Episode 50: Benn B.

By Benn B.

Telling one’s story can be daunting. While sharing at meetings, I have felt pressure to make my life sound completely awful so there could be a wonderful chance to praise AA and the steps at the end. Others times I found myself denying certain facts about my drinking out of embarrassment.

Telling one’s story can be daunting. While sharing at meetings, I have felt pressure to make my life sound completely awful so there could be a wonderful chance to praise AA and the steps at the end. Others times I found myself denying certain facts about my drinking out of embarrassment.

Being involved in secular AA has allowed me to be more authentic and true to myself and not have as much concern about what others may think about my story. In the past, I have feared people might not find me to be a REAL alcoholic because I did not have delirium tremens. Although my bottom might not have been as bad as some, it sure felt horrible to me. What I learned early on in my first AA meetings is that while our stories may differ significantly, we meet at the level of how we felt about our drinking.

Much of my drinking life entailed drinking, recovering from drinking and feeling preoccupied while planning my next drinking binge. Over time my legal and emotional problems worsened to the point that it felt impossible to ignore my abnormal relationship with alcohol.
During early concerns about my drinking, I would try a month without alcohol to prove I could go without, and then when I would accomplish my goal, I would start drinking again and say to myself, “See, that wasn’t so hard. You’re not an alcoholic if you can go 30 days without.” Later it would be two months without alcohol.

Each time I accomplished my goal, I would add alcohol back to my life while telling myself I was going to take it easy this time. Sooner than later I would feel worse emotionally and “bad” things would happen, and I would wonder, “What happened to my resolve?”

I would tell myself, “You don’t drink in the mornings, so you don’t have a problem. You’re not as bad as your dad. You don’t have to drink.” These justifications kept me unhealthy and sick for a long time. Looking back I did drink in the mornings if I golfed or if I camped. Strangely I don’t golf as often now, and I never go camping anymore … hmmmmmm.

Looking back with a clearer perspective, alcohol ruled my life in many seemingly subtle ways. It determined with whom I was friends, what my hobbies were and weren’t, how often I saw my family, whom I dated, and what classes I chose to take in college. I could go on and on. In my adolescence, alcohol allowed me to be me—it enlarged my life and allowed me to feel comfortable and let the real me out.

Eventually, as I continued to lean on alcohol, my life and world grew smaller and smaller. Taking out alcohol and learning to lean on others and faculties outside myself has allowed me to grow greatly as a human being. You help me continue to not drink and to not forget that alcohol and I do not mix well. I have many mixed feelings about AA in general, but I think the community aspect is wonderful and at a minimum AA helps one identify having a problem. If all that comes from interaction in AA is a solid Step One, then that is just fine by me.

Thank you to the secular AA persons who may read this—you have helped my recovery in ways you will never know. You have made it OK to be myself and still be an AA “member.”



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  1. Gerald March 11, 2017 at 3:35 pm - Reply

    It’s good that we spend some time discussing the childhood experiences and the family dysfunction when we talk about “what it was like, what happened, and what it is like now.” Thanks for showing us what family dysfunction can look like and what it can feel like. As the years go by in my AA recovery, it seems ever more and more that that was what it really was all about, family dysfunction. Plus societal dysfunction 🙂 We shouldn’t “minimize” that one either.

    My abnormal bodily reaction to alcohol, as described in the Doctor’s Opinion, the “physical phenomenon of craving”? Well, that was one of the luckiest breaks in my life, a blessing in disguise. My abnormal bodily reaction to alcohol was my “in” to the AA fellowship and eventually led me to working these steps as a way of life.

    There are a lot of people, you know, issued from alcoholic and otherwise dysfunctional home environments who simply don’t have that “in” to our way of life as described by the AA program. These people sure could benefit from the “spiritual awakening,” as described in Appendix II of our AA Bug Book, but they’re way too functional in society. They’re not alcoholics and/ or they’re not showing up on society’s radar screen.

    The luckiest break in my life was that I was just too ill for even our insane society 🙂

    I could not function.

    That program was written for people like me: I could not stay sober on a “non-spiritual basis,” but, again a lucky break, although I’ve been an atheist this whole time, I was not scared off by the God talk.

    The program really can work for atheists – if the atheist works the program.

    And the program really did work even when the program itself was insufficient to address all of my personal needs in recovery. These steps are a design for living that works when the going is rough. They kept me hanging in there until I finally found better answers than what I found in the first 164 pages for two actually unrelated problems: 1) the mental illness of depression and 2) for the lifelong effects of childhood trauma, abuse, & neglect.


    Gerald, alcoholic, Japan

    • Benn B March 27, 2017 at 12:21 pm Reply

      Thanks for those points Gerald. I agree it really is an intersection of culture/society, biology and “parental” environment that help “create” the situation that can help lead to our issue with alcohol. I too feel fortunate that my drinking set me up to find a fellowship of others who have struggled. I agree not everyone has a place to go that allows them to be honest and learn about themselves in such a way. I don’t know that ALL of AA is like this, but it can be a great place for that. I suppose church CAN be like that for some as well. In general there are less pretenses in AA.

      While I’m not really convinced the program “works” per se … but I do agree it can provide a structure for analysis and discovery that leads to ongoing recognition, self-knowledge and growth. Bill himself said there is nothing unique about AA and all that works in it is “borrowed” from other places so it makes sense that many in AA find help in other areas like medical help and therapists/psychiatrists.

      Some of the things that lead me to believe AA doesn’t “work” for more people have to do with the grandiosity and pomposity and worship of the Steps, program and process. A looser understanding and more open-minded tone in the rooms could go a long ways. I think a lot of this grandiosity comes from insecurity that this REALLY is THE way to find help. I think it is good in many ways, however.

      The fellowship and camaraderie to be found in the rooms is unlike any other place I’ve found in my experiences. We really do have a wonderfully diverse and interesting population. Thanks for your comments!

    • John S March 11, 2017 at 9:22 pm Reply

      Thanks, Gerald. That’s a good point and I must concur that in a way, it was fortunate that I ended up with this particular problem. I’m lucky it didn’t kill me, but I too feel fortunate to have found this program because I’ve learned here how to live an honest life and to develop healthy or at least more healthy relationships.


  2. Lance Bredvold March 11, 2017 at 2:24 am - Reply

    Wow; First time I’ve heard that music with your podcast and I love it.  As I hit the play button I could almost hear the theme you have used in the past, felt kind of nostalgic and yet not really liking it all that much.

    • Benn B March 27, 2017 at 12:21 pm Reply

      I really like it too! Great choice …

    • John S March 11, 2017 at 9:19 pm Reply

      Thanks, Lance, I’m glad you like the new music. It was one of our listeners who gave us the idea for that particular musical style.

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