To ask your opinions of Alcoholics Anonymous

(42 Posts)
Googlesmyfriend Tue 20-Sep-16 12:48:32

I've name changed for this.

Dh is trying some AA meetings.

He's struggled to control his alcohol intake for a number of years but for the past three or four he's largely been successful and we're very happy 98% of the time. He's never been a stumbling around drunk abuser of alcohol, isn't violent or aggressive, or emotionally abusive, holds down a good respectable job, parents our ds very well and soberly and is very loving and giving etc. On the face of it, no massive problems and I love him dearly.

But we are both realistic. He sometimes hides alcohol. For many weeks and months it won't happen, he's perfectly sober and there are none of the warning signs I've become accustomed to. Then, usually when we feel at our happiest, his moods will change, he becomes more impatient generally and I know he's doing it again and I'll confront him or I'll discover some hidden booze. He'll usually admit it, full of remorse, guilt and embarrassment. This happens maybe twice a year. He knows and fully admits it's not normal, he isn't in denial, he is trying desperately to do the right thing for himself and for our marriage. He went to a counsellor four years ago and things are so much better as a result. But he was discharged from the programme and he wonders whether he needs ongoing support from a professional.

He's currently trying a month completely without alcohol to see how he feels and whether it's possible. I think he's trying to decide if he needs to stop drinking completely or whether he is capable of drinking small amounts and controlling it. He is fully able to accept that he has an unhealthy relationship with alcohol but does not identify as an 'alcoholic'. He is aware that it's quite a big spectrum with a grey area.

So he's trying the AA meetings. The trouble is, he's surrounded by what he describes as hard core alcoholics - people who have beaten their partners, got into fights, reached for the bottle as soon as they wake, lost jobs, houses etc. He (and i) simply don't see him in the same league - though he is realistic about the dangers of it spiralling. He doesn't want to quit going to the meetings in the absence of other support. However he doesn't identify with anyone else there and feels increasingly isolated and unwilling to share. He is not convinced it is helping. He describes it as very cult like and he's very dubious about its success rate for people 'like him'. But he doesn't know where else to access support. He wants to engage in ongoing support, but doesn't know where to look for it outside of AA.

Our relationship is in a much healthier place now and we talk a lot - neither of us is underestimating the impact these episodes have on our lives when they happen. I don't want to leave him and he's not a bastard. He's got better, not worse, over time. But it still raises its head occasionally.

What are your experiences of AA? What's their success rate like? Do they only really cater for the 'hard core'? Is there anything else available that might suit him better? He won't disengage from AA until there's something else to turn to, but he's really beginning to feel quite low about being in the same box as people who have behaved appallingly due to alcohol.

silentmoon Tue 20-Sep-16 12:56:30

That's tricky and I can understand your reservations. I had a family member addicted to prescription drugs who attended a similar support group for drugs but like your husband found he had little in common with others.

Sorry I don't have any useful suggestions. What sort of job does he do?

PleaseGetOffTheTableDarling Tue 20-Sep-16 13:02:22

If you live in a town big enough for there to be a choice of AA meetings (different times/venues) it might be worth your DH trying out a different group. There can be quite a variation between them and he may find one that is a better 'fit'.

SlimCheesy2 Tue 20-Sep-16 13:16:30

There is a saying at the AA meetings I sometimes attend ' look for the similarities, not the differences'. We all have problems with alcohol in that it impacts our lives very badly. How that manifests is different for each person.

Anyway- AA is not for everyone. There are loads of support services out there - NHS drug and alcohol facilities; the sober blogosphere; addiction counsellors etc. AA is not the only thing available - if it does not work for him, then there may be something out these that just fits.

Goodluck. smile

Owllady Tue 20-Sep-16 13:24:26

I would get him to ring up your local alcohol liaison services and tell them what you have wrote down here. They offer all sorts of support .

I agree with an earlier poster though, he could also try different meetings.

meg54 Tue 20-Sep-16 13:27:08

AA meetings can vary from place to place - town centres tend to be more hardcore because they pull from a wider demographic. There is also a meeting 'after the meeting' where people with similar experiences will go for a coffe and chat.
There is a host of support available online (Molly's AA), and you don't have to go to meetings to have a sponsor.
He could also try his GP, but NHS facilities and support are very patchy and hard to access.
Good luck to you both.

Dapplegrey1 Tue 20-Sep-16 13:28:19

I agree with slimcheesy - suggest to your dh to look for the similarities and not the differences when listening to the shares of other AA members at meetings.

