When I was thirty, I had the great good fortune to attend my first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and thereby board what I think of as the great ship of AA, which was to carry me through the often-stormy seas of life, one day at a time, to today, 33 years later.

AA is an extraordinary model of learning. There are no paid employees and no one has higher rank than anyone else. We learn by sharing our “experience, strength, and hope” with each other. Meetings are lead by volunteers, who tell their stories: “what we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like now” (quotes from the “Big Book” of AA by Bill WIlson, the founder). Support, in the form of friendship, telephone calls, and getting to meetings, is offered unreservedly by members to each other. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. Meetings are always free, and available in most areas every day of the week. The principles of the program are put above personalities, and you are advised to “take what you want, and leave the rest.” Learning happens at your own pace, incrementally, over time. No one lectures. The important points and the mottos are often repeated and are in signs on the walls. You are likely to find at any one meeting someone with a PhD and someone who shines shoes, and each receives respect, for everyone isl treated as a valuable human being. I have learned from people I thought might be most unlikely to be able to teach me anything, because when we speak with complete honesty to each other, we at once perceive how much we have in common. You hear your own story in others’ stories, even when our paths to AA have been different, and you come to understand and learn a variety of ways of coping with life’s challenges in healthy ways. AA is always interesting and relevant and you keep on learning at every meeting you attend.

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