifies these qualities – in fact, the core concept of fellowship was really what the foundation of the program was based upon. Way back in the 1930’s, two drunks found each other and got to talking. They found that as long as they had regular conversations (meetings) with one another, they were able to stay sober.
The program has grown by tens of thousands and gone international in the 75 years following that initial meeting. And it all stems from the principle that any group of two or more alcoholics/addicts can take the power away from their disease, simply by sharing it out loud with others.
Alcoholics Anonymous is an organization unlike any other I’ve ever encountered. There are no real fees or dues needed to join; the only condition of membership is a desire to stop drinking. A.A. never “promotes” itself, as a typical business would, with ads and marketing. Instead they simply focus on spreading their message and raising awareness of the disease and their ability to help those still sick and suffering – utilizing “attraction” rather than “promotion.”
If you happen to fall victim to the disease and relapse, you will not be judged or kicked out; as long as you come back with an honest desire to get well again, you will be accepted with open arms. There are of course some exceptions to the generally welcoming atmosphere — some of the old-timers prefer their meetings very rigid and adhering to the A.A. book verbatim.
But no matter what meeting you walk in to, you can always count on an instant connection with the people in it. There are very few (if any) social settings in which I’ve encountered this phenomenal feeling. It seems the fact that alcoholics and addicts can relate to each other would just be a given – of course they do. But that connection goes far deeper than just “relation.”
No, if you are an alcoholic or addict, the only people who will TRULY UNDERSTAND YOU are other alcoholics and addicts. From a first-hand experience, this affliction is one of those nasty areas in life which only others who are living through it can feel alongside you. No amount of sympathy or empathy from outsiders can match the level of understanding felt between two alcoholics or two addicts.
I count myself incredibly fortunate to have such supporting & understanding friends and family; however, the unfortunate reality is that many, many people who are suffering do not get the same. If anything, most probably they are greeted with rejection, disgust, anger, denial: “Why can’t you just stop?” “You’re being stupid,” “I can’t believe we’re part of the same family.”
Thus, it remains crucial for the afflicted to maintain lasting relationships with others in kind. It even goes so far as to act as a Higher Power for some — they have faith in their G.O.D., or Group Of Drunks. As it is often said at the end of A.A. meetings:
An A.A. sobriety token.