I wasn’t looking to reconnect with life as I walked through the door to my first meeting. I wasn’t looking for meaning and purpose. I wasn’t looking for a relationship with God. But in the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous I found all these things and so much more.
I had never been a joiner. Like Groucho Marx, I never wanted to join any club that would have someone like me as a member. I spent the last eight months of my drinking in extreme isolation. I remember thinking it was a great way to live. There was no one around to bother me about my drinking or to criticize me for not looking for work or to nag me to clean my apartment. Today, this thought is one of the saddest I can remember.
I found a seat in the back of the room. The man who would become my first sponsor held out his hand when I introduced myself as a newcomer. When the sharing began I was amazed. I had never heard anyone speaking so honestly before. After the meeting my future sponsor said, "Some of us go to breakfast after the meeting, why don't you come along?" I lied that I had a lot to do that day. He said, "I'm sure you do Jeff, but why don't you come along anyways."
An unseen hand nudged me to breakfast. There were six or eight of us men altogether that morning. Remarkably I didn’t feel the need to try and impress anyone. I laughed, really laughed for the first time in years. Driving home I found myself looking forward to the next meeting. The magic of the fellowship had hooked me into AA!
I went to 400 meetings in my first year (it’s easy to do when you are unemployed). I hooked up with a few other newly sober guys. We played golf together. We chatted about recovery over coffee before and after meetings. I took my first year token in front of a roaring bonfire in the mountains above San Diego during one of my home group’s semi-annual spiritual retreats. In 1995 I had the privilege of attending our International Convention in San Diego. Wow. The power of 55,000 alcoholics standing and holding hands and saying the Lord's Prayer together continues to reverberate through my consciousness today.
The power of the fellowship is symbolized by the circle. In Shanghai we close every meeting by joining hands, forming a circle and repeating the Serenity Prayer. I like the expression, “God is not in me or in you, but at the place where we meet.” Slowly my ego is fading into the background. Today it's not so much, "what's in it for me" but "what's best for the whole." The sense of connection with life sparked at my first meeting continues to grow and expand.