|December Grapevine Articles
December Grapevine Articles
A.A.'s Country-wide News Circuit
The South Bend, Ind., Tribune devoted more than a column and a half to an account of how more than 200 from 10
cities gathered there and "gave evidence of the miracle which had been performed." This dinner, the third
anniversary, drew representatives from South Bend, Mishawaka, Elkhart, Laporte, Warsaw, Indianapolis and Ft.
Wayne, Ind., Benton Harbor and Kalamazoo, Mich., and Chicago. The speaker said, "The secret of A.A. is the
technique of surrender. We surrendered ourselves to victory." The newspaper concluded the account by listing the
postoffice boxes of the groups for those desiring information.
Mail Call for All A. A.s at Home Or Abroad
Visiting the Absentees
A thought akin to "Charity Begins at Home" has prompted the formation of an unofficial visiting committee within the
Indianapolis A. A. group.
The committee meets Tuesday evenings and sets out to contact an A. A. of long standing who, for some reason or
other, has drifted away from the fellowship.
The membership list is scanned and those whose faces have become 'just a memory' at the various weekly meetings,
are duly marked for a friendly 'checking into.' Often a rumor (and rumors travel with the speed of light in A. A.) to the
effect that an 'estranged' member has been having skid trouble, or has confused his alcoholic verb tenses--"he was
an alcoholic," instead of the true "he is an alcoholic," quickly places a name on the visiting committee's agenda for
The self-appointed committee and its activities are strictly unofficial, as are the reports of its accomplishments which
filter back to the general group; but an important--yes, even essential--job is being done, and is being gratefully
recognized by those who know and are concerned.
This 'estrangement' condition should be cause for reflection among members of groups over-enthusiastic for new
initiates or 'converts.' As one member of our group expressed it: "There's no percentage in trying to use a sieve for a
A.A.'s Country-wide News Circuit
Under the auspices of the Salvation Army's Men's social center a banquet at the Cincinnati, Ohio, Club recently
attracted more than 250 men and women. Major Paul Harvey of the Salvation Army served as chairman and
introduced Major Peter Hofman of Cleveland, the man who first infiltrated A.A. into the work of reclaiming men. The
Akron, Ohio, member who styles himself "the first guinea pig in the A.A. operation" gave a much enjoyed talk. Cities
represented from outside Cincinnati with its seven units were Hamilton, Springfield, Dayton, Columbus, Middletown,
Cleveland, Indianapolis, Covington, Lexington and Frankfort. Plans are under way to make the dinner an annual
affair. In Cincinnati at present the A.A. Group of Greater Cincinnati operates out of the Palace Hotel. The Cincinnati
Fellowship Group occupies its handsome home at 405 Oak Street with a full nightly schedule of meetings and a
secretary in daily attendance. The Freeman Group (Salvation Army) meets weekly at 1508 Freeman Avenue and the
Covington, Ky., Group meets weekly in the Cathedral Lyceum in that city. Four suburban home-meeting groups are
now operating and all things point toward a record year for A.A. in this locality. A Hallowe'en party staged at the
clubhouse was heavily attended by members, their wives and children.
A.A.'s Country-wide News Circuit
Forum at Danville
Four Indianapolis A.A.s conducted an open forum at Danville, Ill., recently which was attended by about 200 and drew
good comment and favorable newspaper publicity. A small printed pamphlet was widely distributed by members to
friends, churches and other civic groups while at the door of the forum meeting one of the member's wives handed
out another pamphlet to each one entering as well as slips of paper for questions, the latter resulting in good
discussion. One Danville member was on the platform with the visitors. The audience included members of the clergy,
social workers and those with alcohol problems in their families. Several calls have resulted from the session.
Mail Call for All A.A.s at Home Or Abroad
Grateful for Serenity
It will be a year in November since I read the book, Alcoholics Anonymous, and attended my first A.A. meeting.
Although I am only 39, drinking has been a problem to me for over 20 years. Because of several unhappy incidents in
my childhood, by the time I was in high school I had a full fledged inferiority complex. I discovered this vanished into
thin air after a few drinks. As the years went on, my drinking progressed until I was using alcohol as the proverbial
crutch--as an escape from any and everything of an unpleasant nature that I had to face. Like all alcoholics, I had
caused much unhappiness to myself, my husband and little girl. Last year I had reached the point where I would walk
the floor at night unable to sleep, frightened at the kind of person I had become and at what our future held. I knew I
could not stop drinking. Then a neighbor who was an A.A. gave me the book to read and I attended my first meeting.
Here was the answer.
Tonight I was thinking of the many things for which I am grateful to the A.A. way of life. To mention a few--for being
able to awaken in the morning knowing where I am and where I was the night before--for being able to hear the phone
ring and not being afraid to answer it because of what I might hear about my actions while I was drinking--for being
able to meet my neighbors and look them in the eye without a feeling of shame--for the wisdom to see my
shortcomings and the desire to do something about them--for my good and understanding friends in A.A.--for being
able to go to bed at night and sleep--and not dream! Big things, these, for an alcoholic. I hope I may be an A.A. for
the rest of my life. Connie M. Vincennes, Indiana
And a Sober Solstice to You Too. . .
A TESTIMONY THAT DESPITE THE SEASON THERE CAN STILL BE REASON. . .
THIRTY and one are the days of December. . .and thirty-one are the nights of December, including two of the
supposed longest nights of the year.
Whoever you are on the night of December twenty-second it will be the longest night of the year, this temperate
zone's time of greatest darkness. Astronomers explain it simply as the time when, though we are the least distance
from the sun, the earth's axis is so tilted as to give us a longest night, and a shortest day.
Only two nights later comes what for many alcoholics was once the darkest night of the year. . .Christmas Eve. This
was the night when our bottles were so tilted that our own axis was at "no play," and all too often the holiday became
for our families a hollow day.
Myself, I had had the year's longest and blackest night those pre-AA Nights Before Christmas. The old familiar pattern
of the one night of the year when liquor was easiest to come by (why did friends bother with all that fancy wrapping
stuff on bottles?); when there was money in my pocket from at least a token year-end bonus; and when, well, it was
just naturally in the rules to show my good will to all men over a festive cup.
I came into AA in the Fall (no pun intended.) It was the autumn equinox when light and dark are in perfect and
ordained balance. By the time of the December solstice I felt that I was doing just fine, and I approached the holly
days with real joy and anticipation of my first year when the tree would be properly lit and Daddy wouldn't. On
December 22nd, my sponsor called me up, and in a long talk warned me that these were the troubled days and the
nervous nights ahead. . .something about there being no fool like a Yule fool.
Well, it was a fine Christmas, and they have all been so. Probably I needed that first warning. I don't know. Now it
seems pretty simple to me. Christmas Eve is just one more of the 365 eves of every day to be counted in a year.
