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90 Beatings In 90 Days

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"90 meetings in 90 days" gets my vote as the saddest old saw in Alcoholics Anonymous.  Don't get me wrong-- I absolutely love AA meetings, and I did the 90 meetings in 90 days ritual a couple times. Problem was, that was the extent of my recovery, so I lived with this nagging superstitious fear that if I missed a day, I was destined to drink.  And my AA friends apparently had no desire to disabuse me of that notion.  

So where did this oft-repeated commandment come from?  You can't find it in the original AA program literature, but then again, much of what you'll hear in meetings today doesn't come from the AA program. No, like many of our modern pearls of wisdom in AA, the 90 in 90 idea comes from rehabs that felt obligated to give some direction to the freshly-detoxed alcoholics and addicts they were churning out like processed cheese.  So, in addition to a headful of slogans and a copy of Living Sober, the wide-eyed rehab graduates were instructed encouraged to get to 90 meetings in 90 days, lest they find themselves back in rehab (where, conveniently, most major credit cards are accepted).

The problem with 90 in 90 is that it implies attendance at meetings is all that's required to recover, and that could not be further from the vision of Alcoholics Anonymous.  When it is not paired with an almost immediate immersion in step work, 90 in 90 is tantamount to putting the new person on a shelf.  And it's nearly impossible to stay sober there.

To be clear, attending AA meeting is far better than not attending AA meetings, and if having a little rigid structure early in your recovery is helpful, then by all means, do 90 in 90. The real issue with the idea is one of emphasis. It's so over-used that it has become a form of temporary sponsorship, unfortunately because we're either reluctant to (or incapable of) telling the new person just how urgent their situation is and what's required to recover. Sadly, 90 in 90 provides cover for the person who lacks a message of depth and weight, who masquerades as an informed, experienced member of Alcoholics Anonymous.  

In other words, me, for over a decade.

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