Recently I had lunch with a couple of friends I hadn’t seen for many years. We talked about our lives. They asked me how I was keeping busy since my wife died. I said, “Well, I’m very active in my AA program. I go to a meeting almost every day.” They both gave me looks that said, “How sad,” like my life was pretty much over. It wasn’t the first time I received these looks. Normies have no way of knowing how wonderful life is for us in the center of Alcoholics Anonymous where we enjoy unlimited opportunities to help others recover.
Groucho Marx said he would never join any club that would have him as a member. I wasn’t a joiner either. Yet, as I sat in my first meeting amid the laughter and the honest sharing, it felt like I had just found my way home after a long painful journey. I really wanted to be a member of the AA club and I was graced with the willingness to take the actions that put me in the center of the group. It was there I discovered a God of my own misunderstanding and our relationship has been growing ever since.
I was 90 days sober when my home group elected me “Doughnut Guy.” It felt like I had just won the Nobel Prize. I had my first chance to sponsor at a year and a half sober. I’m not sure that he made it, but I’m awfully grateful he asked me. I learned the healing power of sponsorship.
Then, at three and a half years sober, God sent me to communist China to carry the AA message. There were only four other recovering alcoholics in the city of 23 million when I arrived. We met in each other’s homes for fear that the public security bureau was watching us and wouldn’t appreciate us meeting in secret and talking about God. During my 16 years in Shanghai I had many wonderful opportunities to sponsor and otherwise be of service. In 2010 a few of us pooled our resources and opened the Shanghai Alano Club. When I left Shanghai two years ago the club was hosting 23 meetings a week serving approximately 150 active members and visitors from all over the world. It is still going strong today.
I believe Alcoholics Anonymous is built on the principle of enlightened self-interest. Everything I do in AA I do for me, for my recovery. But I can’t recover without helping others recover. So everybody wins. It’s simply a great way to live.