Saturday, January 03, 2009

But what if I were a newcomer?

I read the Grapevine and this seems to be a familiar refrain.  Yeah, I can handle it, because I am sober SO long and a spiritual giant, but What If I Were a Newcomer?  And usually the answer is I would have left the meeting or hung up the phone or walked away and Never Come Back.  

I am so fortunate that I had every bad experience known to mankind when I came into AA.  And I never thought about leaving.  I didn't want to drink.  I had tried getting sober on my own, to no avail.  I knew I needed AA.  So, I persevered and found  better/healthier - groups/people/places/things.  

I believe that God not only takes care of us when we are drunks, and then kindly guides us to the doors of AA, but that he also walks in with us and takes care of us as we try to get sober.  I have left meetings with newcomers and found that they have been at the same meeting that I was just in, but had an entirely different experience.  I have found in AA that for every person sitting in a meeting, every person will take away something different.  

If you are done drinking, you will find a way to stay sober in AA.  If you are looking for an excuse to get drunk, anything will do.  

Yesterday I had a wonderful experience speaking at a meeting I had never been to before.  It was a lovely group.  I was greeted in the parking lot, I was greeted in the meeting room, I was treated kindly - just like I was a newcomer - because they didn't know me from Adam - until I started talking, and then every alcoholic in the room knew me on a cellular level!  It was nice.   My message isn't always easy to take if you are new in AA.  My story isn't really pretty.  It gets nice looking later on, but it starts kind of bad and stays that way for a long time.

After I was done talking, some guy shared - I am not real sure what he was saying, but he did say "if they told me that when I was a newcomer, I would have run the other way."   I don't know if he was responding to something I said or not... and I don't care.  After the meeting, I felt like a movie star with people flocking around - and this is something I am very very uncomfortable with.  It is my story, it is not something I made up creatively. It is not something that displays talent or work.  It is a story about the grace of God doing something for me that I could absolutely not do for myself.  It was nice that they liked me, but there is something creepy about being praised for telling your story.  And that is why, at a roundup or convention, or other AA event, as everyone else stands to give the speaker a standing ovation, I remain firmly in my seat.  Why on earth would you give an alcoholic a standing O?  It is ego feeding and just wrong!

My story is my story.  I do not try to make it sound good to impress anyone.  I do not try to make it sound bad to impress anyone.  I love to tell it to remind myself of where I have been in this life, because I do forget.  

I thank God for His many graces.  Without them we would all be dead.  

"The power of God goes deep."  -- Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 114


Mark said...

I am soooo thankful there is someone - you - and many others fortunately, who see this the way we do.

I've been rebuffed countless times because I've reminded people that the speaker is simply a drunk not someone with a "wonderful story."

And I feel the same way about the personal praise. It's not mine! I'm only passing on what I was given by others who left their blood, sweat and tears out there and in here...

Good for you for not caring about that "response" if it was a response to your talk. Sounds like a judgment or character assassination maybe. You probably put a "guru's" line to rest and they weren't happy about it - perhaps.

Pam said...

That was wonderful Mary.
I could not help but laugh at my own "dumbness" or whatever it is, but I always stand and clap and thought that people stood and clapped when I spoke as a way of saying "You stood up in front of a lot of people and spoke without thowing up". I'm serious. I really clap as a "You are brave to stand up and speak" kind of way.
But yes, I never thought about it as a reward clap.
All that aside, I'm glad you got to feel like a movie star!!!!
And yes, you took a lot of abuse as a newcomer. And I agree with you 100% that any excuse will do if one wants to drink.

Lou said...

I would like to hear your story in the setting of a AA meeting.

Scott W said...

I know people that won't attend speaker meetings for that very reason. I have been uncomfortable when someone is overly lauded for telling their story. I just thank them for their service and say I enjoy speaker meetings because it reminds me from whence I came.

Alcoholics will be human, and most of us like some form of attention.

Banana Girl said...

MC, thank you for sharing this. Every speaker should read it. You are so right about the "take away." Every one is different for each person. But they all add up to the testimony that proves this works. I don't know your whole story, but the parts I do tell me the most important thing I need to know every day: HOPE. Your blog gives me that too. LU J.

Dharma Kelleher said...

It took a suicide attempt to get me into AA. It doesn't get much more bottom than that.

While I no longer attend AA meetings on a regular basis (after 12 years), I show up when I need a meeting and embody the principles of the program the rest of the time.

I live a life of unpaid service to others. I have a circle of close friends, many of whom are 12-steppers. I take regular inventory and meditate daily.

It works for me. And I am under no delusions that I am "cured". It's a matter of maintenance. And I am grateful to have it.

steveroni said...

Mary, I (maybe you?) find it distasteful to copy from another's blog, but I would be writing:

TODAY I had a wonderful experience speaking at a meeting I had never been to before. It was a wonderful group. As I rode up on my bike, I was greeted in the parking lot. I was greeted in the meeting room. I was treated kindly--a few of them knew me but not well--until I started talking, and then every alcoholic in the room knew me on a cellular level! It was nice.

And I am so grateful that God sees fit to use me on occasion, to carry AA's message to the suffering alcoholic.
Thank you.

dAAve said...

I totally agree with you.
I also think some people have "knack" for telling their story in a way that doesn't put me to sleep. Others are not always as easy to listen to. When I can read between the lines, the stories are usually very similar.

Gabriella Moonlight said...

There's a piece of all of us in every story I have found, I was told that when I aam asked to speak to say the third step prayer, wear a dress/skirt/suit and like you we don't clap at the accomplishment of speaking...I'vebeen to groups who do and I appreciate that too, but it's my service to share and to be there for the newcomes but not for me...

Okay enough from me...LOL.

Syd said...

I would like to have heard your story. The first time that I told mine on my Al-Anon birthday, I got a lot of eye rolls and some smart comments from the lady who dominates and "runs" the meeting. It not only hurt but made me angry. So I went back a few times to that meeting, and then decided to leave it and go to others. I've not been back.

vicariousrising said...

I'm glad that some long time AAer can recognize that newcomers often hear a different story when they are in the same AA meeting. I've seen several occasions when allegedly sober people were rude and condescending to those newly in the doors of AA, and was horrified by the behavior.

I'm not sure how I'd feel, however, if I took a speaking engagement in front of a large group and no one applauded at the end. Not that I need accolades, but it would seem kind of awful to get no response. I tend to think of it as a "thank you."