Twenty-four hours at a time is a day at a time no matter whether the sun is in Capricorn or how this old earth is tilted
on its spindle. December is thirty-one days of one more month. . .one of twelve, a number identical to the number of
AA's suggested steps.
Astronomy certainly is fascinating, but my newer respect is for orthography. That's the science of spelling, and for me
it has meant sober progress from hollowday. . .to holiday. . .to a gratefully improved conscious contact with the Holy
From the Grass Roots
HUNGER FOR DRAMA
That we may always insure unity in our groups, we of AA ought not to underestimate the value of learning to become
tolerant. Without tolerance there may be times when beyond all doubt our intimacy and our undue interest in one
another's affairs will become too intense to be borne. Then there will follow bickerings and scenes and hurt feelings
and sudden departures in a fury, followed by the most complicated intrigues in which each will seek to win the support
of the others.
There is in our blood a strange hankering for the dramatic, and in the intense narrowness of our lives it will break out
in the most absurd quarrels.
Life will never seem dramatic enough to satisfy oneself, therefore we should seek satisfaction in the knowledge that
we are here but by the grace of God.
Adding Up the Score
A girl who found AA in prison writes her "outside" sponsor a few weeks after her release
I am going to write this and clarify it in my mind as I go along. I want to share these thoughts with you. You have just
now received your present from me and along with it this letter.
(Note: the "present." was an unopened half-pint of whiskey.)
As I write this it is sitting on my dresser along with my hair oil and cologne. It is the same color as my shampoo and it
means no more to me than my bottle of shampoo does.
It meant something to me when I bought it. I shook all over inside and out and I got that terrific pressure in my head
again. I looked around outside the drugstore to see if anybody had observed me. I felt so guilty that if a cop had tried
to arrest me for breaking the law I would have gone along and willingly pleaded guilty. Of course, buying a bottle on
Saturday night is not against the law of the land. But it is against the "AA law" and it is not God's will that I get drunk; it
is against your principles and mine.
I bought it to prove something to myself. If I drank it I wanted to know how it would affect me. Would I have the DT's?
Would I stay at home or go prowling? Would I get my novel out of my locked suitcase--I haven't read it or worked on it
for months--or would I come down to your apartment and say, "Well, what do you think of me now? You are always
telling me what a nice person I am and how much faith you have in me. . . what do you think of this?" Would I cry for
Joe? Would I go to the bowling alley and look for Kenny? Would I ever be able to stop?
If I did not drink it I wanted to know why. I am finding out as I write it down on this paper. I left it lying wrapped up and
on the bed for fifteen minutes. I ignored it and fooled around straightening up my closet. Then I took it out of the sack,
sat down on the chair and stared at it and read the label. I thought: "Why, this little so-and-so! How could I let a little
old bottle of liquid run me and my life? It is nothing. I am something. I am a human being and on the way to becoming
a pretty darned good one. This bottle has power to make sniveling cowards out of people. I can go it one better and
beat it at its own game. I could go out right now and give those same people the knowledge and the power never to
drink it again as long as they live. I am the master here and I say to hell with you."
I got up and set it on the dresser. I turned on the overhead lamp and let it shine full in my face. I looked in the mirror a
long time. I saw the strain I had been under for the past week--the 'flu and fever I'd had, my swelled sinus--but, I saw a
lot more. I saw eyes that were bright and clear and looked out at the world with good will and kindness. I saw that the
friendship of the AA members had made a great difference in the expression on that face and that the mouth looked
like it might be able to grin at any time. It used to be so grim and hard.
I sat down in a chair and added up the score, the personal score. It goes like this:
1. Georgiene B. gave me more than sponsorship. She gave me her friendship. She didn't have to but she did it
because she likes me, believes in me and really cares.
2. Elline M. is proud of me and makes it a point to talk to me at the meetings. She invited me to her daughter's
wedding. That is the best compliment I have ever had. I'll go, too.
3. Rosemary D. and I are forming a fine friendship.
4. Dean B. says keep up the good work and shakes my hand.
5. Charlie M. says I've "got AA."
6. Alex V. singles me out to encourage me at meetings and really likes me.
7. Margaret .B. offered to share her home with me.
8. John H. enjoys my company.
9. Fran W. and Gene R. will be my friends as time marches on.
10. I have the opportunity to make a dream of Georgiene's come true. This should be No. 2 blessing on this list. I
can go back to the Indiana Women's Prison as a speaker, sponsor and example and help the girls and help make up
to Georgiene for all the grief and heartaches she has endured the last three years.
11. I was made head waitress after three weeks on my job. I am doing good work there.
12. I work hard and on my one day off a week I got up early and went to Champaign, Illinois to try and help Janie
13. I have attended three, four and. five meetings a week and six different AA groups in order to get the message
as soon as possible so I can be a good working member and give back what I have received.
14. I have found out what Christian love is between people. Bishop Sheen talks about it all the time but I couldn't
believe in such a thing. Now I know.
15. I have taken the first seven of the Twelve Steps and I am letting God have his way with my life. He is doing a
pretty good job.
16. I am happy in one room. My happiness has little to do with what I own.
This is the list of the best things that have happened to me in the thirty-one days since my release from prison. How
could I expect or handle any more than I have at this time?
Before I started this letter I walked over to the closet to get my pajamas. All of a sudden I said, "Father, watch over
me. Help me to do as You want me to do."
Georgiene, He did Your friend, Dorothy
Dec 1955 Twelve Steps and the Older Member
Step Nine: Made direct amends to such people whenever possible except when to do so would injure them or others
ONE of the deeply disturbing things about the Twelve Steps, taken as a whole, is that they never let an alcoholic off
the hook, though sometimes they may appear to temporarily.
Take the so-called "house-cleaning" steps, for instance. You've been through the wretchedness of Steps Four
through Seven, and then Step Eight comes along and offers a little breather. "Became willing to make amends," it
says. Well, that doesn't take much effort, you just sit on your duff and become. No action is required. Then all of a
sudden whammo, Step Nine: "Made direct amends. . ."
This Step has always been very unsettling to me, and still is. Not only was I supposed to make amends, but it was to
be done directly. No pious change of inner attitude alone would suffice; there also had to be a direct confrontation.
For a time I squirmed and weasled, trying to use "except when to do so" as an escape clause. Every time I came close
to facing up to the real demand of the Step, I rationalized that any restorative action would "injure" somebody, and let
Finally this evasion became so ridiculous I couldn't kid even myself with it any more. Sooner or later the nasty
business would have to be done. Pride would have to be swallowed, humiliation would have to be risked, amends
would have to be made to the very people it was hardest to face, often those least understanding of the illness I had
witlessly contracted. That was Step Nine. I could put it off, but could never quite duck the fact that the Step would
never be properly taken until I had actually done some of these humbling things.
