My friends of Bill

I remember the first time I heard someone say they were a “friend of Bill,” I wondered who Bill was and why they assumed I knew him also. Then I heard it a second time and a third time. It wasn’t until I realized what the growing number of people in my circle had in common that I began to notice a distinct connection between them all that went beyond their struggle.

I’d never been to an AA meeting before, so when my friend Lorna invited me to attend I didn’t have a clue what to expect. I’m only a moderate extrovert and these kinds of situations make me a bit anxious. But Lorna was celebrating four years of sobriety, so there was no way I was going to miss the opportunity to celebrate this milestone with her.

As I pulled into the parking lot of the Methodist church, people were hanging around outside. Some were smoking. Others were huddled in small circles. It reminded me a bit of that moment at community college just before class starts.

I walked into the portable building and was surprised by how crowded the room was. Lorna ran up and gave me a hug.

“You came!”

“Wouldn’t have missed this for the world.”

My moderately extroverted self retreated to a corner of the room and settled into a folding chair. What happened over the next hour was some of the most inspiring moments I’ve seen in a long time.

The first thing that struck me was how everyone who spoke introduced themselves.

“My name is _____ and I’m an alcoholic.”

The rest of the room always responded.

“Hi, _____!”

For the next hour or so, peppered with reading from the bible (aka, The Big Book), I listened to this community of speak honestly and forthrightly about what got them here: their stumbles, their victories, their shortcomings, their strengths…their lives. It was like church, but not a church I’d ever been to.

The veil of mystery that once shrouded my knowledge of what AA was all about was lifted. More important, I had a little more insight into what makes my friend Lorna tick. I saw the light and for the first time understood why this organization is so important to so many.

I hope never to need what Alcoholics Anonymous offers those whose lives it has saved. But, I’m sure as hell glad they’re there for my countless friends who do need it.

I don’t claim to have any more than an inkling of what it is to deal with alcoholism, but I know that this special group of people have overcome a powerful demon that almost destroyed them. Many of them are some of the most creative, passionate, and beautiful souls I have ever met.

Some days, I wish I was more like them.

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