THE BLOG
16/03/2015 08:21 GMT | Updated 14/05/2015 06:59 BST

Too Terrified to Attend AA? What Really Happens at Your First Meeting.

You are not alone. Being anxious and scared is appropriate: deciding to actually go to Alcoholics Anonymous is a huge step (even if you sit outside in your car). So what follows is my diary entry after my first AA meeting.

"I searched for a meeting far from my home in the hope that I would not see, nor be seen, by anyone I knew. Even knowing everyone would be there for the same reason I still wanted to retain my anonymity and keep my 'real' life private.

I scouted out the meeting venue and parked nearby half an hour before the start. I had a good view and was able to see the comings and goings at the entrance.

There were a few people hanging around outside with large steaming cups of tea, smoking cigarettes.

I marvelled at how happy they looked. They were laughing and seemed to be having a good time, genuinely pleased to see each other. Friendly greetings all around conveyed a sense of camaraderie. I had expected them to look miserable, to be miserable, the way I was feeling right now but nothing could be further from the truth.

Surely they could not all be wrong? Surely they could not all be pretending? Or be the exceptions to prove the rule?

Perhaps it was possible to be happy and enjoy life without alcohol?

I felt brave yet very nervous as I walked confidently into the building, trying to look as if I knew where I was going. A woman ahead hung back and asked 'Are you a friend of Bill's?'

'No,' I said, thinking she had mistaken me for someone else. 'I'm here for the AA meeting'. There, I'd said it out loud.

It struck me that I never before have I walked into any new club alone and have strangers spontaneously approach me, welcome me and introduce themselves. This does not happen at the gym or the school gates.

People seemed genuinely welcoming and I really was touched, if a bit overwhelmed. I was ushered in, given a large cup of tea and a biscuit. A 'regular' immediately took me under her wing, sat beside me and told me what would happen. I was the 'newcomer'.

Looking around the room, alcohol was the only common factor. There was a vast array of age groups, ethnicity, clothes, hairstyles (or not), accents, piercings and personalities. None of these seemed to matter.

The meeting opened with some AA formalities before someone 'shared' their story with the group and became the Chairperson for the rest of the meeting. My guide was almost apologetic that the 'share' may not be one that I could readily identify with but suggested I should try a few meetings as they were all different. Listening to the share, I felt wonder at the speaker telling his deepest darkest moments to a roomful of people and privileged that I was invited to listen, despite being a new face.

After a break for tea, biscuits, a cigarette if needed, and camaraderie it was time for the second half. Here, the Chair worked around the room, inviting people to comment, respond to his story, or just to speak. My guide reassured me I did not need to speak and could opt to pass.

I decided I would speak and randomly spoke of all the things traversing my mind but strangely, I did not seem to care. Suddenly I became over-whelmed and began to cry. Tears pouring down my face as I continued to speak, sobbing and hiccoughing throughout. It was a relief to speak aloud to an understanding, yet unknown audience.

By confessing I could wipe the slate clean and live differently. I left meetings with renewed conviction to remain free from alcohol. The stories I heard depicting the frightening alternative.

One of the AA mantras I like is 'One day at a time'. It is a small manageable chunk of time which I frame to mean I'm enjoying my new life, one day at a time.

Read more at www.soberisthenewrachelblack.blogspot.co.uk