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.