Episode 68: Jennifer C.

Jennifer grew up in an alcoholic home and had all the characteristics of an alcoholic before she even had her first drink. An Alateen at 13 and a member of Alcoholics Anonymous at 15, it was the 1980’s when she first got sober. This was a time when young people’s groups were flourishing and she felt right at home in AA. During the next 16 years, she went to meetings and was active in the Fellowship. Eventually, though, she drifted away from attending meetings and after several moves around the country, she put AA behind her. Seven years later she had a glass of wine and was off to the races.  

Returning to AA was humiliating. Knowing the hard work involved with getting sober, Jennifer was never-the-less undeterred and she embraced recovery with all she had. Today, her focus is on the actions we take in AA and the process of the 12 Steps as she understands them. She also attends Al-Anon, which is a vital component to her recovery. She values Al-Anon’s more gentle approach, and she appreciates their updated and varied literature. 

In this podcast, Jennifer shares how her understanding of the Steps has evolved, and how the inventory process helped her to question her own beliefs, leading her to a secular approach to the program. She also revisits the time when she was living in Oregon and experienced a more dogmatic approach in the rooms. She recalls becoming angry when people insisted she would eventually “come around,” and how she overcame that by learning to create the Fellowship that helps her and then went on to help start the We Agnostics group in Bend, Oregon. 

Although Jennifer describes the program as experiential, she also thinks and questions and learns from other people. Though her sponsor is a believer, Jennifer doesn’t find that to be a problem. When her sponsor suggests that Jennifer pray about something, she asks herself how she can shift her perspective to define things in a way that makes sense and applies to her. She enjoys learning from how other people practice the program regardless of whether they are a believer or not. She can learn from anyone. 

Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing your journey with us.

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  1. Neal October 19, 2017 at 7:22 pm - Reply

    She nailed it in more ways than one. Being sober and young and in AA in the 80’s was a good time! What the hell happened? How did the back to basics people become such an influence? I guess that it follows what has happened in the rest of society. The religious people are pushing their agenda everywhere, not just in AA.

  2. Joe C October 19, 2017 at 3:25 pm - Reply

    It’s a weird world growing up in and around AA. I got sober young, too. Of some of the many friends I had in those early days, some are still sober (in AA), some have relapsed and come back, some have left AA and some of those are fine without AA, others have fallen back into destructive behavior.

    I have said before that I dismiss this “currency of more and more years” myth. I think that the people attracted to AA (or other 12-Step programs) are seekers. If they stayed sober from the start or relapsed and come back or just got here, everyone had a valuable, insightful story to tell, none more enlightened than another. I don’t expect to be more impressed by someone with 30 years than I will be by someone with 30 days (or hours). We don’t start over when we come back, I think. What’s more accurate is we re-point ourselves back to the right direction.

    Jennifer’s story is one of wanting to frame her return to recovery as starting from scratch and I am not saying that is a wrong way to look at things or go about things. Look how well it worked for her. This is a great story. Reclaiming the action idea of the program (vs. beliefs or thoughts) is good medicine for anyone at any stage of our journey. It was good advice for me, that’s for sure. It wasn’t relapse, exactly that got me re-looking at the process. It was states of emotional inebriety – times when I wasn’t right emotionally. Sometimes that involved tripping out on process addictions, escaping into fantasy or any of 100 ways to “take a trip without leaving the farm.” Like Jennifer’s Al-Anon adventure, I’ve claimed a chair at a few other 12-Step programs, too. I’ve learned so much in many different 12-Step rooms.

    Thanks John and Jennifer.

     

     

  3. Gerald October 13, 2017 at 8:38 am - Reply

    Thank you for your story. I got sober at age twenty in ’93. I was a blackout drinker and experienced extreme changes in personality when drunk (so they tell me). Sober, I was a suicidal depressive. 
    I pray daily nowadays with complete faith that I will benefit from the positive affirmations of myself (!) but entirely without belief in any deity.

    I’ve tapped into that “unsuspected inner resource” that appendix II is talking about. It’s me, a Me I couldn’t have imagined.

    AA, the program & the fellowship, helped me find myself. The fellowship loved me till I could love myself, and the program still works to free me of the thinking traps I can get myself into 🙂

    AA helped a lot with depression, but to finally beat it I had to change my diet to very low to ultra-low carb. Basically, I don’t eat much plant food, and for eight years I have been entirely cured of depression.

    AA also helped a lot with my other main problem, feelings of low self-worth, but for the finishing touches I needed to hear ACA’s (Adult Child) message. I relate to your experience with the softer delivery and the alternate perspective of the Al-Anon message that you describe in the podcast.

    My recovery story has been the journey to my own true self. I like myself. That’s the biggest difference between then & now. It didn’t happen overnight, but it happened.

    I haven’t drunk or used since ’93, but I’ve … how should I say it? I’ve spent plenty of time off the beam these past 24 years 🙂

    The best solutions to my most pressing problems, depression & low self-esteem, I found in two different sources, both outside of AA (!) but I’m still at home in AA – as long as I can tell the whole story, including the atheism part.

    Thanks,

    Gerald in Japan

  4. Peter C October 11, 2017 at 11:38 pm - Reply

    I started sipping shots when 6, by 8, a whole shot, 11 taking it to school 15 a fifth of JWBlack, and I kept going till 38, now 23 years of AA and I feel like a 30 year old.  I am so grateful for AA I give and give and I always get.

  5. bob k October 11, 2017 at 7:30 am - Reply

    Many years ago, I was told that if I came long enough to AA, I’d hear my story. Jennifer’s story ISN’T mine, but demonstrates the tremendous diversity of the backgrounds of those of us sitting in AA rooms. The formulaic folks who try to make us all the same miss this element that has such importance and value.

    I LOVED the positivity re: the very practical benefits of AA’s “practical program of action.” We heathens can get on the rejection bandwagon, and stay on a few stops too long. There’s not a lot of sobriety to be had simply from mocking traditional members.

    I’ve known Jennifer from the internet for a few years, and its great to see her doing well.

    • Jen October 11, 2017 at 11:45 am Reply

      Bob,

      it has been a few years already listening to you banter and hold fast the benefits of AA as a whole. There are assholes in all walks of life – it’s important for me to ignore them and seek the gems.

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