Giving it Away

by Jerry B.

During this difficult time when A.A.’s are trying to navigate circumstances we’ve never  confronted before, I sit in my Zoom meetings and think about how fortunate we are to have Alcoholics Anonymous offering us the degree of fellowship, connection and hope our non-alcoholic brothers and sisters are forced to do without. Throughout our literature we are taught to “fit ourselves out to be of maximum use to God and to our fellows.” During this time – and we don’t know how long it may be – when we can’t approach a newcomer with a cup of coffee, a handshake and a warm welcome, our primary purpose has not changed. It remains our responsibility to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.

The name of the game is still, as it has always been, giving it away for free and for fun

In the last days of my drinking, living in a welfare hotel on the upper West Side of Manhattan, I hope I never forget how useless I had become: Useless to myself, to my family and to my community. Alcohol had robbed me of not only my abilities, but more destructively, my desire as well. When I was introduced to Alcoholics Anonymous in Minneapolis, I was blessed to fall in with a group of A.A. “warriors” – men and woman who lived by the principles of love and service. The word suggestion wasn’t part of their vocabulary, but the words discipline, guidance and direction were.

I was taught when I walked into a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous there was someone in that room I could help; my job was to find that person. I was taught that my arm needed to be spring loaded. When a job or commitment needed to be done in A.A., or anywhere else for that matter, and the call went out for volunteers, my arm should shoot up, on its own. My sponsor said, “Outside of A.A. people should think there is something special about you. They don’t know what it is, and you’re not telling them what it is. We don’t wear A.A. on our sleeve. All they know is that you’re always offering to help, sometimes in the smallest of ways.”

My life began to have new meaning and a new purpose. When A.A.’s needed to move, we had moving parties. When an apartment needed to be painted, we had painting parties. When folks were on the last day of their first year in A.A., we had watch parties. We stayed with them till past midnight, so they knew and we knew they had made it. It was a big deal and we wanted them to know it was a big deal. They were part of something very special, and all we wanted in return was for them to pay it forward with the next generation of sober alcoholics coming up behind us.

When a job needed to be done and the call went out for volunteers, my arm should shoot up on its own

photo caption available upon request to thepoint@aasfmarin.org

My life in A.A. taught me how to replace selfishness and self-centeredness with a willingness and desire to help others: as often as I can, in any way I can. If you knew me on the street, you’d know what a transformation God has performed in me. This is not who I was. I am truly a miracle. There’s no other way to explain it.

The coronavirus and Zoom meetings haven’t changed any of this. When a newcomer identifies himself in my meeting, he could be in my town or he could be thousands of miles away. My responsibility hasn’t changed. I’m obligated, and actually privileged, to welcome him to the meeting and see where I might help. I try to get his number so I can call and see how he’s doing. At this moment in A.A., people counting days desperately need our help more, not less, than ever.

Our primary purpose has not changed. We need to continue reaching out to newcomers and offering them our experience, strength and hope. The name of the game is still, as it has always been, giving it away for free and for fun. Thank God for Alcoholics Anonymous. Were it not for A.A., I would have long since been gone and forgotten, and none of this would have happened. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

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