I often hear the expression, "If you had my life, you would drink too." I recently heard someone share, "if you had my life, you wouldn't drink either." My life is filled with goodness today. I owe much of it to the three and a half years I spent in my first home group before moving to China. My first home group is where I reconnected with life, where I learned to be a friend among friends and a worker among workers, where I took baby steps in practicing spiritual principles like love and tolerance, and where, at age 47, I began to grow up -- a process I've not yet fully completed.
I was not prepared for what greeted me on that first Saturday morning when I walked through the doors of the rec-room in the All Hallows Catholic Church in La Jolla, California. The seventy men in the room were a little to "up"-- a little to happy to suit me. I had unknowingly walked right into the middle of a big party -- a celebration of sober life. I didn't know what it was at the time, but, like any good alcoholic, I wanted more. I kept coming back.
I wasn't a joiner. I ran from intimacy. I had insulated myself from life with alcohol for thirty years. Now the alcohol was gone and I felt open, exposed. If it was up to me I would have stood outside with my nose pressed against the window. But you guys wouldn't let me. You surrounded me in welcome when I introduced myself as a newcomer. You gave me your phone numbers. You made me feel I was the most important person in the room. Slowly I allowed you to pull me inside the life boat and together we rowed away from the wreckage of our broken lives.
I went to a meeting every day of the week, but I looked forward to my home group on Saturday mornings. It didn't take long for my body to relax amid the laughter and enthusiasm in the room. I walked through my fear and began to get to know the regulars. My mind began to open -- like a door cracking and the light chasing away the darkness in a room. I could see that this "God Thing" was working for you, so I became willing to give it a try. I got myself a sponsor and began to do what was suggested. I showed up early; helped to set up the chairs; and cleaned coffee cups. When, at 90 days sober, the group elected me the "donut guy" it felt like I had just won the Nobel Prize.
I received a solid foundation in sobriety from my first home group. I was sad to leave when the time came, but as my grand sponsor said, "God doesn't get us sober to sit on the sidelines of life." The spirit of my first home group is alive in me. I've spent the past sixteen years passing on everything I learned in my first home group to the drunks here in Shanghai.
Today is a holiday in China called the Mid-autumn Festival or the "Moon Festival." Chinese people exchange small round pastries called Moon Cakes. Everyone gets a day off work to celebrate. This evening a full harvest moon will hang low in the sky and all over China, families will enjoy a meal together. Tonight I'll have a nice dinner with my Chinese family, but I'll remember to be grateful for my AA family, especially my first home group.