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When someone reaches out

AFTER being dismissed from a 25 year or more career of enjoyable and fruitful employment, I found myself having to admit to an unknowing family the full extent that my drinking had become. On most occasions, I was able to disguise that smell, usually with a drink immediately when returning home from work. But obviously now, my luck and credibility had run out. Surprisingly, my family rallied round and 24 hours later I was attending my first meeting, scared (as most of us were), I was surprised to encounter a friendly and understanding mixture of people with whom now I have great respect for.

In those early months I felt an overwhelming passion and wanted to cure everyone, even those non-alcoholic, and soon found myself running the meeting that I once stepped into only nine months earlier. Some months later, whilst attending an online meeting, a lady was asking for help regarding phone service. I grabbed the opportunity – that was now over two years ago and the realisation of those still suffering has become a daily thought. Every Saturday morning 8 until 1, every call could make a difference and I know now, for some it did.

I forgot to include that I managed to secure a job, a job that required prison security clearance which would see me entering all high security areas as mentioned. Then the pandemic came along, lockdowns meant that I was unable to perform my job description any longer and found myself being office-based and travel became a past thought. A Fellow suggested to me that a vacancy was available at intergroup. Having clocked up over two years sobriety, I attended the next intergroup meeting with CV in hand and was accepted. Now a Prison Liaison Officer, what do I have to do? No previous guy to lean on, I knew I had to do something. Firstly, knowing prison locations, I soon learnt that I was responsible for three maybe four, next was an internet search to find the agency responsible for rehabilitation. I emailed one prison initially; a quick response was received, and I was invited for an initial chat. Following that I was asked to present AA to their team, now personal anonymity goes out the window. With reference to The AA Service Handbook for Great Britain (AA in Prisons ps. 57&58), I dressed smartly and opened with, “My name is Andrew and I’m an alcoholic.” I guess that’s the first time I have ever said that outside of the Rooms, strangely it felt good. Soon the other three prisons followed, all with a positive outcome.

Vetting, OH! Thought I had cracked this one already but guess what -each one had their own procedures (so watch out for this). Anyway, I finally got to a level where at least they let me in. The earlier meetings were just how they could fit me in, perhaps they just wanted to see how AA worked and what feedback they received. Things must have gone well because soon I had regular weekly meetings in place. You might assume a one-hour meeting, but this isn’t usual I’m afraid. Another thing when taking prison meetings is that if they do a roll count and find it wrong, everyone stays put, so be prepared for some delays.

All the meetings are held either in the chapel or multi-faith style rooms, which is nice as it does give some feeling of serenity whilst there. Chairs are arranged like you see in films, circular. Literature as the centre spread and somewhere in that circle sits me. I think when I explain to the guys that I am just an alcoholic, no affiliation to anyone within those walls, no payment to me, no qualifications to bear down on them, the atmosphere feels right to introduce the AA Programme.

Starting with The Preamble (sometimes a volunteer reads) and sometimes needing to explain to a newcomer The Preamble, I continue to explain the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. Start reading perhaps MORE ABOUT ALCOHOLISM (BB p.30), THE DOCTOR’S OPINION (BB p.xxv) or HOW IT WORKS (BB p.58) I have guys with more sobriety than me but are just as grateful to hear readings again, and some will actively help out. Their concept with their HP can have a positive impact with others in the group. For many of us this may seem like service outside of our comfort zone but for me – I AM RESPONSIBLE.