"'You have to do something about your rage,'" he told me. We were sitting in his cell. He was doing life. You know I thought when I guy got a sentence for 20 years to life it meant he got out after 20 years. But it doesn't. It's up to the parole board. He killed his wife when he was drunk and her family is there at every parole meeting. He's been sober all those years but the hatred is still eating that family up. And he told me I had to do something about my rage. He was right too. I began looking at myself and saw that I wasn't drinking but I was carrying a whole lot of anger around. There's lust too but at my age that's mostly in my head."
After that some more guys talked about their 'experience, strength and hope. One said, "I came into AA and I had that " pitfuly incomprehensible demoralization the Big Book of AA talks about. I had been before the judge for DUI's and my marriage was taking a beating. I was working. Everyone said what a good worker I was. I was skilled. But they'd tell people, "don't pay him" because they knew I'd just get drunk. When I came in here some of these guys were here and that's over 20 years ago. I wanted what they had. I wanted to be sober and they said I had to wear a pink tuttuu and put a red dot on my head and sell pamphlets down on Main Street I would have because I just didn't know how to stay sober and I wanted too. I was ready to do what the Big Book says, "go to any lenghths." My first sponsor was a soft spoken older man who told me you're going to go to three meetings a week with me, so that leaves you 4 evenings a week you can spend with your wife. The rest of your week you'll be working so you won't have time for drinking. He kept me busy with recovery and that's what I do with the guys I sponsor. "
At the break one of the fellows announced the step meeting the group held early each week. "We're starting on Step One. " he said.
The fellow who spoke next was a young guy and he said, "I was on facebook and found myself looking at all the old pictures of being at the bar and the friends drinking about this time last year. And I'd not been going to meetings. Not like before. I'd just got into other things and forgot what my sponsor always said, "meeting people make it". I had an urge to drink that night and I phoned my sponsor and he said 'Have you been to a meeting this week. " I told him I hadn't and he told me to get to a meeting. So I came here and I'd been thinking I should do the work on the steps. You know the sitting down and talking with guys and doing the pen and paper work that people talk about doing. My sponsor and I have been reading the Big Book together and that got me thinking about doing the steps. So I'm coming here next week because I figure I was meant to hear that you were starting Step One in the Step meeting. And I'm glad I didn't drink. I 'm glad I phoned my sponsor. Ever since I did my moods been getting a lot better and I'm feeling a lot stronger. I want to stay sober. The life I was leading before wasn't' going anywhere but another weekend at the bar."
Another guy shared that he had dual diagnosis,"I'm bipolar. I was in and out of hospital years back even though I was coming to this meeting and staying sober. So I'm here to tell you, you can be completely nuts as an alcoholic and still be sober. When I mixed the two that's when the cops became involved and I got hauled off to the hospital in hand cuffs or at gun point. I'm glad I'm sober today because it's just a whole lot better than when I'm drinking. When I don't go to meetings my thinking gettings really squirrelly. I just gets way out there. Way way out there. Even though I'm seeing a psychiatrists and taking medication. I was so far out there I didn't even know when I started drinking. But I know when I stopped. That's when thing started getting better again. And they're pretty good now so I sure hope I don't drink again.
And I was asked to share and said what I'd learned in AA, "I used to go to a meeting where an old guy, Hal, shared that if you had an 'attitude of gratitude' you couldn't think negative thoughts. Gratitude it like the light because it keeps the darkness out. We're supposed to be 'joyous, happy and free" in recovery and I certainly wasn't that first year. It was a pretty grim year. But then the more grateful I became and the more I prayed the better my life got. I'm glad I'm here today because I'm present for my life. I wasn't really here when I was drinking. But I'm here now and I'm thankful for that."
Some more people shared that night. There was coffee. A new phone list of the members names and phone numbers was passed around. The chairman for that meeting hit the table with the gavel. The meeting came to a close. And we broke up, the chairs being put away so the church basement could be used for something else the next day. By the looks of it they had children down their doing art sometime. Lots of that sort of stuff on the wall. The guys stood about talking. Some about women. Some about work. Some about the weather. It's called the 'meeting after the meeting'. Sometimes we went for coffee.
Tonight it was cold outside. I stopped there to talk to one of my friends. "I'm coming to realize I don't like the person I was before. I don't know who I am but I know I didn't like the guy I was." We're all in transition. Alcohol is a place of being stuck. The growth and change occurred when you let go of the soother and get on with life.
I rode my motorcycle home from the meeting thinking how fortunate we are in some ways. Alcohol is so obvious. Nothing discrete about it. "Like a brick to the head, " one guy had said. There's all those really sick diseases like arrogance and pride, greed and avarice, narcissism, and such. The hidden handicaps. Like the person pointing the finger who never sees that three are pointing back.
"Pluck the timber out of your own eye before you try and take the sliver out of another man's," Jesus said.
I like myself a whole lot better and told the fellow I'd been talking to about C.S. Lewis, the great theologian,'s book, "Surprised by joy." "I feel that these days, joy, and it comes as a surprise really. I feel like I remember feeling when I was 11 or 12 playing baseball in the summer. Standing out in the field in the sun with nothing better to do than wait in case somebody hits a ball over where I was.
Drinking and joy aren't really that compatible. One's counterfeit or enhancement where as the other is the real thing. Life on life's terms. Get real. I didn't know what the slogans meant when I first came in and thought a lot of things I heard were hokey but now I know that important truth "you can't think your way into right action but you can act your way into right thinking."
Outside he said, "It was a good meeting, wasn't it." "Sure was." But then I get something out of every meeting. The good ones are just more. I'm just thankful for meetings. "Meeting people make it." I don't remember hearing that before and it certainly says it succinctly.
Like hearing a few weeks back, "Isolation is the darkroom I develop my negatives in." I liked hearing that. I needed to hear that then. I heard what I needed to hear tonight too. It reminded me of the years I went to jail meetings. There but for the grace of God go I. Thanks be to Grace. Amen.