Tuesday, February 20, 2007

gratitude again

Mike and I went to an AA meeting at the old Rebos (that's sober backward) Club downtown. It's where I started going to meetings in 1980 and where I finally sobered up in 1982. It's a clubhouse, a place where frequent meetings are held and where the population's pretty transient.

It was different in 1982. The place had a lot of support from the local AA groups. Groups v. meetings, the big AA debate. Groups are like families: lots of sobriety, steady membership, a lot of recovery. Clubhouses, not so much. But clubhouses are generally where new people come into the program. When the desperate urge strikes to quit drinking, folks generally want to jump right on that, not wait 'til next Tuesday at 7:30.

I've written before about the old men who saved my ass in the beginning by taking me to raise for a couple of years. They were cardplaying rowdies who loved me despite all my hatefulness and the rage that permeated every cell of my body and flowed from me in waves. They called me Miss Lynette when I was purple haired and cursing. They taught me how to play killer Hearts and they hugged me when I finally was able to cry and they tracked me down if I disappeared. It was my first experience with the unconditional love of Alcoholics Anonymous and it was magic. That's what I associate with the old house at 1635 S. Carson. My old sweethearts, most now dead, still live in those rooms for me.

So back we went and the house was packed. The women of The Haven (Havenettes, in Rebos' parlance) were there, and shortly after the meeting started, the men from the Salvation Army (Sally Boys) strolled in. There's always an interesting dynamic between these two groups. It would be fair to say that many folks have started on the path to sobriety with lust nipping at their heels.

It was a good meeting focused on "We Agnostics," the fourth chapter in the AA Big Book. The entire Big Book, written in the '30s, has a proper tone not found in today's literature. The words are different, the phrasing is different, but the words in this chapter very often give me chills and they did last night. Finding a power greater than myself ~ my own conception of a higher power ~ was the transformative experience of my life. That AA suggests that power must be of my own choosing is a freedom not expected in any spiritual teachings. "We Agnostics" is the key to staying sober.

So I listened to the others read and comment. Lots of happy comments and a few struggles. I offered my book to the trembling man beside me. I remembered what it was like when I first dragged my ass into those rooms, fresh off a three day blackout, living in a nasty rooming house for women. I was 23 years old and thought things would never change. I couldn't die and I couldn't live and I couldn't quit drinking.

The thing I believed in then was that the people in those rooms were doing something I could not do. They were sober, laughing, happy, productive. The thing I still believe in is that there is some Power, some Force in this universe that heals things, that can make a dried out seed turn into something lush and green and alive, that can take a hopeless alcoholic with eyes of death and turn him into a sparkling fully alive human being.

Sitting in that room, I was reminded once again of how very much I have to be thankful for. The list could run on all day, but the miracle of being alive and happy and free and sober is at the root of it all.


Anonymous tater said...

Ah ha! Now I know why I love you so much, we share the same history! Thank you for taking me back to my first meeting, and bringing me to the realization that I need to stop being complacent, and get my ass to a meeting! Your post took me back to Holy Name Cathederal in Chicago, where I went to my first meeting in order to help out my brother, who I just knew had a drinking problem (he had to be worse than me, right?). Oh, how my insanity owned me in those days. Needless to say, I was forced to admit to myself who I was really there for. Thank God I was able to do that, and didn't have to spend another year or two, suicidal, blacked out, and on the verge of being homeless.

I have been having a hell of a time trying to post comments to your site today, so forgive me if I have repeat posted the same message 4 times...

February 20, 2007 8:35 AM  
Blogger LSL said...

I just sincerely appreciate this post so much. Every once in a while I cut and paste posts from my favorite blogs into a personal Word document to save and read again when I need to. This one is going in the group. Thanks for describing the desperation and hopelessness - in a way it's too easy to forget, and in another way, it's always just one step away from where I am. I'm grateful for your honesty on this one.

[Thanks also for your comments while I was in NYC - those were fun to come home to :) I have a lot more reading to catch up on, but this post caught my eye.]

February 20, 2007 8:26 PM  

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