Pages

Founders Day--June 10, 1935

Imagine how much fun Bill and Dr. Bob had watching AA grow up around them in those early years. How excited they must have been when they began realized their simple program of one alcoholic talking to another worked where nothing else could. How connected they must have felt as the light came on in the eyes of so many hopeless alcoholics. I had a small taste of their experience when I was one of the first AAs to carry the message to communist China in 1997.

There were four other AA’s in Shanghai when I arrived. We met three times a week in each other’s apartments. We worried that the public security bureau wouldn’t like us foreigners meeting together and talking about God. Our group grew steadily as more and more foreigners moved to China for work. We met in restaurants and hotel banquet rooms. We met for a while in communist -controlled churches until the powers to be discovered that we weren’t religious and asked us to leave.

It used to be said that only three types of foreigners come to China: mercenaries, missionaries and misfits. Shanghai is an easy place for a misfit to hit bottom. The bars are open till 4 AM; there are ample numbers of friendly Chinese “talking girls”; and the locals look the other way when the crazy foreigners act out. In the early years there weren’t many qualified sponsors in our small group. I was graced with opportunities to sponsor that I never would’ve had in America. Many didn’t make it, but a few did and are still sober today.

In 2005 a core group of members pooled their resources and founded the Shanghai Alano Club. By the time I returned to the US in 2014, the club had approximately 120 regular members and hosted three meetings a day. It’s still going strong. I’ll be forever grateful I was given the opportunity to be in on the ground floor of AA in Shanghai.

I can’t imagine life without Alcoholics Anonymous. Thank you, Bill. Thank you, Dr. Bob.

Dependence

I was raised with the idea that real men don’t depend on anyone but themselves. They don’t ask for help. My hero was the Marlboro man, a rough and tumble loner. Yet the reason I couldn’t allow anyone close was not my manliness, but fear. The fear you would find out what a loser I was. I went through life alone, pretending I was fine. I became self-sufficient. Certainly, there was no room for God in my life.

I felt I had to earn your love by doing everything perfectly. I lived with the stress of these old ideas for more than 30 years. I used my gifts to become a success in the world, but despite outward appearances, inside I was a shivering wreck. Alcohol made life bearable, even fun for a long time.  Little did I know alcohol was eroding my spiritual center. By the end of my drinking I was an empty shell. I had no interest or enthusiasm for anything except getting high. I was a dead man walking.

At age 47 I asked for help for the first time. I was led to Alcoholics Anonymous. Hope flooded in during my first meeting. I was graced with the willingness to jump in with both feet. Even then I realized this willingness didn’t come from me. I concluded there must be a benevolent power that will run my life if I learn to depend on it. Through the years have done just that.

I demonstrate my dependence on God by continuing to do all that was suggested to me in my first week. I am asking God for help every time I attend a meeting, put my hand out to a newcomer, or practice a spiritual principle of the Twelve Steps in my daily life. Today I have the faith that if I continue to depend on the God of my own misunderstanding, I'll be shown the way out of any mess I get myself into. So, what’s there to worry about?

Today

I was a couple of weeks sober and sitting in the therapy circle in the out-patient treatment center. When my turn came to share I said, "I feel so good, I'll never drink again!" The short, round woman who ran the center, an ex-heroine junky from New York, snapped back, "That's just ego bull shit Jeff! We don’t say crap like that in here. You'd better just do everything you can to stay sober today and pray it's enough.”

That was a long time ago, but my ego still tries to convince me I don’t have to go to the meeting today, that I don’t have to reach out to other alcoholics today, that I don’t have to ask my HP for help today. Ego says, “you’re fine, Jeff, really.” Ego is right. I am fine. My life is better than it has ever been. I take the suggested recovery actions today not because I’m afraid I’ll drink again, but because I really enjoy being a part of Alcoholics Anonymous.

I enjoy the meetings, the fellowship, and the chance to help another still suffering alcoholic. I often share about the feeling I had as I sat in my first meeting. It felt like I had finally found my way home after a long, painful struggle. AA continues to feel like home today.

I can’t imagine life without my AA activities. It’s how I get spiritually nourished. I connect with the God of my own misunderstanding at meetings, one-on-ones with other drunks and practicing the steps, especially ten, eleven and twelve. Seeing the light come on in a newcomer’s eyes is my most favorite experience. I am a radically different person than I was when I walked into my first meeting twenty-four years ago. Most of the time today I am sober, sane and serene. But growing along spiritual lines is an exciting, never-ending journey so I think I’ll keep coming back.