In my first several years in AA, I sort of idolized a group of men in AA who had been sober for a long time. They were part of an informal "group" here in Denver. They did things a certain way. They were pretty no-nonsense. They said things like "read the black on the white," and "between the capital letters and the periods." Basically, read the big book and do what it says. I think that is pretty sound advice and I am so very grateful for the attention I got from those guys.
I have been able to pass that on to the women who have asked me to sponsor them in the intervening years. I am grateful for that and I think most of them are grateful for it too.
I left Denver for a few years when I met, fell in love with, and married a man in AA. We went to Canada and northern Washington and I found AA in a tiny little town in Washington like I had never known before - it was wonderful. But time came for me to come back to Denver. I had heard of a great group from a great speaker we ran into in Idaho, and I decided to go there when I got back to Denver.
So I found this great AA group and made it my home group. I thought it was the best group in Denver and so did most of its members. There was a certain amount of snobbery about the group. We did things the "right" way. We had more than the usual number of superstars in our group. I loved being there and being a part of it. It was heady.
I asked a woman from the group to be my sponsor, she was a "circuit speaker" and very impressive - and anyone who has read this blog for a while knows this is an entirely different story - and we started through the steps - again. I had problems the likes of which I had never known before. Dreadful things were happening in my life. I tried to lean on the group and my sponsor for help. But it seems when your life is falling apart, you don't really fit into the picture of a woman who is successfully sober for nearly 10 years... I found little support.
My husband, who is nearly impossible to describe, was also a member of the group. Well, when you are the one throwing the punches, you can be a bit more charming than the one whose trips to the Emergency Room with broken bones are breaking her spirit. So, he was a charming guy. He was also extremely handsome. He was funny as hell. He would stand at the podium and regale the group with charmingly semi-candid descriptions of how he wasn't a grown up at all. They would roar with approving laughter! I would sit and cry. Because I was the one with the broken bones suffered at his hands. I was the one paying off the phone bill he had run up calling his next wife - who was in Thailand. I was the one whose life savings he had spent while the romance was new and I still thought he was who he seemed to be. I was the one working a $5.50 an hour job to pay for our one bedroom apartment.
When my sponsor moved my husband into her house, I knew I needed to find a different group. I went back to the group where I got sober (and where my daughter is blessedly now getting sober). I went back to the guys in the leather, with the dirty fingernails, and limited vocabularlies. They were not asked to speak at conventions and huge meetings. They were not flying all over the world to "carry the message," they were right here at home... and they cared about me. The ladies didn't have great jobs and fabulous wardrobes, they just answered the phone when I called.
I often think of something that was said at a meeting in northern Washington when the AA International Convention was being planned for Seattle - in 1990. One person said he wasn't going. He said someone had to be at the regular meeting for the drunk who might show up and not know that the big deal was going on in Seattle. He would be there for the drunk.
I think that is my role in AA. I don't have the glamour jobs. I sponsor a bunch of crazy drunk women and help them to get through the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. I don't have workbooks and step guides... I have the big book. We just do what it says. I don't demand that they get it "right," I ask them to do things to the best of their ability today... because that is all any of us can do.
I go to plain old meetings and be a plain old AA member. Most of the time, I am sober longer than anyone in the room, but a drink will still take me down, just like it will them. I am just a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. I am not somehow special because of my experiences or my time. I can listen to a new woman without needing to tell her how great I am. I can just listen. I can just be the person who seems to give a shit.
I am grateful that I lived through my years of trying to find the perfect AA. I have found that it is perfect when the hand of AA is there... and the hand of AA might be missing a finger or two, and have dirty fingernails, but it is strong and firm and will save your life.
What could be better than that?