While writing this I looked out my window and saw a bird light on our porch railing. Then he took off, hurling himself on
the breeze, trusting in the powers the Creator gave him to overcome, instant to instant, gravity and the tricks of the
wind. When finally I came really to terms with the Step it was something like that, blindly throwing myself into situations
that at first appeared to be blind alleys of humiliation, and trusting to God to give me the locomotion to carry me out
But how I twisted and argued and rationalized before getting down to cases! I even pulled out the one about how the
main purpose of this program was to keep sober for a day, and you'd better not complicate it with all this other stuff,
like making amends, or you risked getting drunk! "Yes," explained the voices of experience that hover around all AAs,
waiting to be listened to, "AA's prime purpose is sobriety." But drinking, they had found, had a connection with
thinking. Keeping out from behind the wheel such berserk drivers as anger and resentment was part of maintaining
daily sobriety. Anger was a cover-up for fear; fear was the companion of insecurity; insecurity was the certain result of
an unjustifiable pride--and the specific medicine for pride was the act of humility.
Frankly, I've never done very well with Step Nine. I've done just barely well enough, evidently, to maintain consecutive
daily periods of sobriety. In keeping with the spirit of this series, and in the AA tradition of sharing experience, I'll set
down one or two of the high points of my efforts in this direction.
First of all there's the case of my first wife, Kate (not her real name; non-alcoholics deserve anonymity too!). Kate was
put through several of the hottest back rooms of hell because of my drinking. We had two kids and of course they,
poor innocents, could not escape. All right, comes the AA miracle and I sober up and the time comes for me to make
amends. And then what happens? Kate goes berserk on hate! All the resentment she'd choked back through all
those years now spills over in a destructive flood, sweeping before it every token of restitution or apology, smashing
the family. Her recent record, however, does not wipe out my old one. That would only be the ancient eye for an eye. I
still had to make amends--directly--but how ? One day one of the children, who had played over to me on several
occasions some of their mother's abuse, began to criticize Kate. I found myself defending her instead of, as was
usual, myself. The youngster looked at me in wonder. It put an end to the tug-of-war for the children's loyalties. Slowly
Kate began to respond in kind, and the lessening of tension in the children was noticeable.
I don't offer this as an example of the right way to make a direct amend. It was indirect and partial, a token. I only
report it as the best I could do. It was good enough, apparently, that so far I've been allowed my daily sobriety.
There's another case in my story, the case of my mother, much more typical of the business-like working of Step Nine
as I have come to understand it. For years I watched from a distance as my mother got older, and lonelier, and sicker,
and I was always too drunk or "busy" to be of much help. Mind you, I don't approve of children burying themselves
alive for the convenience of aging parents--I don't mean that. But I hadn't been doing even the minimum, decent
things: writing, calling up, visiting occasionally, dropping the word of cheer, all the little things that let lonely people
know that there is at least one person on earth interested enough to inquire.
Finally she was stricken with a critical illness. I was jolted into a realization that somebody had to act. I acted, and in
doing so realized that my opportunity--maybe my last one--to make amends had arrived. This was when I threw myself
on God's resources as the bird threw himself on the wind. I couldn't afford what I was doing, the money would just
have to be there when it was needed. . .and it was. I couldn't spare the time for the hours of leisurely chatting that
helped so much, my work would somehow just have to get done. . .and it did get done. At last I began to have the
feeling that in this instance I was meeting the demand of Step Nine--making direct amends.
It doesn't seem to me that it is possible to make really adequate amends, really to "make up for" the past. I know it
risks presumption to guess what's on the mind 01 God, but maybe it's all right to describe the kind of deal it appears
to me that He's offering me. It's as if I owed a man a hundred dollars and couldn't pay it, and he said if I'd pay five, and
pay it face to face, he'd write off the other ninety-five which I'd never be able to get up anyway, and call it square. We
can't really make up for the past in the sense of balancing the books. But evidently the deal is that if we do the best
we can, and do it directly, we're all square. These two instances--one of them a qualified failure and one a modified
success--kind of sum up what I've learned from the many, many Step Nine attempts I've made.
My deepest feeling is for the wonderful bargain you get. You pay five and you get ninety-five as a. free gilt. For I feel
profoundly that whenever I've made the direct effort, disregarding financial or emotional cost, I've been richer.
Something has been set straight somewhere that I thought could never be made right. Somewhere, somehow we're all
breathing easier when these things are done.
J. E. Bloomington, Indiana
Pills, Pills, Pills
I WAS ROBBED. AA robbed me of my alcoholic husband. What's more, he was beginning to be serene and
untroubled by things I felt he should be worried about. This calmness more or less infuriated me. It took me a couple
of years to discover that he was taking "pills."
Pills: but not the kind the M.D.s hand you. Peace pills, that "let go and let God" do it. Pause pills, that frustrate anger.
Action pills (find another alcoholic) for that terrifying feeling of pressure. Group therapy pills for that everyday problem
that crops up. One-a-day inventory pills for his spiritual good health. Easy-does-it pills for the mental indigestion
known as impatience. The habit-forming love pill, which makes the taker perform good deeds without seeking
recognition. The tolerance pill--bitter at first--but rewarding because of better relationship with others. The faith pill,
for that nasty cold-in-the-heart known as fear. The open-mind pill, which increases learning power. The service pill,
the vitamin of responsibility. A thousand other pills he was taking.
I found these same "pills" myself. I haven't tried them all yet, but if they work for him, they will for me. Already I find a
lot of daily "illnesses" dissolving into nothingness, and I no longer feel "robbed," but replenished. In case some wives
are wondering where I found these pills for myself, I advise them to try the nearest Al-Anon Family Group. The pills do
not cost much--merely attendance at Al-Anon meetings--and the results are most rewarding. Ask any alcoholic
My Name Is Annabelle
An alcoholic's own story
EVEN now, a few years later, I remember the words "cunning, baffling, powerful." Every time I walked into the
clubroom, still sick and in a fog, one AA member looked at me and repeated these three words. Nothing made sense
to me then; I was going through too much--troubles of all kinds. Why? It was my first year on the program and I
needed so desperately never to take another drink, yet it took me so long to become interested and to want what
everyone else had--sobriety. Then suddenly I was not just on the program, I was in it. Things began to get better.
I had hit a very low bottom; I could think of nothing but whiskey. I ran to the bottle at any excuse and came to depend
entirely on alcohol to solve all things. My troubles and problems were still with me, only worse, and my health was
wrecked to the point where I could no longer walk or even talk. I only ate when I was fed through my veins by a doctor.
I drank to keep alive, but I was already dead.
In those years I turned on my husband, children and home. I believed that I didn't need my husband or anyone else,
so down I went with the bottle, and me the willing slave. Alcohol was my way out--that is, until God took over.
