For Pain and Laughs, You Can’t Beat an AA Meeting

Steve Roberts black ink drawing: man with heart head, arrow passing through

I heard a guy at an AA meeting the other day talk about the end of his drinking career.  Shortly before he cried uncle, he was arrested for the fourth or sixth or eighth time for driving while intoxicated. 

After each arrest his name and transgression were published in the local weekly newspaper, which of course meant that pretty much everyone he knew was informed of his behavior.  Most importantly, his mother.  That he even entertained the possibility that, otherwise, she might not know of his problem is merely evidence of how delusional we alcoholics can be.

In an effort to avoid the shame of seeing his latest arrest broadcast all over town, before dawn as the newspaper was delivered in bundles outside the general store and other places of distribution, the fellow stole every bundle and tossed the lot into the nearby river.  He couldn’t quite figure out how to sneak into the post office and steal the papers destined for the town’s mail boxes.

(At this point in the story, the meeting rippled with the chuckles and knowing smiles of fellow drunks thinking, “I’ve been there.”)

His mother, turns out, frequented the Saturday morning farmer’s market in a nearby town.  On the Saturday after the “great newspaper disappearance,” among her purchases was a pie that, it just so happened, was wrapped in a sheet of newspaper.  And there, staring her in the face, was the story of her boy.

(At this point, the room filled with laughter––the laughter of all the creative ways life conspires to help us wake up.) 

Many of the tales you hear in Alcoholics Anonymous are both heartbreaking and funny––funny born of compassion, since every listener has first-hand experience of how heartbreaking they are. 

My name is Steve, and I’m an alcoholic.  For more than two decades that statement has been the ticket to what I have found to be the most powerful and life-affirming association on earth: the fellowship of men and woman who, at any hour, are gathering in countless locations around the globe for a single purpose––to live a healthy life and to share with one another their experience, strength and hope.  Nowhere else have I been privileged to witness, and be part of, such a penetrating mixture of honesty, acceptance and humor.

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"I honor that we are killing the earth for the same reason I consider being an alcoholic a privilege: it is a doorway to the profound self-understanding required to make truly healthy choices."

The Essay: Honoring the Killing of the Earth