I attended my first AA meeting today.
It was at a church and when I approached the parking lot I thought there was a church service on at the same time. The parking lot was packed and there were crouds of people outside in the courtyard. Soon I was amazed to realize that these were all AA members because most of them were smoking. I was a bit intimidated by the sheer size of it. My point of reference was NA meetings I’d done long ago and these rarely consisted of more than 20 people.
I milled about for a while (I was a bit early) and then a friendly guy about 20 years my senior introduced himself and welcomed me very warmly. We chatted a bit and then he introduced me to five or six other “old hands”.
The meeting was a closed one (no friends and family) and was dedicated to studying a chapter from the famous Big Book. An attractive intellectual-looking woman read aloud from the book and the chairman interrupted every now and then to further clarify or expand on a particular passage. We started at page one and worked our way through the story of the AA founder, Bill (from 1930’s NYC). His story is a familiar one to addicts: early euphoric days followed by drink related problems of progressively larger scale until there is total chaos and complete disfunction. Then there are the endless attrmpts to get dry – making solemn promises to loved ones – only to fall back into the habit, often only a few hours later.
What eventually changed Bill was seeing an old drinking friend of his at his house. The man had changed and he explained it was beause he had turned his will and life over to God (or in AA speak: a Power greater than yourself or the God of your understanding). When Bill ended up in rehab for the last time he battled life threatening withdrawals (DTs). In a moment of greatest pain and agony he called out “if there’s a God show yourself now!). And the Higher Power did. He was free and together with his friend he started writing down the 12 steps and the Big Book. They formed groups where alcoholics supported each other and they realized that giving away what they had (the keys to sobriety) was what kept them growing stronger in their own recovery. AA was born and its mission is simple: to carry the message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
Afterwards my new friend invited me to have coffee with a group of people from the meeting. I met half a dozen really nice, sober and balanced people who were joyful. It was powerful. I will “keep coming back (it works if you work it, so work it is worth it!)”.