One day, years later, after nightmare had followed nightmare, after many hurts, car wrecks, broken bones--once even
being left for dead, beaten for no reason, just another person wanting money to drink. That day I heard myself say,
"Help me, I have hurt long enough; take my hand and guide me."
AA came slowly to me. A sweet woman I've never seen since, sat on the side of my bed. She told me her story and I
said very little. I noticed her hair, her nails looking so nice, her clothes, and that she did not shake. She took time to
talk and try to calm me, saying that I'd get better if I wanted to. It was hard for me to believe that I would be up and
around and look and act like her.
Soon came the meetings; they made very little sense to me, but I was not drinking. Everyone there was happy and
laughing. When I listened to the lady speaker, I thought, "She never was as bad as I. I could sure get up there and tell
them what hurt and sickness really is. I'll bet she never hurt the way I did."
I smile now and thank God each day that I've found AA and have this new and wonderful way of life. For more than a
year and a half I said very little at meetings, but I did listen more and more. Finally, my mind seemed to be clearing a
little and I began grasping the program, becoming really interested. It was then that I began to seek a sponsor and I
found Christine. She said, "Thank God, I thought you'd never speak up, now I suppose you won't shut up." Christine
gave precious time to me for the next two years, maybe longer, I don't keep track anymore, now it's only one day at a
I feel like an entirely different person in every respect, my bar friends no longer know me. And that's good. Like the
woman who sat on my bed and talked to me, I, now, often sit on the bed of another sick alcoholic and talk. Christine
and I go together and do our best to carry the message to prisons and to other towns and states. M--who used to say
to me, "Cunning, baffling and powerful" never says it anymore. He just smiles at me.
My home is in Florida, where I shall return for Christmas. My little boy will be there with love, his arms opened wide. My
oldest son will join us. You see my work takes me through several states.
I have always been able to find meetings in my travels until lately. The lack of meetings bothers me; I can feel the
difference. I am glad that I went regularly when I was home in Florida. They warned me at my home group that I might
not always be able to find a meeting so I brought the AA books and the Grapevine with me. In one Grapevine it said
that if you couldn't find a meeting and you needed one, try to help start a group. It also said that if you were interested
in twelfth-stepping 45,000 AAs at once, write articles for the Grapevine. Right away. I felt better and that is why I have
written some of my story.
Today I am a very grateful mother of two wonderful sons. I laugh now and I can give instead of want because I have
received such a full life of love. I have a special love for those who are in that fog and doubt through which I came to
I Sent a Christmas Card on Its Way
And in very short order, the sober, not-so-gay divorcée was no longer alone
HERE we are again at that glorious time of the year--Christmas. A season of holiness, gratitude, and happy sharing. A
season of joy and good cheer, of lights and piny boughs. And for this grateful alcoholic woman with pen in hand, a
season for remembering. . . .
Has it been seven whole years since that awful December morning? I awakened on my skid row, bitten by an ugly
realization: "You have had it, baby. You are at the end of the line."
No, I hadn't left home. I had passed out in a sixty-dollar dress on my own sofa. But did anyone in a Bowery flophouse
or a San Francisco waterfront mission ever awaken to a starker desolation than I did that wintry morning?
This was the day I had never dreamed I would face. The day when the magic was gone from life--the day when the
Answer to All Life's Problems had itself become a problem. The day when I knew I could not get another drink down,
yet knew I would surely die if I didn't.
Is it not strange that the tired old platitudes we always thought so corny seem today so profound? Take for example:
"It is always darkest just before dawn." If I dared, I would say this to each suffering soul I twelfth-step, for even as I
shakily dialed the AA answer-service number, I sensed a tiny, faint glow of light dawning within me.
Seven delicious years have passed, and if seventy more are added I shall never forget the voice that was soon on the
wire in response to my call. A lovely, refined voice asked if I thought I had a drinking problem. At that moment, I would
have said yes if anyone had asked if I had cancer. I only knew that I must be the sickest human being in the state of
Indiana, and if they wanted to diagnose it as a drinking problem, fine and good.
When I hung the telephone up, I knew I was going to be helped--somehow--and then a bit of the old arrogance
returned! I had been impressed with the caliber of the woman on the phone, and I recall thinking, "Why, they must
have one or two in that outfit almost as smart as I am."
I wish I could tell you about my early days around AA--those wise ol' Hoosiers trying valiantly to get through to me.
Trying so hard to steer me clear of the slip they saw coming. They would say to me, "Why don't you slow down? Easy
I would reply airily, "It has always been my nature to be quick. Can't change human nature."
They said, "How long do you think you will stay sober traveling on the nightclub circuit?"
I retorted in a mincing, mocking tone, "Just as long as I don't take that first drink!"
Then they knowingly said, "We'll wait."
They did. And I am so glad they did. I am so glad they were still there when I needed them so desperately, after those
three months back on the treadmill of hangovers and self-loathing and guilt. They welcomed me back without a single
"We told you so." Nothing but love and sympathy. They seemed to sense my total submission and my willingness,
now, to go about my AA in the same fashion I had gone about everything all my life--whole hog! No more
half-measures. No more tinkering around the edges.
The next six pages of the calendar flipped by, as I traveled countless miles making amends to those who had loved
me, to those who had given me the breaks (only to be let down again and again). Now it was December again.
December 1961. The gay divorcee wasn't-so gay that season. The sophisticated gal-about-town wasn't so
sophisticated. There were fewer guffaws and more warm smiles. There was less tinsel and more light. But there was
no mate, and all of us yearn for a mate. AA meetings in my area were, for the most part, attended by couples. Dates
to do the town were fewer in the sober life. Here was a woman alone.
My Christmas cards were in the mail December 16. Included with them was one addressed to an Air Force major
whom I had not seen or heard from for over twenty-one years. But back in the dear, sweet days almost beyond recall,
he had been the first sweetheart, the first love, and school had been a better place because of him. On December 23
the postman brought his letter. You know the rest of the story, don't you? Yes, we were married a hundred days later.
Now, December 1967 finds us as far removed from the old life as the Gulf Coast of Texas is from Northern Indiana.
Retired from the military career, Colonel G. is as devoted and grateful to Al-Anon as Mrs. G. is to her blessed AA.
Truly, "all is calm, all is bright," only through the exquisite grace of a Power greater than ourselves.
Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share. Thank you for letting me share with you these
precious December thoughts.
The Other Christmas
Today all is calm, all is bright. But memories of Chirstmases past recall the story that brought hope
ALL THE gifts have been wrapped and stacked in gaudy repose beneath the glittering tree. Scores of Christmas
greetings to AA friends all over the country have been posted. The menu has been vamped and revamped, and the
cupboards groan with their extra loads. All is calm; all is bright. And I haven't had a drink or a pill of any kind that
would change my psychological environment--today.
