Perspective: Cunning, Baffling, Powerful!

by Katy W.

I remember my first AA meeting as if it were yesterday.

I was stunned to find myself in a church basement with about 200 other people. I was so worried that I would meet people I knew, that my professional reputation would be ruined, that all my years of carefully hiding my shameful secret would become public. By even coming to this meeting I was somehow admitting, rather begrudgingly, that I was an alcoholic. And I wasn’t ready to make my “problem” so public.

But here I was – because only weeks earlier my two daughters and my older sister had arrived on my doorstep on a cold December evening to make the bold step to call me on my drinking, after I had made a fool of myself at a birthday party at my own house.

They were so brave to have come! They did not know what my response would be. I can only weep now, knowing how strained and heavy their meetings must have been leading up to this encounter with me. I can still see the relief in their faces when I admitted that, yes, I had a problem with alcohol … and that, yes, I would seek help. The next day, I picked up the phone and talked to a colleague who I knew was in AA. I told him my story and asked for his help.

Why had I waited so long? I had thought of doing this so often in the past! The answer is shame, humiliation, fear, and, on a different level, not wanting to fathom a life of not being able to drink.

Back to my first AA meeting:

Everyone seemed to know each other. Everyone seemed to be having a good time and genuinely enjoying each other’s company. They were drinking a lot of coffee and eating a lot of store-bought cookies. As an extrovert who loves people and who makes her living interacting with people, I was shocked to see how quiet and invisible I could become.

Fortunately, I was not on my own. A woman who my AA colleague had recommended to me as someone who might be my sponsor at some later date, was sitting beside me. If it had not been for her support that evening, I would never have breathed through the whole meeting which, to my mind, seemed to last about 7 hours.

The whole thing seemed so hokey…. all those slogans up on placards! Keep coming back! You are not alone! Remember when! Hi, I’m so-and-so and I’m an alcoholic. It took many, many weeks before I lost that attitude and began to see and hear things I had not noticed. I was finally becoming “one of them.” I did know we had the same disease. I did know that it was only here that the hellishness of my addiction was being eased.

Having said that, I have to say that to this day, I still feel like an outsider. I know this says more about me than it does about my fellow AA members. I am somewhat envious of those people who just jump in wholeheartedly, know everyone by name, speak up at meetings, volunteer for every kind of service and go to conventions everywhere. But that is not me. Thank God there is room for all types, all stories, all experiences, in this AA world.

As I became less humiliated, less defensive and more open to listening, I started to hear more clearly. The first words that kept leaping out at me were these … Alcohol, cunning, baffling and powerful!

I knew alcohol’s power over me. I knew how cunning its power was in my life because no matter how many times I vowed to stop drinking, I couldn’t do it or sustain it. But the word that I kept coming back to was baffling. I was baffled that I was an alcoholic!

Many AA meetings later, I came home one night and looked up the meaning of the word baffle. I found that the verb “to baffle” means to ridicule, cheat, bewilder, confound or frustrate.

And something clicked. I got it that alcohol was the grand baffler in my life. And, I was finally able to admit that the grand baffler had made my life unmanageable. And, I was ready to meet with lots of other people who had admitted their powerlessness over the same grand baffler.

Time has passed since those early meetings and I have come to know that I don’t have to be baffled by how I ended up as an alcoholic. In fact, I realize I have wasted many a precious hour, week, month or year trying to figure out how I became an alcoholic. I know now that I just have to acknowledge to myself and to those who care about me that I am an alcoholic,

Since then life has not become any easier but it has become simpler. It seems a long time ago since my first AA meeting. Two years … wow … such a long time and … such a short time.

Greetings to anyone who is new. I would love to talk to you.

Katy W.

About the Authors

Renascent Alumni
Members of Renascent's alumni community carry the message by sharing their experiences and perspectives on addiction and recovery. To contribute your alumni perspective, please email