BillSykesDog Tue 20-Sep-16 13:39:13

AA is not for everyone and your DH has hit the nail on the head. It is very much cult like and for those who need to swap one overwhelming addiction for another. Rather than being addicted to booze they become addicted to AA and the meetings. They need something to fill their lives.

My personal feeling is that it doesn't work for people whose drink issues are not so much motivated by a physical addiction but by an emotional or mental issue which means the need to drink is occasional. He might do better with individual counselling rather than AA. Could you afford to do that privately?

motheroftwoboys Tue 20-Sep-16 13:39:42

Your DH could have been my DH when he first started trying to go to AA. From what you say, your DH is on the path to being an alcoholic if he isn't one already. Alcoholics are from all backgrounds. My DH is 10 years sober now and doesn't go to AA but he would be back like a shot if he needed it. There are very many meetings all over the place but your DH will only fit in when he decides he really needs the support. AA isn't perfect but it is the best on offer! The 12 step recovery model is used for pretty much everything now. My DH and a large number of our AA friends are (or were) professional people with very high ranking jobs. If you are lucky you can recover and keep your career/family. If you keep drinking the odds are that your DH will carry on that path and in a few years time he will be doing things that you wouldn't want to believe possible. Just like being a bit pregnant you can't be a bit of an alcoholic. Everyone goes the same way. He IS in the same box. Like it or not.

BillSykesDog Tue 20-Sep-16 13:43:39

I would say also, are you absolutely certain it is periodic? Sorry, I have worked in a service that dealt with this. We quite often saw people whose families were absolutely certain it only happened occasionally (and often that it hadn't been happening long) who eventually admitted they'd been drinking pretty much daily since youth but were very good at hiding it.

PrivatePike Tue 20-Sep-16 13:48:44

Completely disagree that AA is 'cult like'. What do you actually mean by that? There's no money involved, there are only suggestions no one makes you do anything.

I'm a fairly young recovering alcoholic, sober 4 years now, and AA has been a massive help to me. I never beat anyone up or got jailed etc. etc. but I could not control my drinking once I started. So...I guess I'm a 'success story'? confused Just delighted to be sober really, and not taking nips of vodka from a bottle hidden under my desk right now.

CarrotVan Tue 20-Sep-16 13:52:15

I would suggest that he tries other meetings if they are available and perhaps he'll find a better fit. If he has a sponsor perhaps he could discuss his reservations with them as well

My BIL is in AA and I would agree that he's one of those who has swapped alcohol addiction for AA addiction. He regularly disrupts family events through needing a lift to a meeting, needing to leave early/arrive late, not come at all, not pick up his kids from school, not doing chores etc all because he must attend a meeting (at the most inconvenient moment for everyone around him). He doesn't seem to have grasped the making amends for the impact of your alcoholism aspect! His family life revolves around his AA attendance.

I don't think that everyone who goes to AA is like this but for some it's just a different way of not taking responsibility for your actions.

PrivatePike Tue 20-Sep-16 13:56:07

There's SMART Recovery, I've heard that's quite good. www.smartrecovery.org.uk/

MissHooliesCardigan Tue 20-Sep-16 14:03:57

I've been to a few AA meetings. I've met some lovely people but I just couldn't 'get it' mainly because of the God thing. Also, I work in a job which is very much about empowering people so encouraging people to admit that they are powerless really doesn't sit comfortably with me.
I totally accept that it works brilliantly for some people. He could look into SMART recovery who run groups.
There are literally hundreds of sober blogs and websites out there. I can't do links but there is a great site called 'Bright eye alcohol recovery' which also does online counselling.

PrivatePike Tue 20-Sep-16 14:05:08

Tbh, I loved admitting I was powerless over alcohol blush What wonderful relief.

BillSykesDog Tue 20-Sep-16 14:14:23

Sorry again. You seem to be getting a large number of posts from people who've been through AA or a relative has. People who've been through AA and it's worked are evangelical about. I'm very familiar with a few sound bites you're getting on here.

A lot of people who work with addiction would beg to differ and would be a lot more open to the idea of different kinds of alcoholism/dependency/drink problems and that they can respond better to different treatments.

PrivatePike Tue 20-Sep-16 14:17:54

I'm far from evangelical about it, but I do not agree with this labelling of AA as 'cult like'. I think it's very damaging to say that actually.

PrivatePike Tue 20-Sep-16 14:20:05

(And my alcoholism was/is definitely motivated by emotional and mental issues! AA still helped.)