December is an extra-special time for me, for it was in this month eight years ago that I finally got sick enough to call
for help with a drinking problem of years' progression. I did not know that my problem was alcoholism with a full-blown
capital A. I only knew that I was too sick to live and needed help.
It was with great misgivings that I maneuvered my automobile through the snow-banked streets of that northern
Indiana city, to meet the owner of the warmly charming voice that had responded to my call, and then to attend my
first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. Numb with mental anguish and miserably ill, I listened, enthralled at hearing a
total stranger so aptly describe my own inner feelings and past behavior.
He related, in a general way, what it used to be like, what happened, and what it was like then. He recalled other
Christmases of the drinking days, when he had brought shame and disappointments to himself and his family--even
as I had done. Because of his unquestionable sincerity, I experienced the first ray of hope that maybe, just maybe, I,
too, could have the new way of life he so obviously was enjoying. I went home that wintry night, bolstered with a newly
found strength taken from a stranger who had shared his experience.
Recently, when I visited a meeting in another state, I was deeply saddened as I overheard a conversation. Apparently,
a little novice was to serve as chairman for the first time. Seemingly, she had admired a well-groomed, exquisitely
coiffured and manicured older lady and had invited her to tell her story at the next meeting.
"Oh, my dear, I stopped telling my story years ago," the older lady said. "It is too distasteful. Anyone knows how to get
drunk. I would much rather talk about the program."
My mind flashed back over the years, and I wondered what my reaction would have been that other December night if
a certain gentle man had just quoted flawlessly from the great writers and philosophers of old. Where would I be this
Christmas if he had just expounded on the great spiritual truths we love so dearly? Would I be here basking in the
Gulf Coast sun of Texas with my good Al-Anon husband and well-adjusted Alateen daughter, playing golf and fishing
between meetings and Twelfth Step calls? Or would I still be shivering in the Indiana cold as I made my staggering way
from bar to bar--ever searching, ever running, weary and sick?
I, too, love the program and the writers and philosophers of old; and I love the Christ whose birthday we now
reverently observe. But I thank God for the stranger who "told his story" for a frightened, sick, and bewildered woman,
eight delicious years ago.
Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience. . . Thank you, Grapevine, for
letting me share, through you. Merry Christmas to all, and to all--God bless and keep you another day in AA.
Christmas Joy Comes Home Again
But she had to give in order to receive
IT WAS A COLD, blustery night in a Northern Indiana city when I decided to have a drink with the beau of the day. I
had just returned home from attending my forty-seventh AA meeting since joining up seventy-nine days earlier with
the outfit which was to put an end to my drinking problem.
It had been a good-enough meeting. Someone had related a rather grim story of a tour in the state alcoholic ward
and several arrests and had ended by saying, a bit lamely, that the program would work, although he had to admit he
had never done much about the Steps.
When I entered my kitchen, there sat my beau (who just happened to own a bar), sipping some of his better
"How was the meeting?" lie asked.
"Fine," I replied, removing gloves and scarf.
Taking my coat, he continued his inquiry. "Do you mean to tell me those people have convinced you that you can't
drink even one beer, just to be sociable? That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard! Anyone can drink one little
"Why, of course," I agreed. "That's the answer. Drink only one and no more. Tell you what I'll do--I'll split one with you,
just to be sociable." . . .
Ninety-seven days (and 600 bottles of beer, seventy-nine pints of liquor, countless Martinis, Gibsons, etc.) later, I
surrendered. I finally gave up! It wasn't because I was that sick from drinking. I had been physically sicker when I had
made my first call to AA the previous December. But now a new illness assailed me. I was sick of me! I could not face
me another day.
"Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely," it says in the Big
Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. I had tried to hold on to the old ideas that I could go to the same old bars, play at love
the same old way, and keep alcoholic beverages in my home to serve the same old friends. Apparently, some
persons can do these things and stay sober. I cannot.
There is another line in the Big Book which says that we must have AA friends. I would enter the meeting place as the
chairman was reading the Preamble. I would be halfway out the door when they said "Amen." How could I build
friendships with AA people?
Naturally, I had a slip. It was (and is) the natural result for an alcoholic who refuses to protect himself against his
illness. And, I reiterate, I did have a slip, not a premeditated drunk--unless you want to call five seconds
On a June night in 1961, ten minutes before closing time, I slunk into an AA meeting. That night, I made a decision to
experiment with the suggestions which have proved, for me, to be inoculation against the deadly illness with which I
am afflicted--alcoholism. (Not a permanent inoculation, mind you. Booster shots are required at frequent intervals.)
Always, I had believed in a Higher Power, but I had limited utilization of such a Power to the emergencies in 'my life.
God was a kind of ethereal bellhop, to be summoned only when I (or my kids or my job or my prestige) was in
jeopardy. It never occurred to me that great power might be available on a routine, day-to-day basis and, further, just
might be able to help me not take that first drink each day, if only I would ask each day.
This is not to suggest that I simply prayed myself out of a messed-up life into a rose-petals-along-the-way kind of
existence. It ain't thataway. The antitoxin of action must accompany all applications of spiritual remedies to protect me
from the reactivation of my illness.
I must be comfortable. I have an extremely low threshold for pain, be it physical or emotional pain. And I learned many,
many years ago that a few drinks eased the anguish of guilt, smoldering resentments, indefinable fears, and
loneliness. Millions of people have learned this, and no valid explanation for my strange compulsion to continue
drinking, once I start (thus creating further pain), has yet been outlined, to my knowledge. But a way to allay our
discomforts before they become unbearable has been clearly outlined in a prescription called the suggested Twelve
Steps of recovery.
No one could have been more repelled than I was at the suggested methods to achieve this inner comfort that I must
have if I am to live without chemicals. Tell someone all the things I had done wrong? In exact detail? Unthinkable! Go
to those I had harmed (family, friends, bosses) and humbly ask their forgiveness? Pardon me while I throw up! Come
to grips with myself and admit I was wrong? Forget it!
Yet those suggestions (painful as they are to a sick ego like mine), finally followed to the best of my ability, coupled
with daily petitions to a Higher Power, are precisely what gives me this joyful Christmas season. Those suggestions,
thoroughly followed and coupled with a daily spiritual program, have protected me against a deadly disease. More
than that, they have opened precious doors--a door to holy matrimony, a door to Al-Anon for a loving husband, a
door to Alateen for a good, well-adjusted daughter, and that priceless door to friends all across this land--deeply
treasured friends, to whom I now say a very special Merry, Merry Christmas, wherever you are!
Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share. Thank you again, Grapevine, for letting me
share through you.
That elusive state of being that comes with total acceptance
THE DAUGHTER, the son, and a few close friends had gathered around the AA old-timer. He had just announced his
decision. Rather than go to a renowned cancer-treatment center, he was sticking with his local doctor.
