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My Sober Life in Montreal Day 8: Breaking down the stereotypes

Recently, I met up for coffee with an old friend who was shocked to learn that I no longer drink, and curious to learn about my experience in AA. The conversation went kind of like this.

“Is it just you and a bunch of old men?” He asked with a smile.

“No, there are a lot of women. I would say the rooms are 40% women.”

“Desperate housewives? You must be the only young hot girl.”

“Nope. There are lots of intelligent, good looking young women. I have made a lot of friends.”

It’s easy to distinguish an alcoholic who still drinks; they’re usually drunk. But there is no way of distinguishing a sober alcoholic just by sizing them up. Lawyers, bankers, teachers, advertising execs, unemployed, students, ex-criminals, actors, stay-at-home moms, doctors: it’s an incredibly diverse representation of society that brings together individuals from all socioeconomic backgrounds.

The person to your left might be living in a shelter while the person to your right, a Forest Hill mansion. Although on paper, my life might not look like the man who crashes on a CAMH park bench, there are parts of my story that resonate with him and likewise, I can identify with things he shares. I’d say that this is the coolest part of AA, and definitely one of the more humbling elements.

AA was formed in 1935, and for many decades, it was certainly a group that was heavily dominated by men. When older women, with longstanding sobriety, share, they often describe being the only woman in their group for several years. From what I hear, this wasn’t a rare occurrence even in the early nineties. I feel lucky to live in a generation where there is far less stigma placed upon women who suffer from alcoholism. Remove that mickey of vodka from that lingerie drawer! You are not alone.

At my first AA meetings, I did not want to hang around and mingle. It took a while before I could drop the arrogant attitude that I was better than the sick crowd of down and out losers that surrounded me. However, I kept coming back and each time I sat there and listened, something else would click. “Oh, maybe I am like them,” I’d think or, “Shit, that sounds just like me.” I have met countless wise women within the walls of AA and am fortunate to count many of them as my nearest and dearest.

When I hastily set out with this sober diary thing, I promised that I would weave cool happenings or curious adventures into each post. I’ve got nothing for you today except to say that AA meetings are every bit as inspiring and colourful as the vibrant festival-fueled streets of Montreal. Both offer an endless source of discovery.

~ Jen McNeely

On day 1, Jen outed herself as a recovering alcoholic. On day 2, she wondered why the hell she did that. On day 3, she compares the dark days of 1999 with vibrant life in 2012. On day 4 Jen randomly meets Steven Tyler while strolling the streets late at night. On day 5 Jen took a meditative morning walk through the Plateau.On day 6 she found serenity in the Fuchsia Tea Room. On Day 7 she hits the town for mocktails and shots of OJ.

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