Participant observation of Alcoholics Anonymous Assignment

Participant observation of Alcoholics Anonymous Assignment Words: 1499

This paper is an attempt to explore the possible research stances available to me involved in participant observation of Alcoholics Anonymous (AAA) of the Lehigh County. For this field study I chose to be a complete observer. I have to stay in many assignments I eve done never thought I had to study a group of people with a drinking problem, it was quite sad to listen to a young girls story. Let like some sort of snitch, spying on a serious group of people, so please take this study seriously it is very heartfelt. The following study takes place at a meeting hall at Lehigh University’s Pace’s club on Tuesday, October 21st, 2003 at 7:45 PM. Group therapy of the Alcoholics Anonymous. Must say this was one of the most difficult experiences I’ve had. At the start of the meeting there were only a few regular male members Stan and Ted present, and the female newcomer. During the opening readings a regular female member, Lynn arrived.

The theme for the reading was ‘Learning to love ourselves’. During the reading the newcomer cried quietly and apologized with conflicting suppressed tears and nervous laughter in her voice. After the reading the chair (Stan), discovering the presence of a newcomer, spoke of his own experience of drinking and early recovery, particularly in relation to resentment and developing relationships. Another member (Ted) also spoke, addressing his remarks more directly to the newcomer.

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This is a stylistic variation, as usually in AAA meetings sharing is not addressed to a specific audience, except in specific cases like the presence of a newcomer, or if some one has brought up a specific problem early in the meeting. The newcomer, (whose name I decided to withhold) without the usual self- introduction, asked about religion and spirituality, saying she knew in AAA people said it was not a religious program but a spiritual one, but she had not much of an idea about either. Her talk was marked by frequent pauses and eye contact indicating that she wanted a response.

After about three of pauses, transition points that were not taken up, Ted responded in a light vein about how religion was full of rules but in AAA there were none. He took up an explanatory tone, again usually avoided, except when the audience is a newcomer, prefacing them with ‘you see’ and ‘you know’, but tempering the implicit authority role With humor and self-deprecating comments, ‘no one will know how insane I am unless I pick up a drink. ‘ At this point she asked, “Should I get a sponsor? The chair, avoiding giving direct advice as the request required, shared about his own experience in finding a sponsor and the importance of that relationship to his recovery, but did not respond directly to the question, indicating a reluctance to respond directly to a request for advice but instead used the conventional AAA illustrative personal recount. The newcomer again stated that she had been to only two other meetings ND had never shared, that she just sat at the back of the meetings she had been to which had about 20 people in them.

She said she was pleased that this was a small meeting where she felt comfortable. Again her eyes and pausing indicated a desire for others to take a turn, which did not happen so the chair asked her if she would like to share. At this point she entered her first sustained episode of monologue, recounting how she had recently been told bluntly by her doctor on her admission to hospital that she was an alcoholic, that her alcohol blood level was ‘ridiculously high’ and that she had been to an AAA meeting a few years revisions but did not go back.

She also recounted how going to meetings recently (in the last few days) had helped her cut back on her drinking and how supportive her husband was, saying he was in the AY-Anon meeting next door, indicating this with her eyes, head and hands. She added that nonetheless he could not understand why she drank so much. She made explicit reference to the earlier reading and sharing by saying how she was incapable of self-love. She also made explicit reference to the chair’s talk in referring to her inability to stop drinking once she had had one drink.

Throughout this experience I witnessed she cried quietly, frequently drying her eyes and nose with a tissue offered by Lynn, which she accepted without apology or thanks. This period of talk, with its strong elements of self- revelatory narrative and its focus on her drinking experience, indicated a clear shift toward the characteristics of AAA talk. This was also indicated by her references to the initial reading and other members’ sharing. There were no longer invitations to others to take a turn either through pausing or eye contact.

However, on at least two occasions she id say she had never talked like this before, her eyes moving upwards to make direct contact with a particular person as her audience. Neither were there any specific questions or requests for advice – which had characterized her earlier talk. The abandoning of these mechanisms inviting other turns with the attendant seeking of a specific interactive partner allowed her to sustain her talk for about five minutes and recount events and display emotions normally avoided.

However, when she stated she did not want to admit she was an alcoholic and that the idea of never drinking again mimed impossible to her, her eyes sought particular partners with whom to interact; suggesting the need for reassurance, advice or acknowledgement, and as such at variance with much AAA interaction. The resulting pause and failure to close her turn resulted in brief responses from the others. As direct responses to her unclosed turn, they were seen to be directly contingent on the content of the previous turn – again, not typical of AAA interaction.

Stan said, “You needs to think of not drinking for the rest of her life but to take it a day at a time”. Ted recommended she went to meetings regularly. The first attempt to interact by Lynn was immediately seized on by the chair that turned to me and said, ‘would you like to share? This giving the opportunity to turn to Lynn and socially interact with her, which basically led me to comforting the new-comer resulted in a return to an episode of sustained AAA sharing, where Lynn oriented her remarks to the new-comer’s concerns by relating her own particular experiences.

When the newcomer again interrupted with a direct question, the resulting responses showed another return to adjacency pairing, the chair suggested they close the meeting early so they could simply ‘chat’ for the rest of the mime. After the usual closing rituals – reciting their Serenity Prayer in a circle while holding hands – the meeting was closed and the group engaged in interactive conversation involving questions and explanations, rather than single turn monologues.

The chair, it appears, had been unwilling to direct and prescribe the rules of discourse; however, he also appeared to be reluctant to allow the meeting to proceed with a lot of cross talk and with direct questions taking place. He had steered the meeting to extended sharing on two occasions, this had broken down. Everyone had in fact shared so the meeting was brought to an early ND, not, it would appear, because the interaction had finished but because the chair had decided the nature of the interaction required was not the type that could take place within an AAA meeting.

Following the interaction Beethoven group members, before leaving I confronted the group chair and asked him, “Do you see more of an assertive difference between the male and female ratio, whereas males are more dominant then females when dealing with drinking problems? ” Stan, the chair person who seemed to be a little disgruntled by my question (trying not to show it) basically said, “Yes we are living in a world where you (Gordon) might ay men are more dominant, but in my theory I’d say females have stronger feelings then men when they want to confront there drinking problems or any other!

What everyone needs to understand is that we all are equal, whether were black, white, or Hispanic but we bleed the same color! ” Conclusion To relate this discussion back to the issue have learned that being a complete observer can be as difficult as the participant observer. You are trying to maintain your identity but you can only go so far when you’re tying yourself into a group. Although had learned something that day, but I feel as if someone or I could hurt feelings.

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