"There's a possibility," I pointed out, "that your voice box might go. Have you thought of that?"
The old-timer smiled patiently and looked me in the eye. "Whatever happens," he said, "I can accept it. After all, I'm
seventy-two years old. I've enjoyed perfect health. It's time a few things were going wrong with me."
Perfect health? I thought of the leg he had lost, just a few inches below the hip, some thirty years earlier. Yet the
calmness in his voice told me that the leg, like the voice box had been included in his thoughts. He meant what he
said--completely. And it dawned on me that I was looking at serenity, that elusive state of being that so many of us in
AA grope for, stumble over, grab, fumble, lasso, lose, and search for again.
"Sobriety I understand," I had said in my early days on the program. "But where in the hell do you get that serenity?"
In fact, when I was making statements like that, I had found neither sobriety nor serenity. It was during my first year
around the program. My dry periods were lasting two or three months, during which I was extremely active in AA, and
were punctuated by one-night drinking episodes, which proved miserable.
I was making nearly all the mistakes that an AA newcomer can make, including trying to promote AA to a drunk who I
thought needed the program. My sponsor and other wise heads had told me it was wrong, and I understood that,
except. . .
Except this was a special case. The drunk I was trying to sell AA to was my dad.
And I was failing miserably. Dad was a thousand miles away, and I was really pumping AA to him in my
correspondence. I had mailed him a copy of the Big Book, had even goaded him into attending a meeting with me
while I was home on vacation. Dad was drunk; the wrong speaker spoke; Dad applauded at the wrong times. He
refused to go to another meeting with me.
My faith was shaken. So was my "serenity." But the message of my sponsor got through: "Let your dad decide for
himself, like you did, that he's an alcoholic. Let him find AA, if he can, in his own way." I quit pushing.
It was after midnight several months later when my phone rang. Dad was on the line, drunk. "I just called to tell you
that Fin going to try AA," he mumbled.
"Good, Dad," I said. "I hope you do. It's sure helped me."
My dad was sixty-two years old then, with nearly a half-century of drinking behind him.
Four months ago, Dad celebrated ten years of continued sobriety. They had a party for him in a small AA group in
northern Oklahoma. Four months from now--by the grace of God and the help of AA--I will have ten years of
Dad gave me a year's head start in AA and quit the hooch eight months ahead of me. He found sobriety before I did.
And as I sat with the daughter and a few close friends of the AA old-timer who was facing cancer surgery so calmly, I
realized that Dad had found serenity ahead of me, too.
The Answers Will Come
A father discovers the Big Book was right
THE MEETING had been over for two hours, but the warmth of it lingered. It was midnight on a Friday, and I lounged
in bed feeling good about my sobriety, the lead of that evening, the words of advice from my sponsor, the
horselaughs of an old-timer being kidded about his multicolored sport jacket.
The ring of the phone cut into my thoughts. It was a police detective. "We've picked up your son Christopher. He was
caught smoking marijuana and drinking beer in the park. We'd like you to come get him."
This was the third time Chris had been nailed for the same offense, beer and grass. The other two times, the sheriff
had brought him home. After several weeks of being confined to the house, no privileges but plenty of boredom, the
incidents were forgotten. Now, the scab was being picked again. I saw myself in Chris. Was he headed toward the
insane way of life that delivered me so much grief? What could I do to help him?
Because of that night's meeting and all the meetings before, I had no desire to take a drink. I prayed as I drove to the
jailhouse. I thought of the promise the Big Book makes on page 84: "We will intuitively know how to handle situations
which used to baffle us."
The three teenage boys were seated around a conference-room table. Their backs were to me when I came into the
room. They didn't see me enter. Several other parents were silently standing about. The arresting officer was seated
across from the boys. At the end of the table was a plainclothes detective with a gun tucked in his belt, reading the
riot act to the glazed-out kids.
One of the boys was crying. He couldn't remember his phone number or his mother's name. Obviously, it was his first
clash with the law.
The other boy was red-faced and sullen. His mother threatened to "box his ears" when he got home. She'd need a
ladder to reach them. The kid was over six feet tall.
Chris sat there like he was in geography class. Relaxed. No problem. Soon, it'd be all over and forgotten.
Exactly the way it was with me. Somebody was always lining my bottom with soft goose feathers. I was always forgiven
for my drunks. Punishment was threatened, rarely delivered. Regardless of what I did or who I hurt, I would invariably
hear: "You're not an alcoholic." Or "One more time and you'd better have your resume written. Now get back to your
office." Or "Do it again and I'll go home to Mother. What do you want for supper?" I was always let off the hook as
gently as possible.
The detective continued to chew on the kids. One of the fathers leaned against the wall. He was half in the bag.
Fumes of bourbon began to drift over to me.
If that had been me during my drinking days, I wouldn't have been at home when the phone rang. Not on a Friday
night. And if bad luck had put me near the phone, I'd have been more than slumping on the wall. I'd probably have
been shouting advice to my son from the drunk tank.
Suddenly, I felt tremendously virtuous. For the first time in my life, I was looking at angry cops who weren't directing
their wrath at me. I saw myself standing there like a statue, an angel with folded hands, eyes piously closed, dressed
in a long white gown with sandals, with a halo shedding rays of goodwill upon everyone in the room.
I snapped back to reality when the detective looked up at the parents and asked if there were any questions. Silence.
He dismissed the boys and told us to take them home. That's when I screwed up the courage to speak. Courage is
the right word. When I see men wearing guns, I tend to clam up.
Chris, the two police officers, and I sat alone at the table. I mentioned that this wasn't Christopher's first offense.
Then, words came to me that seemed to get through to my son.
"I can't change you, Chris. I can't make you stop drinking and smoking grass. There is no punishment I can offer that
will keep you out of trouble. These officers can't change you, either. In spite of all the threats they made tonight, you'll
be back here again and again until you change your attitude. You're the only one who can change you. Nobody else
can do it. I learned that the hard way, and I hope you don't have to travel that path.
"So I'm asking the arresting officer to do you a big favor. I want him to write a note on your file that the next time you
get in trouble, you'll be put behind bars. When they call me at home, I don't want to be told to come and get you. The
only way you'll learn is by hitting your bottom as hard and as painfully as possible. Wake up in the drunk tank in the
midst of vomit and urine. Face the judge with sweat rolling off your skin, with your head pounding and your body
stinking and your soul filled with terror and remorse."
I can hear his grandmother saying, "How can you love your son and treat him that way?"
My answer is "Because I love him."
Chris values my sobriety. I believe he isn't copying my actions of the past. If he is, that's something else I can't
change. Yet I'm convinced that if I got drunk, his heart would be broken. It may be he has the same disease I have. If
so, thank God I have the tools to help him, the identical tools he may eventually be using. They are available because
One of the beautiful things about AA is the sharing of problems and insights. A member of the Fellowship told me of
his son, who has a drug and booze problem, had a car accident last week, and was just released from the hospital
with more than a hundred stitches in his body. Another dear friend told me of his son, who isn't walking around today.
