My little village called Naples Florida has grown from a 1974 one-stoplight "Four Corners" of about 7,500 people, to a widely spread-out city of about 300,000. I have lived here for almost 45 years, so as I look around, I wonder not only what has taken place here, but when the heck did it happen? 45 years ago was one small sign at the city limit which announced, "Entering Naples, Florida". Now there are huge signs over 250 miles (402 kilometers) away, spanning across 6 lanes of expressway which read NAPLES 250 MILES. I guess these are warnings for Peeps to put the plug in the jug -grin!
The number of people addicted to certain mind-altering substances has also increased exponentially. There were 6 Alcoholics Anonymous meetings each week, with 3 groups in early 1974. Now there are 188 meetings each week, in 54 meeting places in our town.
So tonight we had our annual 35th Intergroup Gratitude Dinner. Now anybody who is not addicted (or IS!) to anything--even HERSHEY bars, may not understand fully the implications of a Gratitude Dinner. Some of us see one another only this one time each year, and it is cause for HUGE amounts of inner and outer joy, to see old friends of 25-35 years who are STILL sober. And we talk about the "old days". And how different is today's atmosphere in and out of the rooms.There were nearly 500 people attending, we had a great dinner, (I had expected a thousand!).
SO many Peeps said things to one another, like: "Do you remember 24 years ago, and you said (whatever)?" Or "You have no idea how much your words helped me 32 years ago." Or "I came to my first meeting this morning, and you were the only person to welcome me. You said 'Hello', and we found you and I had a lot in common. I sure hope we'll both be here, still sober, in 2010 November." Can you feel my heart beat faster, at hearing these kinds of comments? Praise God, and the people in AA, who carry the message of AA to those who not only need to hear it...but WANT it.
Deserts were all over the place (before dinner)...and that's MY kind of dinner! Of course, I always eat less for dinner, IF I've enjoyed some cake, fancy chocolates, sone kind of vanilla concoction
Gallons of coffee (to support my caffeine habit?) went along with the "Countdown". An AA countdown is a method of determining who has the most sober time in the room, and who has the least. Oldest was a guy, with 56 years on continuous sobriety.
The newest member, a girl, had fewer than 12 sober hours, and so was presented with a Big Book, signed by hundreds of us. The oldest in sober time passes on the Big Book message to the youngest member, truly symbolic. Because that IS the way this thing works, one passing the message on to another
Next we had a speaker. And 500 people sat there sober, listening to and laughing with a guy who was talking about the horrendous past he lived. Who of us could not relate, identify with his behaviors--and it was not because I drank so much every day. It was/is my thinking which messes up my life. Chaos ruled, and it is THAT cave into which I hid my real self from all of you, for so many years...as if you cared!
Thank you, all you sober bloggers--and others--SO much for being a part of my life, and letting me be a part of yours. It is only together that we will ALL come through this alive. Too many suicides this year, it IS a deadly disease with which we are dealing here. We laugh a lot, as tonight proved--"we are NOT a glum lot. We absolutely insist on enjoying life." BB. But each of us know this is serious shit we're talking about.
Thank You God, for bringing us all together.
Love soberly Peeps...
And grab a chunk of PEACE on your way through this life.