In a twisted way I am actually kind of thankful for my 8 years in the fellowship. Certainly not thankful in the way AA would like me to be, however…
I quit drinking before I got to the program (many do). However, I was scared to death of ever going back to that lifestyle which almost killed me and destroyed so much of what I had. I had a friend who was in the program who told me I NEEDED the program to remain sober. Nobody, he said, in his experience had ever remained sober without the help of the 'simple' program.
When one is first sober, first climbing out of such a desolate, dark hole he is apt to buy almost anything which promises solutions/absolution. I know I was. But it wasn't easy at first. So much of what the book said was counter-intuitive to me. The disease concept made little sense as well. I knew, deep in my heart, that I drank as a form of self-medication to ease my pain- to numb the voices (not literal) in my head. And now I was being told that the real reason I was an alcoholic was because of some ill-defined 'spiritual' disease. Huh?
But I quickly found any sort of questioning was frowned upon, to say the least. There are all sorts of slogans for this one but it kinda boiled down in real terms to this: 'if you think, question, or challenge this program you will be shunned'… (oh, and by the way, relapse and die).
Now, I would certainly not call myself any kind of Einstein; however, before this I had always had a natural intellectual curiosity for getting to the bottom of the how and why things worked. A person who liked to ask a lot of questions and challenge answers that didn't ring true. That 'simple' program and the people who had the power within it taught me that was a BIG no-no. Just swallow what we have to say whole—after all we are the "winners" and we know what we are doing. It is hard to describe the effect this had on me. Black became white and it rocked my world. Was having intellectual curiosity what made me an alcoholic in the first place? Evidently, if I continued down this path I would be a friendless being doomed to institutions, jails and death.
Ok. Fast forward 7 years. I was still not drinking but was a depressed mess that doubted every thought, intuition and motive I had. Could barely wipe my own butt without first checking with my sponsor. I had many, many friends within the program. Almost no friends out of the program by now, BTW-- (they made me uncomfortable, I felt they didn't get me at the time—I now see that they were, inadvertently, challenging the vast cognitive dissonance I had built up regarding the program—real life and real people had actually become uncomfortable for me by then).
I realized something needed to change and fast. I got a counselor who was not in the program. It is all such a long story, but basically she urged me to start looking at people's actions and not their words. Meetings were full of people who said how great their lives were now they had found the simple program. Yet when I looked at them and really saw them they were unhappy or bitter or 13 stepping or power tripping gurus whose lives were (by any standard) stuck. These people may have been saying they had reached the fourth dimension but their lives were truly a mess. And my life was a mess too. After many months of counseling I decided it was time to leave the simple program and try simply living…
Was it hard to leave? Hell, yes. But you know what? I have been gone over a year now and I have never come close to a relapse and I am feeling better about myself. The downer, of course, is all my insta-friends and new 'family' instantly disappeared once I no longer swallowed their program. Whatever. I find them kind of pathetic and frightened of real life, anyway (I don't get them anymore).
Never again will I doubt what my heart tells me. Never again will I not question things that don't ring true. For that lesson I guess I have the simple program to thank.