I walked into my first AA meeting, Mt. Soledad Men’s, a few minutes before 9:00 AM and found a seat in the back. The room was alive with with animated conversation and laughter. It felt like a big party was about to begin. I had just come out of eight months of isolation. It felt a bit overwhelming.
The leader asked for newcomers to introduce themselves. When I put up my hand, the man who would become my first sponsor put out his hand in welcome along with a number of other men sitting close by. I doubt I looked any of them in the eye.
There were a number of birthday celebrations that day. As each birthday was announced, one member lit the appropriate number of candles on a store-bought cake. The singing drew me in and I caught myself singing along. The celebrant and his sponsor both moved to the front of the room and shared. It was clear that these men genuinely cared about each other.
Still toxic and foggy, I don’t remember too much of what was said, but I was shocked at the honesty. I was forty seven years old and I had never heard a man admit he was afraid or that he didn’t have all the answers. One after another these men freely talked about their screw-ups without any sense of embarrassment. Most all of them used the word “grateful” more than once.
After the meeting a handful of members came up to welcome me with pats on the back and phone numbers. My future sponsor said, “Some of us go for breakfast after the meeting, why don’t you come along?” I lied and said, “I’d like to but I have some things I have to do.” With a knowing smile he said, “I’m sure you do, Jeff, but why don’t you come along anyways?” An unseen hand gave me a shove to breakfast.
As I was driving home from breakfast, I thought to myself, “I don’t know what those guy are on, but I know I want to go back next Saturday and get some too.” I wanted it.