I made my way up the back stairs to the meeting room in the La Jolla Presbyterian Church for my first AA meeting. It was May 3, 1994. A few days earlier I had spent my last $3700 of Visa credit to enroll in an outpatient treatment program recommended by a therapist. I had just attended my first group session. The woman who ran the program, an ex-heroin addict from New York, told us that to graduate from the program we were required to attend a minimum of three AA meetings a week. Then she looked at me and said, “Except for you Jeff. Since you are unemployed you are required to attend a meeting every day.” I didn’t like being singled out, but something told me arguing with this woman was useless. As it turned out going to a meeting every day in that first year was the best thing that could have happened.
I was early for the noon meeting. Secretary Will C. (still the most humble man I’ve ever known), greeted me warmly. His face lit up when I told him I was new. He started loading me up with pamphlets all the while telling me how glad he was I was there. He introduced me to each member of the group as they arrived. Each welcomed me warmly in turn. During the meeting they passed around the San Diego meeting booklet. Everyone put their name and phone number in the space provided in the back of the booklet. I used those phone numbers a lot a month or so later when my sponsor "suggested" that I call three other alcoholics every day.
There were probably a dozen or so of us when the meeting began. Big Al was the first one to speak. He said he was so mad he could kill. He had just learned that his daughter’s therapist was trying to convince her that Al had molested her as a child. I was 47 years old and never heard anyone speak like this—the language of the heart.
When it was my turn to share, an unseen hand pushed me to stand up in front of the group and, for the first time, say, “My name is Jeff and I’m an alcoholic.” Driving home from the meeting, I remember feeling like I had just found my way home after a long painful journey.