I sat in the rec room of the Mt. Soledad All Hallows Catholic Church waiting for the meeting to start. It was almost nine o’clock on Saturday morning. The seventy other men, a good mix of the hip, slick and cool and sage old timers, talked and laughed among themselves. They seemed a little too “up” for me so early in the morning.
When I raised my hand as a newcomer, the men sitting around me, including the man who would become my first sponsor, extended their hands in welcome. I hadn’t been welcomed anywhere in many years, but these guys seemed genuinely glad I was there, even before I put on my people pleasing act!
Still toxic, I don’t remember too much about what was said during the meeting, but I do remember the laughter — the lighthearted seriousness of it all. During the birthday celebrations I caught myself singing Happy Birthday off key. I remember the men who spoke that day used the word “grateful” a lot. When the basket came around I put in a buck and wondered where the money went. We closed the meeting in a large circle, our arms wrapped over the shoulders of the men on either side and said the Our Father. It felt like I was thrown into the deep end of the pool.
A group of men surrounded me after the meeting with hardy handshakes, pats on the back, and exhortations to “keep coming back.” I was invited to breakfast and an unseen hand pushed me to accept. The laughter continued through breakfast. My spirit lightened up.
As I was driving home that day I sensed something special had happened to me. I had no idea what it was, but, like any good alcoholic, I wanted more.