They say that only three types of people come to China from overseas: mercenaries, missionaries, and misfits. Even though I came to China originally to work, I certainly fit the latter category as well. Like most of us I have difficulty fitting comfortably in my own skin. If shouting the praises of Alcoholics Anonymous makes me a missionary, them I guess I've got the hat trick.
Shanghai is an easy place to hit bottom. The bars are open late and there are all kinds of extracurricular activities that are easy to fall into. There is sense of freedom here that didn't exist in our home countries, a kind of anything goes mentality. The Chinese people look the other way when we act out. "Just another crazy foreigner", they say. They've been saying that about foreigners for a couple of hundred years now. As the allure of China continues to grow, more and more misfits from all around the world are finding their bottoms here. Like the Chinese economy, our AA business is booming.
We've grown steadily since I arrived in 1997: from five alcoholics and three meetings a week to more than 100 members and 23 meetings a week today. I see newcomers in the meetings I attend almost every week. I love seeing newcomers in the meetings, not because it gives me an opportunity to provide treatment for their alcoholism, but because it gives me a new, fresh way to treat my own disease.
I believe AA works because of the principle of enlightened self-interest. Everything I do in AA I'm doing for myself -- to earn another day of sobriety. If someone else benefits it's icing on the cake. I get a great feeling when I see the light come on in a newcomer's eyes, but whether another alcoholic "gets it" or not is not up to me. When I put my hand out and share with a newcomer, I'm the one who grows and changes. I'm the one who experiences the 12 promises coming true. It's all about me as usual, but that's the beauty of Alcoholics Anonymous.