Making Time for Your AA GroupAnna Ciulla
Maintaining strong human relationships is important to physical and mental health, perhaps nowhere more important than when you’re fighting temptations to relapse into addiction. Peers who understand what it’s like are important, especially when your problem drug is alcohol, which non-addicted peers often consume regularly and can’t quite grasp why you can’t handle.
The best way to connect with others in recovery is through an organized support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous (your treatment center should be able to provide referrals, plus advice on alternate programs if you don’t care for the AA approach). However, just as in most relationships, “I don’t have time to go this week” can become a dangerous excuse for falling away from regular attendance. Which can easily lead to falling off the sobriety wagon due to isolation and stress.
Here are a few ideas for those who struggle to find enough time for regular support-group attendance.
KEEP THE BENEFITS IN MIND
There’s a saying, “If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse.” Many, many people (including diehard teetotalers) have a long list of things they know they should do regularly but don’t, because their values feel more like “nice ideas” than genuine priorities. Contrary to popular opinion:
- Just because something looks interesting doesn’t mean it belongs on your to-do list.
- You don’t “have to” give unimportant things your best time slots because someone asked you to do them, because you’ve “always” done them or because everyone you know does them.
- Gaining and achieving “more” is not the path to happiness, especially when it traps you into putting off enjoyment of all you have now.
If you’re in alcoholism recovery and the things you have now include support peers, make the most of your opportunities to connect with them. Instead of worrying about what might happen if you don’t finish every little task in life, focus on how your group encourages you to see the big picture and make your life far more effective.
SCHEDULE YOUR REAL PRIORITIES FIRST
Real priorities include:
- Taking steps toward your long-term goals.
- Taking care of your physical and mental health.
- And, yes, staying active in your sobriety support network.
Instead of figuring you’ll get around to these things after clearing the chaff from your to-do list, write the most important tasks into your calendar first, and work everything else around them. It helps to schedule the most important things for your highest-energy periods, which for many people fall at the beginning of the day.
In the case of support groups, it may not be possible to find a meeting time during your peak-energy hours. The next best thing is to schedule the rest of your day to conserve energy for the meeting:
- Make extra effort to keep your day’s to-do list small.
- To keep your energy levels well balanced and avoid that “I just want to crash after work” feeling, eat a small meal at lunch, then a light, protein-rich snack in the afternoon. Keep high-fat and high-caffeine items to a minimum.
- Try to avoid interruptions and rush work late in the day: they’re likely to leave you in a frustrated, nobody-cares-about-me-anyway mood. Turn off your email alerts, even your phone. If you supervise others, ask them to handle minor problems themselves rather than knocking on your door (and assure them you won’t be angry if a resolution is left for the next day).
PROMISE SOMEONE IN ADVANCE THAT YOU’LL BE AT THE MEETING
Even better, offer to drive a carpool there. Or to be a speaker. Not wanting to disappoint others is among the best motivators.
GO STRAIGHT FROM WORK TO THE MEETING
Stepping through the door of your house/apartment after a hard day’s work tends to activate a “crash” reflex and kill your desire to go back out. If you have an extra hour or two before the meeting, there are ways to make good use of it without going home (or, worse, to a bar):
- Take a brisk walk outdoors.
- Eat supper in a park or deli.
- Call your family (or that friend you haven’t talked to in ages).
- Stop by the library.
- Spend some time on a hobby such as knitting. Or sign up for an online course and work on the lessons.
You could also volunteer to arrive early at the meeting and help set up. Helping someone else, and especially someone who’s helping you in sobriety, is a great use of your time and a means of replenishing your personal energy. And when you have more energy, you’re likely to find you suddenly have more time!