BillSykesDog Tue 20-Sep-16 14:25:05

PrivatePike, it's cultlike with the 'handing stuff over to a higher power'. And also with it's insistence that it's the only way of overcoming alcoholism. If people stop attending or try another method they are dismissed as 'dry alcoholics' even when they're not drinking and they're rejected very much in the way ex cult members are. It's the whole 'this is the only way' and rejection of any possible alternatives or that a different way might work for some people.

HawaiianPartyBunker Tue 20-Sep-16 14:25:26

I work in addiction support - alcohol, specifically - and am a recovering alcoholic. The service I work for does not endorse AA in any way, we don't recommend it to people - there's no 'rivalry', if meetings help addicts stay sober, then it's not for us to judge how they got there. We're just glad they did. We just don't agree with many of the basic tenets of the AA philosophy.

Much of the work we do within my service is based in psychotherapy, and we work closely with the local hospital's hepatology unit - some of us are actually based in that unit, dealing with alcoholics who have been hospitalised through drink related injuries or liver problems.

I agree with PPs that your DH should try to locate an alternative alcohol advisory service where you live. He may well prefer the one on one, talking therapy approach - I know I did. Group settings never worked for me. He can speak to his GP, who can advise him of what's available, in confidence. Most alcohol services allow you to self refer, and offer support for the families of problem drinkers too. Good luck.

PrivatePike Tue 20-Sep-16 14:29:24

It's the whole 'this is the only way' and rejection of any possible alternatives or that a different way might work for some people.

Nope, I don't generally hear that at meetings I go to, and I also don't agree with it. If someone is sober, good for them - I'm delighted however they do it. Handing over to a higher power can mean a range of things to different people...there are quite a few atheists in AA you know shock Still not seeing how you can label it a cult.

Showmethemoneynow Tue 20-Sep-16 14:32:41

My DH used to drink heavily. But now he binges maybe once or twice a year - for about 4-5 days. The rest of the time he does not drink at all. He has had some counselling which helped a bit, and has attended the odd AA meeting but he said he felt uncomfortable with the 'religious' aspect of it. Because he doesn't drink all the time - as I said binges with no alcohol at all the rest of the time - I think it's hard to find appropriate treatment. Wish I could help..

Googlesmyfriend Tue 20-Sep-16 14:34:01

Thank you all so much - mostly for not judging! The other support mentioned is worth considering I think.

To answer a few questions:

He's an engineer for a large multinational.

I'm not sure we could afford private - I mean, we're comfortable but I don't know how much these things cost for private support so can't assess what we might need to give up to afford it?

I'm as certain as I can be that it's periodic. Unfortunately I've grown up around a similar kind of alcohol abuse (classic, huh?) so have known the signs for a good number of years and I'm very good at spotting them. I know the cunning and manipulation involved and have a sixth sense for it. Dh has tell tale behavioural give aways a bit like in poker when he's hiding alcohol. Little things he says or does, little changes in routine, a different look etc.

Re. 'Cult like' is my DH's perception of - probably mostly tv's portrayal of - cults. He doesn't believe in God and finds reading passages from a book aloud all very uncomfortable. He admits the last book he read was Of Mice and Men at school! He's a naturally chatty and outgoing person, but he gets self conscious reading aloud.

We live in a city, so the meeting he goes to is a city centre one which may explain his perception of the other group members. Some have been sober for 20 years and still go to meetings without fail week in and week out - it's totally a way of life for them. He has been quite tearful about some of the stories he's heard and has said that he does think he gets something out of hearing them - even if only to serve as a reminder of how life can quickly spiral out of control completely. He doesn't judge them, he just doesn't see the similarities with himself.

BillSykesDog Tue 20-Sep-16 14:36:54

Alcoholism can be motivated by emotional or mental issues in different ways though. A physical addiction to alcohol usually is rooted in the same issues, and it continues because of a mixture of physical and emotional factors.

But you can have a drink problem which doesn't have a physical aspect but just the mental one. So you don't drink every day and you don't get withdrawals and it doesn't affect your work.

But you drink secretly and heavily when under stress, or if you have to deal with a situation you can't cope with. People like that often don't find AA helpful.

HawaiianPartyBunker Tue 20-Sep-16 14:39:11

Showmethemoneynow, alcohol advisory services are there for binge drinkers too - we encounter all kinds of alcoholism. Long term support isn't just for the daily morning drinker variety smile

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