This young man received a stiff jail sentence for sticking up a filling station while under the two influences.
I grieve for them as I do for my son. But I can't change them. Only myself. My problems haven't gone away just
because I'm sober. The truth is, they've increased. But it's a joy to fearlessly face the problems with serene
confidence that the answers will intuitively come. Page 84 of the Big Book says so. It's the God's truth.
PO Box 1980
Just one drink away
As a recovering alcoholic, I know only too well that alcoholism is a disease. It took about sixteen years of drinking for
me to grasp this simple concept and finally admit that I had a disease.
I have eagerly pointed out to others that alcoholism is a disease, and have often been angered by those who blame
or stigmatize still-suffering alcoholics for their drinking problem.
Yet, at meetings, I have been guilty of practicing what I detest so much. I tend to blame fellow alcoholics for "slipping"
or relapsing. I justify this by pronouncing "they just weren't ready yet" or "they would have been okay if they'd just
followed directions." Somehow, I have managed to give myself permission to talk out of both sides of my mouth.
As with any disease, relapse is a possibility. I do not fault or blame the person who has a second heart attack due to
his not following the doctor's advice. I would never accuse a person whose diabetes has flared up of not being ready
to recover. However, with this disease of alcoholism, I am a finger pointer.
My rationalizations, projections, etc. are based on fear. Simply put, when a brother or sister relapses, I hit the panic
button to deal with the thought that I too am one drink away from my next drunk.
I am truly grateful to this program that has allowed me the opportunity to identify character defects and has shown me
the way to change. In the future I plan not to blame or judge, but to accept and help.
PO Box 1980
The South Bend, Indiana AA Fellowship would like to share with all the Grapevine readers our recent experience. Our
city hosted the 1987 International Summer Special Olympics Games. Because of the tremendous influx of people into
the community, our public information committee and central service office felt there was a need for daily closed
meetings of AA at the site of the games, the Notre Dame campus.
Our daily noon meeting was a success. Those AA members from other parts of the country who attended met local
enthusiasm with gratitude. What resulted were surely hours of sharing and caring made possible only through the gift
of sobriety and the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.
PO Box 1980
AA in the '90s
I've been reading the Grapevine for about seven years and think that September's is one of the very strongest issues
I've ever seen. Collectively the articles present many of the major issues that our Fellowship is going to have to
grapple with in the next two decades. My theory is that a number of megatrends are going to converge in that time
and in order for AA to remain viable it must be prepared to operate and to be attractive to alcoholics in a cultural
environment quite different from ours of the '90s and very different from that of the '30s. Some of these trends are the
empowerment of women, the struggle of race relations, and the maturation of the Baby Boom generation; advances in
the scientific understanding of alcoholism and AA's relations to the medical and treatment industries; the coming
reformation of popular religion; the influences of mass media, pop culture, and post-literate education; as well as the
maturation and institutionalization of AA itself. I'm pleased that "AA in the '90s" covers at least half of these issues.
Petulant cries of "Keep it simple, stupid" are surely not what's needed and, if they become AA's dominant voice, will
only insure that we go the way of countless other, defunct mythologies. Our essential mission is simple, but it must be
carried out in an increasingly complex and improbable world. To pretend that our members (and potential members)
have the same backgrounds and needs as twenty-five or fifty years ago is to invite failure. So, I salute the
Grapevine's efforts to spur AA's self-examination and informed group conscience.
In particular, I am concerned by the ramifications of what Joan Jackson observed about AA's literature serving "a
stabilizing and dynamic role in mitigating the speed and nature of change. At any given point in time, AA's literature
spells out what AA is--its culture." I fully agree with her observation, and I too am deeply impressed by the quality and
verisimilitude of AA's Conference-approved literature. The source of my concern, though, is whether the written word
will continue to be the coin of the realm. All the evidence points to its decline and the ascendancy of electronic media.
If the results of the Grapevine's inventory questionnaire are even remotely reflective of your readership, you'll have to
agree that the Grapevine (and, I conjecture, all AA literature) is simply not reaching the post-Baby Boom
generations--not, in my opinion, because they find it irrelevant, but because they simply do not read. Furthermore,
since it is the nature of electronic media to promote the message carrier above the message carried (personalities
before principles), I wonder how a profound spiritual principle like anonymity will be transmitted to the next generation.
Printed words protect anonymity almost absolutely and allow the communication of complex and abstract ideas. Audio
tape somewhat less so. Video tape hardly at all. I don't think I'm being recklessly apocalyptic when I say we face one
hell of a challenge.
Ham on Wry
ONE CALL AMONG MANY on an intergroup's line:
"What kind of an outfit are you AAs running anyhow? I sent my husband to you two years ago and you haven't done
"What do you mean?"
"Well, he tells me you haven't voted him in or even sent him a membership application yet. And he sure ain't gettin'
any better waitin' for y'all."
"I'm sorry, ma'm, but nobody gets voted into AA and the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.
We have no dues or fees for membership, so if he really wants to quit all he has to do is give us a call."
"Then he ain't nothin' but a damned big liar."
"That's one symptom, ma'm."
"There's a woman at the nursing home who is asking for a ride to a meeting. It's a good opportunity for service work. If
interested, see me after the meeting." As the meeting continued, I thought about that announcement. I still had a lot of
fears about meeting people I didn't know, leery of unknown situations. Yet somehow this commitment seemed "safe."
After the meeting, a friend and I agreed to take the commitment together. We were given a scrap of paper with the
address of the nursing home, and the name and room number of "Holly." She was only thirty-two years old. As I
walked out to my car, I asked why such a young woman was in a nursing home. The answer was, "She has AIDS."
This would be my first personal contact with someone diagnosed with AIDS. Even though I knew I couldn't catch AIDS
from eating with someone or taking them to a meeting, my face must have showed some emotion. "If you're upset
about it, I can get someone else to pick her up. I only told you of her health because Holly explicitly said she wanted
the person taking her to the meeting to have no surprises."
"It's not about AIDS. It's about one drunk talking to another. Of course I'll go get her."
It was Christmas time, and I was closing in on two years of sobriety. Normally I went home for the holidays, but not this
year. My sponsor had suggested I make AA my family this year. I remember thinking that Holly was now a part of my
AA family so neither of us had to be alone for the holidays.
I was plenty nervous the night my friend and I went to pick up Holly. It was bitter cold, and I was shivering. We found
Holly's room to be in total darkness, save for the light from a tiny black and white TV she had on the night stand. "I
really didn't think you girls would come" was the greeting from the hospital bed. Holly was all bones, with sunken
cheeks and circles under her eyes. We managed a smile and introduced ourselves. She asked us to step outside
while she got dressed.
