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Grafteful For New Friends in The Light

"Hi, I'm D. and I'm a grateful son... grateful for this program and this community... which my mother found on March 17, 1969."

That's how I began my sharing at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting today.  I don't think I'm violating the tenet of anonymity and confidentiality by sharing this.  I said it.  I stand by it.  I continued with "She enjoyed 18 years of sobriety before she died.  And so I am grateful.  Thank you for your welcome today."

My attendance today was in conjunction with a class I'm taking on Building Christian Community through Small Groups. My instructor urged us to consider observing a 12-Step program meeting. So I found a meeting at a local church, open to all even those simply curious about AA, using readings from the "Big Book" as the focus of their time together.  It's a "early birds" meeting and was well attended.  There was a greeter at the door to welcome everyone. Inside was a large room with eight tables forming a large square for some to sit at, with a outside row of chairs on three sides.  The coffee was plentiful, hot and ready. 

They were punctual and efficient. After the convener called the meeting to order, the preamble of AA was read from the front of The Grapevine, the international journal of AA:

Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.

The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.  There are no dues or fees for A.A. membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions.  A.A. is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy; neither endorses nor opposes any causes.  Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.

Then they reviewed the 12 Steps of AA:

  1.   We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2.   Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3.   Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4.   Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5.   Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6.   Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7.   Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8.   Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9.   Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10.   Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11.   Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12.   Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

All were welcomed, especially visitors, which is when I introduced myself as an observing theology student. It appeared everyone else knew one another. They immediately moved into the book, reading one person's story.  As they read, each person introduced themselves with the customary "I'm N., and I'm an alcoholic."  (Hi back).  Once they'd read a paragraph or so, and then they'd stop, say "Pass", and the next person would introduce then read.  They continued around the table until the story was completed. Then continuing around, others would introduce and respond to the story or "pass". 

At some point, there was a call to announcements, then to catch the late comers, and later to pass a basket to collect to cover expenses; AA is open and self-sufficient.

I was struck by the humanity present in that room, the very palpable sense of community.  There was raw honesty.  Some were reluctant, others seemed more confident, all were grateful.  During the closing comments, one man across the room said my presence and sharing had been a blessing to him.  He hoped that his children might say the same of him that his 'new friend' (me) had said about my mother.  I found myself during his thank you offering it up to God, and to my mother, for they both gave me something I will always treasure: my mother sober.

Finally, as we circled up and took each others hand, there was the reminder of anonymity and confidentiality before we prayed together the Serenity Prayer and the Lord's Prayer.  Afterward I was welcomed by a few before departing.  I am glad I went, I am grateful for the opportunity to see this special and powerful community in action, and I will pray for all my new friends in their struggles and their triumphs. 

Thank you, Lord, for your mercy is great and everlasting.  Amen.