A. Don’t drink
B. Go to meetings
C. Work the Steps
D. Repeat until dry!
Your first meeting of A.A. can be scary and confusing. You’re in pain and distress; every nerve is ready to beat a hasty retreat. You feel beaten down by life. You’re in a place where you would have never, in your wildest dreams, would have ended up; the last house on the block. Was this not the place where people from skid row would go? Aren’t these the denizens who lurked under the overpasses in cardboard boxes?
You might have come to the rooms of A.A. with the direction from the courts (a nudge from the judge). You might come in to keep an employer at bay; to insure your continued employment or a well-meaning spouse (your wife or S.O.) who has become unmanageable).
You hope nobody sees you. You scrunch down in your seat in a vain attempt to go unnoticed. You might have been the town drunk in a city of millions– now you’re afraid someone might recognize you. There are slogans posted around the room:
Think, Think, Think
Let Go and Let God
Keep it Simple
First Things First
Keep Coming Back
and Just for Today
The Twelve Steps and the Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous are prominently displayed on two separate plaques like the Ten Commandments of some secret occult organization.
People are milling around, looking to capture their favorite seat which gives the perspective that is both familiar and unique. The room abounds with clatter and chatter. High above the growing din, a call to order as the meeting begins. A welcome to the group and an introduction by the chair is quickly followed by a moment of silence to reflect on those who still suffer, followed in concert by the serenity prayer;
God grant me the power to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.
The thought may occur that this is a religious organization bent on some kind of conversion. Nothing could be further from the truth. Getting brain-washed was not for me; they explained it was more like a dry cleaning, if you please. It has since been made known, when you don’t want to do something, any excuse will do. I have long run out of options and have no where else to place my shoes.
The chair asks “Is there any one here for the very first time”; any time, any where in a meeting of A.A. and would give us your first name so we can get to know you? To raise or not to raise the hand; that is the question? To get to know me! Oh brother.
In a moment of courage a hand rises to the occasion and a meek small voice whispers Hi, my name is John or Jane and a thought flashes most distinct– I wish I could disappear– I really don’t want to be here. A combined chorus of warm hellos and welcome, glad you’re here is heard. The meeting is directed right towards you, how everyone got here, somebody told my story, how did they know that much about me?
Most of what was said was said with great passion, resolve, and aplomb; tell you the truth, most of what I heard was blah, blah, blah.
Half way through, the chair stopped the meeting to pass the basket, and exclaimed according to the Seventh tradition that Every A.A. group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions. If it’s your first meeting it’s on us.
They said there were people from all walks of life, people from Penn State and the State Pen, people fresh out of the asylums, Judges, doctors, and airline pilots. They told me that there was good news and there was bad news. The good news was there was as solution; the bad news was that they were it.
There was a lot of laughter. They laughed about their pain and their shame, like it was some kind of inside joke. How could they laugh? My misery would have none of that. I remember one thing they kept repeating: keep coming back. Your next meeting is the most important meeting. You need to get a temporary sponsor and you need to start working the Steps. You need to hit your knees when the craving comes and ask God to remove it and stay there until it does.
They told me that this was a disease of mind, body and spirit and I could get well but there were certain things I had to do.
What they told me were suggestions, but that they have worked for countless others just like me. They told me if it did not work for me, that they would gladly refund my misery. And in the end they simply said, if your butt falls off pick it up and put it in a chair; get a temporary and no matter what just keep coming back!
The chair closed with, we are on the chip system. It is how we celebrate milestones of sobriety. The first chip is the desire chip. It is an outward sign of an inward commitment to try our way of life for twenty four hours. Are there any takers? It’s an aluminum colored disk with inscription One Day at a Time and To Thine Own Self Be True. If your serious, its time to get serious.
Other chips for lengths of sobriety were picked up, each with loud applause and ever increasing approval.
The chairperson then said Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities; what you hear here, who you see here, let it stay here. Everyone circled up holding hands and the chair said, Let this circle represent what we can do together, what we cannot do by ourselves, who’s Father? Then all in unison;
Our Father, who art in heaven
hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those
who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever.