There are many reasons why one would need AA signatures. People who bring pre-formatted sheets of paper into AA meetings are typically sent there by a court (family or criminal), some type of rehab facility, or a sober living environment. Because of this, forging the document has become commonplace. Forging AA meeting signatures is probably more common than you can imagine. We will explore my history with forging these documents, reasons people forge AA meeting sheets, and the consequences of these actions.
My Experience Forging Signatures
When I got my second DUI before I turned 19, I still was not willing to admit that I had a problem with drinking. Of course, I was ordered to attend three AA meetings a week as one of the terms of my probation. For at least six months I did this without fail. I also stayed sober around a year and most things in my life were improving. This has been a reoccurring theme every time I stop drinking. It took me many bottoms to REALLY decide to stop.
At some point I began to put other things before my recovery, which is usually the first step to relapsing. The area I lived actually employed a stamp method, which made it harder to duplicate. Every meeting had stamps made that showed which meeting they represented.
As a result, when I realized I was quickly approaching my monthly meeting with my probation officer and had missed a few meetings, I came up with a solution. I scanned a document that had several stamps with signatures already on them, used paint (it was many years ago) to edit the document and remove the dates. Because these scans were printed after the alteration, they looked a little lighter than the original. I would then lightly fill in the date to “prove” my attendance.
The result of this shadiness was less than ideal. Once I knew I could get away with missing a few meetings, I cut out nearly all meetings and began using this method every month. This resulted in a great reduction in my reaching out to my support group, which eventually took me back to my addiction.
Another time I employed forgery was when I lived in a sober living community. The rule there was you had to attend seven AA meetings a week. There were no stamps in this community, so it was simply a matter of signing other people’s names. I quickly found out that the house manager was pretty lax in his duties. While I attended several meetings a week, but thought daily attendance a bit much.
Alcoholics and addicts almost never know what is best for them. Because this wasn’t for a court and I was remaining sober, I rationalized that it was OK to attend just four meetings a week. The problem with this slippery slope is it eventually becomes three, then two, then one, then none. I never relapsed while living there though; I waited until I moved out.
However, had I not started down that slippery slope, I may have continued to attend a few meetings, which for me is enough to stay sober, and not relapsed after I moved out.
Reasons We Forge
When sentenced to AA by the courts, most people find it unfair, think it is a cult, or wonder where they will find the time. While nearly every person starts out with the intention of following court orders, there are a couple of main reasons why people start forging AA meeting signatures. One group thinks they don’t need what AA offers. The other believes it takes up too much time.
I Don’t Need AA
I am a firm advocate that AA is not for everyone. However, with an open mind, even people who are really not addicted to anything will find valuable life lessons in AA. Obviously, this is only if they are at least somewhat engaged. People who hold firm to the notion that they don’t have a problem are usually one of the first to find ways around going to meetings.
Forging signatures is relatively simple. As an anonymous program, it makes it a little harder for courts to confirm that the signatures are real. This doesn’t mean that they don’t do this; it just makes it harder. Once the forger begins getting away with this, there comes a point where no meetings are attended.
This is not to say that everybody who has been arrested for a DUI is an alcoholic. Some people simply made a very foolish decision. I know people that nobody would consider an alcoholic that were sentenced to AA. This is unfortunate, as it can detract from meetings where people are there to truly get sober.
Takes Up Too Much Time
This is the rationale I used when I was required to attend seven meetings a week. I worked ten hours a day six days a week, so every day for three months my life was basically this: Get up. Get ready for work. Work. Get home and take a shower. Go to a meeting, which really took about two hours including travel time. Get home. Eat. Go to sleep.
While I was generally happy, I did not want to subjugate myself to this very boring life. I now realize that boredom is far superior to insanity, shame, and eventual death. But at the time, I just wanted some excitement. I started playing and winning at poker a few nights a week, which I felt was a far more productive use of my time. Eventually, this became a daily thing.
I knew I couldn’t go out and hang with people that were partying, as it would eventually lead me to drink. I love competition, so that is why I chose poker as my outlet. As I’m fairly good, winning at poker makes it a sustainable hobby.
I share my story because I’m sure others are thinking the same thing. Life can’t just be meetings and the other monotonous nonsense that we have to do each day. Without something to look forward to or a new challenge to pursue, we end up in a seemingly inescapable rut.
Consequences of Forging Slips
For the group that really does not need any help because they simply made a mistake that sent them to AA, there are usually no consequences. Usually is the operative word. If you are caught forging, the law will do what they do: inflict punishment. There are still consequences for real addicts and alcoholics if you are not caught, however.
If You are Caught
After perusing the internet for instances of people being caught, it usually ends up in being arrested. Some parole and probation officers will go to meetings to see if you are attending. If they do not see you there but that same meeting shows up on the sheet you turn in, you will be in trouble. Some people are even ordered to go to SPECIFIC meetings. In this case, you can be sure that you will be caught.
The reason you are being sent to these are there is at least one person there that will tell the officer if you are attending or not when asked. In the instance where it is not court ordered, the consequences are less severe than an arrest.
I was surprised that I was never called out for not attending meetings when I was supposed to be going seven times a week. All the house manager had to do is ask if other members ever saw me at meetings. Because I’m a pretty good guy and was clearly sober and lucid, he never thought to do so.
However, if you are caught not attending the required number of meetings a week in sober living, you will usually be counseled the first time. After that, you will be asked to leave.
If You Are Never Found Out – This Could Be Way Worse
Because you are being dishonest when you start forging signatures, I believe it is worse when nobody discovers your deceit. Lying and manipulating are clear addict behaviors. If you are living in sober living, your goal should be to live a recovery lifestyle.
Alcoholics and addicts must be rigorously honest if they expect to recover. While missing a meeting is not the end of the world, lying about it is the beginning of a relapse back into the abyss you worked so hard to escape. By betraying ourselves, we are going against the spiritual principles of honesty and integrity.
For those who are court ordered, you may discover that you really are an alcoholic or addict and can stop before things get really bad. Not everyone needs to hit rock bottom to decide abstinence is necessary if their life is to be a good one.
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