Once in the hallway, we whispered frantically and I realized I was shaking from fear, as well as cold. I had doubts Holly
could get out of bed, let alone leave the nursing home. Suddenly this was all too much, too depressing. The holiday
decorations on the patients' doors and windows seemed to add to my anxiety. I had serious doubts about ever
volunteering to do this again. We had brought our Big Books and Step books--maybe we could just have a meeting in
her room. Then a nurse's aide came by to thank us for taking Holly out on her birthday. Her birthday!
I remembered to say the Serenity Prayer a few dozen times, and soon Holly opened the door, with a smile on her face
that said it all. She wanted Chinese food, and we headed to a restaurant close to our meeting. There was awkward
small talk: about the weather (it had begun to snow lightly), the holidays, then our backgrounds. Before I knew it, it
was simply one alcoholic talking to another. Holly's story was a lot like my own. She then talked of her son, who was
being raised by someone else. She hadn't seen him for a few years, and she'd been on her way to the East Coast to
see him again, probably for the last time. But she'd gotten really sick and wound up in the nursing home. Now she
needed her physical strength back, but she also needed to get in some solid AA.
After eating, Holly was too tired to go to a meeting. But we had a powerful meeting right there in the restaurant. We
sat for hours, each of us sharing our experience, strength, and hope. My fears and anxieties had vanished. We ate
fortune cookies until we found the fortunes we liked. When we drove back to the nursing home, we gave Holly a Big
Book and a "Twelve and Twelve," and promised her our prayers for the future.
It was an incredible experience in that drafty diner; even today I get chills (higher powered ones) when I remember
Holly. She died within a few months of that night. She never got to see her son but she stayed sober. I've met a lot of
people like her through the years--people facing extreme situations who only want another day of sobriety. I am so
thankful to her, for that night she taught me and gave me so much more than I gave her.
Saying Good-bye to Lee
One more gift of the program
On Monday, March 25, 2005, seven of us from our home group went to another member's house rather than go to
the regular meeting. He had been deteriorating physically for some time, and had not been able to make our meeting
for a few months. Many of us had stopped by singly during this time to visit, help, and offer what we could, but the
previous Monday his wife (also a member of the group) had wondered if some of us could come over and hold a
meeting at their house. The sign-up sheet was quickly filled, and we went on with our regular order of business; well,
as regular as thirty or so recovering alcoholics holding two simultaneous meetings at two different tables in a rather
small church basement can be. It seems to work for us. (Our group will celebrate thirty-nine years this September.)
Lee C. had been an articulate, expressive, eccentric member of our group for many years. Full of the gratitude, joy,
and enthusiasm that only those who have escaped our common catastrophe can possess and understand, he was
sought after as a speaker as much for the unique way he put words together as he was for the message of hope he
carried. Cancer had relegated him to bed--comatose much of the time. When he did attempt to speak, most of what
he said was gibberish or unrelated words, although there were brief moments of startling lucidity. Perhaps his wife
said it best when she reflected, "It seems that sometimes these terrible diseases take away the most exceptional part
of someone first." She's quite a member of AA in her own right.
The meeting started at 8:00 P.M. sharp. Regular format: announcements, moment of silence, Preamble, "How It
Works," Twelve Traditions, reading, request for topic silence. The chair started to tell some stories about Lee and
somehow the topic became what Lee meant to him. Seemed like a worthwhile topic to the rest of us, and we started
around the circle. About halfway around, one of our newer members, was speaking when Lee's eyes opened and with
a big smile on his face he said, as clear as a bell, "Todd? Hey, is that Todd?" Todd walked around the bed so Lee
could see him and said, "Hi." Lee looked around at us all and asked, "What are you doing here?" Todd answered,
"We're having a meeting." With great sincerity, Lee said, "That's good." We decided to take a little break so we could
talk to Lee individually, the smokers could go outside and smoke, and we could all ask for inspiration and acceptance.
This was when things took a miraculous turn for this alcoholic. Five years ago, an old and dear nonalcoholic friend of
mine was in a hospice, rapidly losing his battle with cancer. We had been friends for close to forty years, and I was
fortunate to have the time available to visit him regularly. He had been comatose for a week and had not spoken or
recognized anyone in that time. Before our home group meeting, I was talking to Lee and he asked, "How's Wally?" I
explained the latest prognosis. There was little hope that Wally would regain consciousness and he would more than
likely be gone by the end of the week. Lee said, "Make sure you say good-bye the next time you see him." I answered,
"He's completely unaware. He doesn't know I'm there." Lee said, "Try it. I'm a vet. You might be surprised. What have
you got to lose?" When next I visited Wally, this short conversation came to mind as I was leaving his room and,
although I felt somewhat foolish, I returned to his bed, put my hand on his shoulder, and said, "Good-bye, Wally." His
eyes instantly opened, his head turned, he looked directly into my eyes, and he was right there. He nodded his head
yes, smiled, and said "Good-bye, Hop (my nick-name), good-bye." His eyes closed and he went back to sleep. Two
days later, he died. I couldn't thank Lee enough.
In the days before the meeting, the realization set in that things had come full circle and it was going to be imperative
that I say good-bye to Lee. It just felt like it was something he would like. This situation was a bit different, though. We
were not going to have the benefit of privacy. We were going to be in a meeting. There were going to be many things
going on. Fortunately, the program has taught me what to do in these confusing situations--ask my Higher Power for
help. On the way to pick up Todd (it's best to have some company), I asked for help and guidance, if this was what he
wanted me to do. I asked to be made aware of the proper moment because I am self-centered and insensitive.
During the break, I found myself at the bedside with just Lee and his wife in the room. Funny how things work out if
you remember to ask for help. Lee had been lucid for a short time, but it was obvious that he was fading. He saw me
over his wife's shoulder and his smile brightened the room. "Hey buddy, how are you doing?" he said. "Pretty good," I
answered. "How about you?" "Not too bad," he said, looking down at his hands and saying a little softer, "Saying
good-byes you know, saying good-byes." And the little voice in the back of my mind fairly shouted, "Oh, this is it!" and
the words that came out of my mouth before I could think were, "That's why I'm here Lee, to say good-bye. Good-bye,
Lee." He looked up, held out his arms, and his smile was even brighter. Best hug I've ever had in AA. I asked him to
save me a seat in the Big Meeting, preferably near the cookies (we're cookie brothers). He chuckled and said I could
bet on it. The others came in. We finished the sharing. We stood up, joined hands in a circle around our sleeping
brother, and closed the meeting with the Lord's Prayer. Amen.
P.S. Early in the morning on Easter Sunday, Lee C. died quietly in his sleep with his wife at his side. Hoppy H.
Burns Harbor, Indiana