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    I Tried Going To An Alcoholics Anonymous Meeting After Being Sober For 30 Days, And It Was Incredibly Eye-Opening

    "I don’t come across many spaces for queer people to hang out that don't revolve around alcohol."

    Note: This post contains mentions of addiction, depression, and suicidal thoughts. All names and identifying details have been changed, and this post has been updated to better respect anonymity. 

    My name is Pernell, my pronouns are he/him, and I’m not an alcoholic…but I did go to my first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting earlier this week. I had two reasons for going: I don’t come across too many spaces for queer people to hang out that do not revolve around alcohol, and I hadn’t drank or smoked weed since New Year’s Day.

    Doodle of author hanging out in front of a venue hosting an AA meeting

    I longed for a change after that night, so the next day, I started “Dry January,” weed included. Toward the end of my 30-day sober sabbatical, I discovered an Instagram post from a queer-, women-, and BIPOC-focused venue I follow — they were going to start hosting queer-focused AA meetings. And well, being around a bunch of sober queers sounded neat.

    That’s how I ended up at an AA meeting at 8 p.m. on a Monday night. I stepped inside the meeting room just a few minutes ahead of the starting time, and filled an empty seat in the circle of 26 folding chairs.

    A single red steel folding chair

    Still, I immediately felt like I should leave. I wasn’t an addict. I’d given up alcohol to be trendy. Right? “The only requirement to be a part of AA is the desire to stop drinking,” the person leading the group saiad. That was why I was there. I put my HydroFlask back down on the floor.

    The person leading the group continued, “If you’ve decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it, then you are ready to take certain steps — the 12 steps.” 

    I’d already known that I had a bit of dependency, especially with weed, before jumping into my journey of living sober for a month. So to keep myself accountable, I wrote every day to keep track of my feelings and my cravings.

    Note from author detailing Day 3 of not drinking or smoking — he wishes he could smoke weed or have a glass of wine while drawing artwork for work, as well as smoke weed and not care that his boyfriend broke their plans for the night

    Yeah, I’d rather be sober than high, but who the hell doesn’t? It's 2022. As my fellow queer folks introduced themselves by their name, pronouns, and why were they there if they felt comfortable, I debated how honest I was ready to be in that room. Then, it was my turn. “Hi, my name is Pernell. My pronouns are he/him.” I stopped there.

    Note from author on Day 6 of his no drinking or smoking journey — he'd rather be high than be worried about losing about his job — over a drawing of author's torso with a name badge

    We finished introductions, and I learned I wasn't the only newcomer in the room. That was comforting. It was nice to know there were other gay folks in the city that were curious enough about sobriety to show up to an AA meeting they discovered through Instagram. Outside of that gallery, it felt odd to be sober.

    Notes of the author's Day 12 and Day 14 journey of no drinking or smoking imposed over images of a pride flag (left) and a cup of hot tea on the same table as an alcoholic drink (right)

    I listened to the people share their stories, and was taken aback at how much of what was said resonated with me. I didn't like that. I wanted to run away. It was a pattern of mine, one that I've felt ever since feeling closeted and stuck in my hometown. I wondered how much of that desire to escape manifested in my current relationship with liquor, weed, and prescription drugs. It was like my off switch.

    Doodle of on/off switch, except on reads "I'd rather be high"

    And I know that a lot of queer people feel the same way, especially other gay men. A few days after I stopped drinking, I became hyper aware of just how much money the people in my own circle were spending on sipping toward an altered state of mind. It's high-key ingrained in gay culture. The first place I was taken to when I came out was literally a gay bar. I mean, where else is there to go?

    Author drinking a $18 mocktail accompanied with receipts, one totaling over $600 and the other over $380 with the alcoholic items highlighted

    At one point, the floor was open to anyone else who wanted to share what was on their minds. Couldn’t be me! I was just a visitor. I wasn't an addict. I wanted to take up as little space as possible. But as I listened to others share their challenges with alcohol, I turned inwards. And I realized that most of that last month, I was truly counting down until I could get fucked up again.

    Author sitting in car with a note over his head discussing his Day 20 of his no drinking or smoking journey

    In that moment, I recognized how getting high and drunk consistently takes me to my 'worst' places. And my mind flashed back to 30 days earlier on January 1, when I so badly wanted to not be alive — I wasn't sober.

    When I traced back to all the recent times in my life when I felt really dismal about the state of my life, I was heavily intoxicated or really fucking high. Drinking used to be fun. Smoking used to inspire me. Vyvanze used to make me feel productive. Now, all those things just led me to feel really shitty about myself. It took 30 days of not touching them to realize the cold truth: I don't have a healthy relationship with drugs or alcohol anymore.

    Author's stash of drugs

    There's no way I'm an addict, I told myself. I'm just depressed. Yet my mind was swirling like a bottle of wine being poured down the drain. Maybe I did need to be in that red chair.

    We closed the meeting with a serenity prayer, mostly out of tradition. I'm not religious, and I think only a handful of the people in the room were. You don't have to believe in God to be in Alcoholics Anonymous, but it is helpful to surrender to a higher power according to the 12 steps, especially when you feel powerless to your vices. That's what I'm told.

    Doodle of Alcoholics Anonymous book

    Once the meeting was over, I left my red chair and walked out of the venue. I sat in my car, pausing to process what I just learned about myself in these last sober 30 days. I'd given up weed, liquor, and others drugs to challenge myself, and ended up uncovering the beginning of an addiction.

    Note of author's journey

    I wondered if I'd be returning in two weeks for the next bi-monthly meeting. Was I ready for that? Then, I remembered: "The only requirement for AA membership is the desire to stop drinking."

    Recover 1 month chip from Alcoholics Anonymous

    I'd be back someday.

    If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, you can call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) and find more resources here.

    The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at The Trevor Project, which provides help and suicide-prevention resources for LGBTQ youth, is 1-866-488-7386.

    The National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline is 1-888-950-6264 (NAMI) and provides information and referral services; is an association of mental health professionals from more than 25 countries who support efforts to reduce harm in therapy.