Tuesday, August 26, 2008



NOTE: Ever since reading this about twenty years ago, I look around the room at every AA meeting I attend, and search for one who reminds me of (the 'old') me; alone, forlorn, despondent, ready to drink, or die. And I introduce myself to him, then introduce him (sometimes 'her') to others I know. I have NEVER felt the worse for doing so...Steve E.

I know who you are. You are "X" who attends the 24-Hour Club where AAs meet, in ________, USA. I saw you there the other night at the eight-o'clock meeting. I don't know how long you've been sober, but I know you've been coming around for awhile because you spoke to a lot of people who knew you. I wasn't one of them. You don't know who I am.

I wandered in to your meeting place the other night, a stranger in a strange town. I got a cup of coffee, and sat down by myself. You didn't speak to me. Oh, you did see me...you glanced my way, but you didn't recognize me, so you quickly averted your eyes, and sought out a familiar face. I sat there through the meeting. It was OK, a slightly different format, but basically the same kind of meeting I go to at home.

The topic was gratitude. You and your friends spoke about how much AA means to you. You talked about the camaraderie in your meeting place. You said how much the people there had helped you when you first came through the door--how they extended the hand of friendship to make you feel welcome, and asked you to come back.

And I wondered, where had they gone, those nice people who made your entrance so welcome and so comfortable? You talked about how the newcomer is the life-blood of AA. I agree, but I didn't say so. In fact, I didn't share in your meeting. I signed my name in the book that was passed around, but the chairperson didn't refer to it. He only called on those people in the room who he knew.

So who am I? You don't know, because you didn't bother to find out. Although yours was a closed meeting, you didn't even ask if I belonged there. It might have been my first meeting. I could have been full of fear and distrust, knowing that AA wouldn't work any better than anything else I had tried, and I would have left convinced that I was right!
I might have been suicidal, grasping at one last straw, hoping someone would reach out to pull me from the loathing and self-pity from which, by myself, I could find no escape. I might have been a student with a tape recorder in my pocket, assigned to write a paper on how AA works--someone who shouldn't have been permitted to sit there at all, but could have been directed to an open meeting to learn what I needed to know. Or, I could have been sent by the courts, wanting to know more, but afraid to ask.

It so happened that I was "none of the above". I was just an ordinary alcoholic with a few years of sober living in AA, who was traveling and was in need of a meeting. My only problem that night was that I'd been alone with my own mind too long. I just needed to touch base with my AA family.

I know from past experience that I could have walked into your meeting place, smiling, stuck out my hand to the first person I saw, and said, "Hi. My name is __________, I'm an alcoholic from ______." If I had felt like doing that, I would probably have been warmly welcomed. You would have asked me if I knew "old So-and So" from my state. Or you might have shared a part of your drunkalog that had occurred in my part of the country.

Why didn't I? I was hungry, lonely, and tired. The only thing missing was "angry". but three out of four isn't a good place for me to be. So I sat silently through your meeting, and when it was over I watched enviously as all of you gathered in small groups, talking to one another the same way we do in my home town.

You and some of your friends were planning a "meeting-after-the-meeting" at a nearby coffee shop. By this time I had been silent too long to reach out to you. I stopped by the bulletin board to read the notices there, kind of hanging around without being too noticeable, hoping you might ask if I wanted to join you....but you didn't.

As I walked slowly across the parking lot to my car with the out-of-state license plates, you looked my way again. Our eyes met briefly and I mustered a smile. Again, you looked away. I buckled my seat belt, started the car, and drove to the motel where I was staying.

As I lay in my bed waiting for sleep to come, I made a gratitude list. You were on it, along with your friends at the meeting place. I knew that you were there for me, and that I needed you far more than you needed me. I knew that if I needed help and had asked for it, you would have gladly given it. But I wondered...what if I hadn't even been able to ask?

I know who you are.
Do you remember me?

Author unknown. Message passed on by: Steve E. dos 3/18/1974


Shadow said...

what a sad story. the 'what if's' are a bit scary. we never know who we affect in our daily doings, do we. goes back to that 'treat others as you want to be treated'. something to remember. every day. thank you for the message.

J-Online said...

very good reminder and awesome way to give of yourself at every meeting. I'm gonna try this at my noon meeting today. Thanks. Jenn

Anonymous said...

Holy cow, Steve. I can relate completely! That was my very same experience when I moved from California to my new state. I was devastated by the lack of openess that was displayed in my new meetings. Why didn't I speak first? Because I was shell shocked, culture shocked, hungry, angry, lonely, tired, etc...all of it. I have to be honest when I say that I was so disgusted by the meetings in my new town that I stopped going. It was me and my literature for a very long time. Another relocation an hour up the road proved to be my saving grace and I am now back in meetings.

I am so sorry for your experience, but there was a lesson there, no? For somebody? Perhaps all of us that read your wonderful blog. That meeting last night was missing out on a great guy :)

indistinct said...

You reminded me of my very first AA meeting. At the end of the meeting, I tried to find someone to talk to. The first person I held my hand out to shake and introduce looked at my hand, turned around and walked away. I left to.

I am so thankful for AA and what it's doing for us. I'm glad I came back.

Thanks for the reminder that I need to take the outstretched hand before me, to be a helping hand.

Lou said...

Steve-o-wise-one. Nothing pithy today, just heartfelt awe at such a beautiful message.I am so glad you shared this.

~Tyra~ said...

After reading that I will now always make a point of reaching out. Thanks for sharing.

Syd said...

Steve, this made me tear up. I've felt like an outcast many times in my life but there is no room for that at meetings. It made me think and made me realize how important it is to extend my hand to another.

Banana Girl said...

Oh did I need this reminder today...thank you from the bottom of my disturbed sober heart. J.

Zanejabbers said...

Steve, thanks for sharing this story.

TraceyBaby said...

Our Alanon group is good about welcoming newcomers. But the AA meetings are huge, aren't they? I know the one down the hall where we meet is really a large group.