Thank You AA
May 2015

Thank You AA

A former high school teacher, now a non-alcoholic trustee, shares her story and returns the love

My exposure to the issue of alcoholism began when I started my career as a high school teacher. One of the things that I noticed was that my students were approaching me to tell me about problems in their lives. These problems, as you can guess, often revolved around their parents’ drinking, their friends’ drinking, and their own drinking.

At that time, I was barely out of university and I felt ill-prepared to deal with the onslaught of tragedy, pain and suffering that I was hearing from these young people. I had a fairly ambitious and rather unrealistic plan: I would get some additional training in counseling and mental health so that I could fix the lives of these students. A fairly ambitious and unrealistic goal, you might say. I later began to realize that facilitating the change process, rather than “fixing people,” might be a more appropriate strategy with those who were suffering with alcoholism. I soon became interested in alcoholism.

My first exposure to AA was in the treatment center where I began my work with clients whose lives were unmanageable as a result of their alcohol abuse. I served as a counselor and later clinical supervisor, manager, director and deputy minister with the Department of Health. I have always attended AA meetings in order to learn about the Fellowship and to encourage clients, staff and managers to access all that AA has to offer.

My first impression of AA, however, was that it was a cult-like group which operated by repeating the same mantras and rituals over and over, and pressuring people to join until they finally gave up and became members. Today I see things quite differently. That’s because you have tolerated me and my lack of understanding of this program, and you have welcomed me and called me a “friend of AA.” You’ve helped me to understand the program by telling your inspiring stories, by patiently answering the many questions that I’ve had, and by extending the love of this Fellowship to me. I feel that love in every open meeting I attend and every time you say to me, “Thank you for your service.”

I am so grateful for the service that you’ve provided to my clients, staff and managers when I was working either directly or indirectly with still suffering alcoholics. You assisted us in starting meetings in treatment centers, and later on when we requested information sessions for clients and staff, you drew up a roster and someone from the Fellowship was there, every week, all year long. You assisted us in getting meetings started in our treatment centers by gently guiding the clients who had no experience with AA or with chairing meetings. You welcomed the clients from our treatment centers to your meetings out in the communities so that when they left treatment, they were comfortable attending AA meetings. You offered your time to be temporary sponsors of our clients through the “Bridging the Gap” service, which has made a tremendous difference in the rate of post-treatment participation in AA, and therefore, in long-term sobriety rates. After all, treatment programs can help those with alcoholism to start down the path of sobriety, but AA walks that path with them every day for the rest of their lives.

You have helped me to understand AA, its complexity and indeed its simplicity. You’ve helped me to prepare clients when it’s time to leave the treatment program. You have helped me to more effectively encourage staff and managers to learn about the program by asking questions of members and reading the informative AA literature. I am so grateful to those of you who are so freely giving of your time, energy and love of the program to those of us who are not members but who are working with alcoholics who desperately need the help of AA. There are so many professionals working with alcoholics, and many of us knew nothing about AA until we somehow received the message from a member involved with CPC work.

My service on the General Service Board has been one way in which I hope I’ve been able to give back a small portion of what you’ve given to me. Thank you for your role in carrying the message to the professional community, and consequently to so many currently recovering alcoholics who have received AA’s message while in a treatment center, prison, hospital or halfway house. Your dedication and willingness to serve have made all the difference, as together we “trudge the road of happy destiny.”


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