I had never been a joiner before I walked into my first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. I couldn’t let others get close to me for fear they would find out what a fraud I was. I had real trouble remembering people’s names because I always looked down at my shoes when I was introduced. Yet, there I sat on Saturday morning in the rec room of the Mt. Soledad Catholic Church in La Jolla, California surrounded by 70 men wound up on caffeine, testosterone, and spirituality. Part of me didn’t really want to be there, but I had to get my little card signed for the treatment center.
I introduced myself as a newcomer and the men sitting around me put out their hands. There were a lot of birthdays that day. As each celebrant and his sponsor walked to the front of the room, a birthday candle was lit and the men sang happy birthday in loud and boisterous voices. I found myself singing along—my first feeling of being a part of the group. Only a few days sober, I don’t remember too much about what went on in the meeting, but I do remember after the meeting some of the men came up to me with handshakes, pats on the back and phone numbers. They said “keep coming back” and I did.
The man who would become my first sponsor invited me to breakfast with a few other guys. I lied and said I’d really like to go but I was very busy. He looked at me with a knowing eye and said, “I know you’re busy Jeff, but why don’t you come along anyways?” An unseen hand gently pushed me to the breakfast. There were six of us in all. I laughed, really laughed, for the first time in years. I remember as I was driving home from breakfast thinking something amazing had just happened. I didn’t know what it was, but I was sure I was going back the next week.
This meeting became my home group. I think I only missed once In my first two years. I made coffee, picked up butts in the parking lot and cleaned toilets. When I was 90 days sober the group elected me “doughnut guy.” It felt like I had just won the Nobel Prize. I let down my guard and shared my truth with the other men in the room. In the process I went from feeling “apart from” to feeling “a part of.” I was a year and a half sober when one of the men asked me to sponsor him. A whole new world came into view.
I’ve had the honor and privilege of attending meetings in many cities in the US and in other parts of the world. I continue to be amazed at the spiritual love that we alcoholics have for one another. Like it says in the other big book “Where more than one are gathered in his name, God is present.”
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