I was early. Will C, the secretary, greeted me. When he found out I was new his eyes lit up. He loaded me up with pamphlets. He introduced me to the twenty or so other members as they arrived, telling them I was new. Each welcomed me warmly. During the meeting, Will circulated a meeting schedule booklet. The members put their names and phone numbers in the back. After the readings Big Al was the first to share. He was outraged that his daughter’s therapist had convinced her that Al had molested her as a child. I was forty seven years old and never before had I heard anyone speak so honestly about anything so painful. It blew me away! While driving home I remember thinking that something special just happened. I didn’t know what it was, but I was sure I was going to go back next week and find out.
My second meeting, Mt. Soledad Men’s, was a few days later. Seventy guys tanked up on caffeine and testosterone at 9:30 in the morning. I sat in the back. When I put up my hand as a newcomer, the men seated around me extended their hands in welcome. After the readings came the birthday
celebrations. Candles were lit and as each celebrant came to the front with their sponsors the men sang a raucous version of Happy Birthday. I couldn’t help but sing along. I don’t remember too much about what was said that morning, but I identified with one man who shared when he had a couple of drinks he couldn't stop. I couldn't stop either. After the meeting a number of the men came up and welcomed me with handshakes and pats on the back. Larry J, who would become my first sponsor, said, “Some of us go to Harry’s for breakfast after the meeting, why don’t you come along.” I said, “I’d really like to, but I’m very busy this morning.’ He gave me a knowing (you are full of crap) smile and said, “I’m sure you are busy, Jeff, but why don’t you come along anyways?” An unseen hand pushed me to the breakfast with five or six other members. I remember laughing, really laughing, for the first time in years. Driving home from breakfast I had the feeling I had finally found my way home after a long painful journey.
A few months later Father Bill W led our meeting. At the time Father Bill was sober for twenty fives year and a Catholic priest for thirty. He had a wonderful Irish lilt and great sense of humor and dropped the occasional F-bomb that kept us all in stitches. He wrapped up his powerful story by
saying that he learned more about spirituality in AA than he had learned in all his years in the Catholic church. Wow! Then, at 90 days sober, the men elected me “doughnut guy”. It felt like I had just won the Nobel Prize! I was hooked.
I went to over 400 meetings in my first year and put myself in the center of Alcoholics Anonymous. There I discovered the God of my own misunderstanding. I have stayed in the center ever since, through thick and thin. AA continues to be my most favorite thing to do.