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A gift freely given

WHEN I arrived in AA, now over twenty-six years ago, I had no idea how my life was to change, in all cases for the better. I was in a very poor state. Physically I had several problems but, as bad as these were, it was not this that brought me to AA – it was the state of my mind. My mind was smashed. I was again suicidal, things hadn’t gone my way, and alcohol, my friend for so many years, no longer worked. Whether I drank or not, the pain in my brain would not go away. I was shouting in my head, “Please let me leave the world, I can’t take the pain anymore”. How I felt is shown in the Big Book, “No words can tell of the loneliness and despair I found in that bitter morass of self-pity. Quicksand stretched around me in all directions. I had met my match. I had been overwhelmed. Alcohol was my master.” (BB p.8)

At my first meeting, I had no idea how AA worked. I did not realise it is a free, spiritual Programme of action, involving things called the Twelve Steps, sponsorship, and service. I did enjoy my first meeting. I felt at home. People were talking about things that I identified with. Their drinking, their life experiences. I had done similar things, I had had similar thoughts to them, but until then, I never realised that anyone else had thoughts and ideas like me.

I was taken for tea afterwards, I didn’t want to go, but I did. I am so grateful for what the people I was with did for me that day. They wanted to buy me a meal, one of them bought me a Big Book, but the most important thing that day was that they freely gave me their time. We chatted about my life, about my drinking, and about my circumstances. I told them that a girlfriend had recently left, and that I was again suicidal. They listened very kindly. They said that they had also been in similar circumstances. It was hard to believe, for they just looked so radiant and calm. Not only were they sober, but they were happy and assured in their own skins.

They helped me that day in so many ways. I am so very, very grateful, and I know that whatever I do in AA, I can never ever repay what that meeting and those lads did for me. All they said was that I should aim to pass on AA’s free gift to others, as it had been so freely passed to me. In the café, they asked me if I was powerless over alcohol, the first part of Step One. It was easy to say I was, and had been, for many years. They said if I was, I needed to find a Power greater than myself, just as they had had to do. They then outlined some of the spiritual things they did each day to help connect with a Power greater than themselves, to help them remain and stay sober.

They were just passing on the free spiritual tools that had been passed to them. I could see it worked in them, they just said I should give it a go, what had I to lose, only the pain and booze. They suggested that I got on my knees that night, and thank a Power greater than myself, a God of my own concept, for keeping me sober that day. This was strange, but I did it that night, and have done it every night since, and have not had or wanted a drink since then. I also had to pray for my ex-girlfriend, the Big Book suggests praying “…for their health, their prosperity, their happiness…” (BB p.552), I slept that night, and have done every night since. Next morning, they said I should also get on my knees, and ask my Higher Power to keep me sober that day, all so I could help others. In fact, they suggested I tumble out on my bed each morning, to help me be humble. I did it that night, and next morning, and have done it every night and morning since. I now realise that the more you’re humble, the less you grumble, your spirit will glow, and your ego will crumble.

It’s often said in AA that we should be open minded, and when I look back to that first day, I now realise I was. What made me so open minded was the pain. I have heard it said that pain is the touchstone to spirituality. I can only say thank you to those I met in AA that first day, and all those I’ve met since. I know I can never repay what I have been so freely given. Thank you, AA, thank you God, and everyone. All of you are always in my prayers, and may we pray that lovely AA does happily, humbly, and healthily spiritually grow and glow. Hip Hip AA.

DENNIS, Ealing