Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Seventy-three years, one day at a time

We have shown how we got out from under. You say, "Yes, I'm willing. But am I to be consigned to a life where I shall be stupid, boring and glum, like some righteous people I see? I know I must get along without liquor, but how can I? Have you a sufficient substitute?"

(the text Alcoholics Anonymous, page 152)

The story says it was on June 10, 1935 that a broken-down stockbroker helped a broken-down, drunken surgeon to take his last drink, and make it his last. Bill W. and Dr. Bob S. started a fellowship that grew into the world-wide organization known as Alcoholics Anonymous. So this day is AA's anniversary, and the weekend closest to it (last weekend) is known as Founders' Day weekend.

About two hundred and ten months ago, I was the one asking the questions, wondering if the group of old men and weirdos that I met at the Chapter V club in Toledo, Ohio could possibly help me put my life back together. Today I can tell you that my life is a long way from "all better" - but I have never had to return to the life that I had before December 12, 1990. And that is a pure gift of grace on God's part, to be sure.

Last night, at the Monday Night Mens' meeting on Heatherdowns, I listened to a group of people who had been to the Founders' Day celebration in Akron, where it all started. Depending on which person you listen to, somewhere around 10,000 people in recovery make the pilgrimage
to Akron from all over the world. And listening to them took me back....

When I was last at Founders' Day, something like 150 people were in the international meeting alone, all speaking in native languages. Most of us couldn't understand what was being said - but all of us knew what was being said. We knew the stories; we knew the
struggles. And we all knew what it was to have walked through Hell, and to have found what the AA folks modestly called "a way out."

Tonight, I was downtown Toledo, again with the Monday Night Mens crew. Our group is on the volunteer rotation to hold an AA meeting at the Champlain Street Pre-Release Center. So about a dozen of us drove down to "the ugly part of town" - and not because we were wonderful, or because we were going to save someone, or because we were going to get a feather in our angels'-wings or anything.

We went down because we'd been given a gift - and part of keeping that gift involves giving it away. A couple of the guys were there, just marking time, because they have to get just so many of these meetings under their belt before they are released back into the community. One was grateful for our presence, but didn't think he'd ever be able to get off the merry-go-round. And one guy sounded vaguely hopeful - like maybe this AA nonsense might work for him, because what HE had been doing certainly wasn't.

I don't know. All I do know is that I'd been given a gift; I went down and shared what I knew; and we had some fantastic fellowship over Friendly's Ice Cream in Maumee afterwards. And despite a couple ongoing divorces, at least two bankruptcy cases, and one man who's dying of cancer, I'd bet that none of us are going to have to get drunk or high tonight.

So to Bill W., Doctor Bob, Sister Ignatia, and the army of sisters and brothers in recovery, I give thanks to you this night. Thank you for sharing your stories. Thank you for accepting me when I was unacceptable, even to myself. And thank you for giving me a gift that only grows bigger when I share it. Soli Deo gloria.

Our book is meant to be suggestive only. We realize we know only a little. God will constantly disclose more to you and to us. Ask Him in your morning meditation what you can do each day for the man who is still sick. The answers will come, if your own house is in order. But obviously you cannot transmit something you haven't got. See to it that your relationship with Him is right, and great events will come to pass for you and countless others. This is the Great Fact for us.

Abandon yourself to God as you understand God. Admit your faults to Him and to your fellows. Clear away the wreckage of your past. Give freely of what you find and join us. We shall be with you in the Fellowship of the Spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny.

May God bless you and keep you - until then.


Black Pete said...

Happy Birthday, y'all!

hennhouse said...

"And that is a pure gift of grace on God's part"

Isn't that true of most of the things we don't think we deserve...pure gifts of grace.

Thank you for sharing this piece your story.

brother said...

Steve and fellow AAs: Happy shared b-day to us all!

Those last several paragraphs of the first half of the Big Book always give me the chills .. truly inspired writing. Thanks for posting, Steve.

It works .. if you work it sober!

Anonymous said...

Ya gotta give it away to keep it...Keep on the sunny side, face up and sucking air...stay out of the late night fountains....still miss ya here on Thurs nights at the old Rockefeller now other church, and at the Medici...

Glad to see you have re-found such a great home Steve.

Its pretty good here too..19 yrs in Nov....21 hrs today...more blessed than I deserve..



Anonymous said...


Not meaning to be anonymous but totally cant recall my password!


Heidi Renee said...

Founders Day - what an honor!

Keep giving it away Steve!!

wilsonian said...

I had the huge privilege of attending my first open meeting this morning, with a friend in recovery. I very nearly cried through the whole thing, the experience was so beautiful.

I've heard it said before the an AA meeting can be more like church than church. After this morning's meeting, I knew I'd been part of Church.

Peace to you, brother :)