May is my “birthday month” – the month I got sober – and this year I have been reflecting on my first days sober, which were also my first days in the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.
My first impression of AA members were that they were very tough. In my early sobriety they seemed to have the kind of light in their eyes and piercing gaze that pinned me to the wall. I was intimidated, and worried I didn’t have What It Takes to get sober. While I desperately wanted help, I worried I would be seen as beneath their concerns. I worried they’d lecture me or throw me out on my ear for saying something foolish. However, as it turns out the compassion, tolerance, and love in AA is unparalleled, and after many meetings I have seen so many examples of these practices. And besides, if “foolishness” got you 86’d from Alcoholics Anonymous we’d have only a couple members left!
I also remember those first few days when I felt like a ghost, gliding in and out of the rooms and speaking up, and gliding back out alone. When at about a week sober people greeted me by name, it heartened me more than I can say. When a few days later I attended a Founders’ Day event and realized I knew so many people by name if not more fully, I felt like perhaps I was welcome after all. Today, I am a member in good standing and words cannot fully express the depth of friendship I experience with so many members. Today, I am so glad I held on even when I felt like a ghost, and that I didn’t get discouraged and drift back out again.
Recently during a conversation, I had a friend tell me in halting tones of wonder, “You seem to be friends with so many… spiritually mature people.” She probably did not know these “friends” she was referring to are all a bunch of ex-drunks! Her statement made me glow inside with a warmth. I have such a deep, impenetrable friendship with those in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. It isn’t just that they offered me help, a shelter in the storm, and such incredible insight and advice. They are some of the most spiritually-intelligent, resilient, and funny people I’ve met. They’ve taught me more about friendship and love than anywhere else, and I will always be indebted to their kindness, love, and insights.