My Messy Mid-Meeting Meltdown

Photo by Andrew Teoh on Unsplash

Chances are if you’ve spent any time in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous, you’ve seen some fairly serious shit, especially at “beginner meetings”.

I mean, let’s be real — people are there to quit drinking, not watch the opera or take up ballroom dancing.

But the drama and hint of danger never bothered me. Hell, it actually helped keep me out of trouble in my single years

There was no temptation to get involved with anyone at meetings. There was a reason my first sponsor described it as fishing in a toxic pond.

No, it wasn’t the obvious BS that finally put me off AA for good, after almost a decade of trying to use it to keep me booze-free.

It was the insidious, passive-aggressive, quiet bullying from other women.

Of course, I can’t speak to everyone’s experience, but I found cattier behavior in AA than in my high school locker room.

When I first entered the rooms, I was too effed up to identify the nastiness, let alone stand up for myself and call the “holier-than-thou sisterhood” out.

But this last go-around, I was older, smarter, and tougher. I was no longer the ideal target for making themselves feel better about their own shit.

Nope. This time, I most definitely called them out, loud and proud. In the middle of a meeting. In front of a large crowd. In a freaking church with incredible acoustics.

To be fair, I was already on edge — I mean, I was trying to get sober for the umpteenth time. Yet another sponsor wasn’t walking me through the steps (yet again), and I was generally restless, irritable, discontent, ya feel?

What finally pushed me over the edge was being asked to hand out the chips. Yep. You read that right. The chips you get for a certain length of sobriety in AA. Those little freaking plastic chips that most people lose or toss.

Alright, so it wasn’t really about the chips.

It was about feeling unheard and unseen. It was about being pushed while I was in pain, in a place where I was supposed to feel safe and supported.

But mostly, it was being used as a tool to make another woman feel superior.

An older lady with sober time in the double digits asked me to pass out the chips. I told her that I hadn’t been to meetings in a while, so I didn’t feel comfortable doing something like that — could I put away chairs, instead?

No, she told me. I should be willing to do whatever it takes. I should put myself out there. I should step out of my comfort zone and PROVE how serious I was about being a member of Alcoholics Anonymous.

So, I took the chips from her. I bought her crap. I accepted her bullying.

I didn’t hear a word of the meeting. I could feel her eyes on me, watching to make sure I would do as I’d been told. I was her “pet project” that night.

For about thirty minutes, I sat there feeling numb. And then I remembered that I was a grown ass woman. I had nothing to prove to her or anyone else.

It was in that moment that I realized there HAD to be a better way to get sober.

I wish I could tell you that I handled the situation with grace. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. Years of feeling unworthy and beaten down washed over me, and I could feel rage and tears threatening to break loose (all over the place).

I went over to the bully masquerading as a pillar of sobriety and support, plopped those plastic chips in front of her, and got the hell out of there.

That was my last AA meeting. It was messy, embarrassing, and also exactly what I needed. It helped me to realize that NObody could tell me what was right for me.

I didn’t need that woman’s approval (or anyone else’s) to get sober. All I needed was a willingness to find my own path to a booze-free life that I love.

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Amanda M. French

Amanda M. French

Lover of flip-flops and open minds. Writing on Alcohol-Free Living 💁‍♀️ Spirituality ✨ and Self-Empowerment 💪