I’m Right, You’re Wrong: The AA Version

by Marinka on August 21, 2013

No, I’m not in AA, although please keep checking this post for updates, depending on how things are going.

Recently, my “friend” Peajaye and I were having a loving conversation about people we know in AA and how they acknowledge the time that they have been sober. Specifically, is it a birthday or an anniversary?

Now, neither Peajaye nor I belong to AA, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t have strong, violence-inducing opinions about it. And we need you to weigh in.

As always, with I’m Right, You’re Wrong, I’m going to present the two points of view without identifying which one of us holds which position so that you can be completely fair and impartial.

Dilemma: In AA, is sobriety marked with a birthday or an anniversary?

Contestants: Marinka and Peajaye.

Position One: Things that mark a year long anniversary of something are called anniversaries. Because that’s how language works. A birthday is when someone gives birth to you.

Position Two: I’ve heard people refer to it as a birthday. And online, there it was, in page after page on sites about AA. On the East Coast, most people referred to it as an anniversary, but in California, it was known as a birthday. As we were discussing someone who lives in California, I was right.  I emailed a screen-cap to [gender specific pronoun deleted to preserve the sanctity of the IRYW process] to help clear the confusion.  Surely this would settle matters.  If the person you’re writing to were sane.

But no, that was [see previous note about gender-specific pronoun] cue to start torturing me. Was I sure? But it didn’t make sense! Why was I sending a screen-cap?! Did I see what one of those people wrote on the message boards about a “belly-button birthday”!?

Look, I didn’t make up the expression. Just like I didn’t make up the expression Born Again Christian. I’m not going to argue it should be something like Anniversary of Baptism Christian. In fact, I am not going to tell any group how they should self-identify. There just aren’t enough hours in the day for that. If west coast AA members want to celebrate the day they became sober by calling it a birthday because they feel like that was the day that they were reborn, who cares?

Position One, Rebuttal: Who cares? People who speak English care. If the West Coast wants to start referring to cats as pianos are we all supposed to just play along and pretend it’s normal behavior? Look, I understand about self-identification (or I will as soon as I Google it) but these people are maintaining their sobriety.  Shouldn’t we help in any way we can?  Starting with vocabulary?

One year ago ...

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

joeinvegas August 21, 2013 at 10:07 am

I have the cat piano app on my iPhone.


Ryan August 22, 2013 at 1:28 am

I live on the West Coast and have always thought that it’s weird when people in AA call their anniversary of their sobriety their Birthday, I’m with you on this one! I went to a meeting to watch my friend get a one year chip and they called it her Birthday, I was all confused. After I asked if it was actually her Birthday too!


Nona Nelson
August 22, 2013 at 7:02 am

It’s an anniversary. Calling it anything else is self-indulgent and silly. Now if you will excuse me, my piano’s litter box needs cleaned.


August 22, 2013 at 9:48 am

Girls, girls, you’re both pretty.


August 22, 2013 at 10:50 am

While it may be grammatical incorrect, I’m gonna cut some slack to anyone who overcomes and manage their addiction/disease (there’s another debate for you) and let them call it their birthday.

I guess you can look at it like a spiritual birth of sorts.


Karen Moore August 22, 2013 at 11:13 am

Since neither of you are in AA it doesn’t matter what you think about birthdays or anniversary’s. I’m not in AA but I went to Al-Anon for 16 years and I cherished EVERY birthday I celebrated. When you arrive at either of these groups you’ve probably hit your bottom – mentally, physically and emotionally. Celebrating each year is truly a blessing. I know it SAVED my life! LIVING ONE DAY AT TIME is a wonderful way to live.


August 22, 2013 at 11:13 pm

Let the west coasters call it whatever they want. It’s like soda or pop. Neither is necessarily wrong. And in the south they call it coke. Even if its sprite.


the mama bird diaries
August 27, 2013 at 10:46 pm

Absolutely an anniversary. Let’s drink to — oh never mind.


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