A colleague was recalling his stay in a residential rehab where he’d landed after many misadventures, including a week in the state mental institution. “I could look out the window of my room at the big religious cross on the mountainside. It gave me hope.”

“So that’s where you got sober?” I asked, which startled him. “No, no,” he corrected, “AA got me sober. The other was just something that happened along the way.”

I hear that a lot in my travels– many different things contributed, but it was through AA that the goal was reached. As to exactly how it works, that’s a matter of opinion.

“I made new friends, good ones, among people who were like me,” explained one young man. “It was a place where I could fit in when I didn’t fit very well anywhere else.”

“Good advice,” claimed another. “I had like three sponsors. My main one and then somebody else to advise me on my relationships, which was a real problem area for me, and a third that I trusted for other stuff. I didn’t plan it, that’s just the way things worked out for me.”

“I think it’s ultimately about working the Steps,” a woman said. “The rest of it is to get you started and  keep you going. Which is not all that easy.”

“AA was one place where I could go for an hour or two and not feel like such a failure,” revealed a police officer.

“At first, I needed somewhere to go in the afternoon because they wouldn’t let me back in the shelter til 6PM,” admitted another woman. “I went for the coffee and the air conditioning. It was months before I talked to anybody.”

When I first got into counseling, I had this sneaky feeling that it couldn’t possibly be that simple. But then again, maybe it is.