Sometime in the spring of 1991, I was in a meeting. Now look, I had been to many meetings before, but this particular meeting brought new meaning to me. You see, at that moment I began to understand what people were reading, at the beginning of the meeting. How It Works, The Serenity Prayer, The Promises, etc. began to make sense, in plain English terms. Before that I only heard echoes of words, that made no sense to me. The many years of alcohol and drugs, my brain was damaged beyond repair, I thought. People sometimes said, “Chuck, maybe this is the best you’ve got.” The fear of getting worse and ending up like one of those street guys was enough to motivate me not to drink. However, there were times when I thought what was the point and wanted to give up, but I never did. No matter how bad I felt or how hard life seemed to be, I never gave up. I knew deep down that this was my last and only life without alcohol. I couldn’t see myself without drinking, but at the same time I knew that alcohol would send me to a death worse than dying. You see my last drunk wanted to die, my wife left with our son. Life as she had come to know it, because it was a living hell. I arrived the next morning. even after drinking enough to put the average guy in a coma or even kill him. He knew that drinking would never kill bread. It made things worse. Somehow, somehow I needed to go on. I have to be better than I am now. If only I could see something that would show me, there is something good about not drinking besides not drinking. Yes, I felt better in the morning. Yeah, I couldn’t think of an alibi for my whereabouts last night. Neither fines nor accidents, I wanted to feel loved and useful. I wanted to like I wanted friends, but most of all I wanted someone to tell me if I’m better and doing better, because frankly, I just didn’t know!
Meanwhile, while I was thinking about all this, the meeting started and continued. It’s time for announcements. Oh boy, here we go with the same boring blah blah about open talks and social events I was too scared to go to. This old man stands up and walks to the front of the room, next to the podium, and takes a deep breath. It seems as if he is trying to stifle his emotions, as if he is announcing the death of his mother or another close relative. No, instead his eyes are full of stars, a big smile crosses his face and he says, “I remember when this young man first came into the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, he was devastated. He was scared and angry, he felt hopeless and asked me to help him. We work together through the Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, and he is a different man. So it gives me great pleasure, and would you help me congratulate Steve P., who is celebrating a year dropped, and my eyes widened and filled with tears. I felt something in that hallway, never felt it before. I never saw anything like it in my life ever. Steve was smiling like the old man, his sponsor , and tears were streaming down his face. He had this bronze token in his hand like it was a gold medal from the Olympics. Everyone was shaking his hand and hugging him. I heard Steve tell his story in previous meetings and to me he had become much worse than me . The first thing that came to mind was, if Steve can do it, so can I. He said that his sponsor not only guided him through the Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, but he also made coffee and helped organize his home group meeting. His sponsor added that he was also the president of the group. Well, the gears started turning in my head. If I want to get what Steve got, I’ll have to do what Steve did.
The following Sunday I got to my home group early and asked Ray and another guy to help me set it up. They said sure! I felt a little bit on the important side, because I thought that only certain people were allowed to be the coffee makers and prepare the meetings. Also, it seemed like anyone willing to help clean up could. On Thursday, in the same meeting room, Ray and another guy were making coffee and I asked if I could help again. Ray showed me how to make the coffee and set up the area where we put the coffee, cream and sugar. This went on for a few weeks and I was finally given the key to the salon, Ray and Bob saying I was ready to handle a big responsibility. I could handle the responsibility myself. I just looked at the keys and was scared and proud at the same time. They told me to pray and ask for GOD’s help and I’ll be fine. Before my first meeting as a coffee maker and installer, I did as I was told and everything went great. Ray was chairing the meeting at the time, and I watched how he did it, because he hoped to be president one day. Hit the gavel, ask for a moment of silence for those who suffer, choose people to read “How it works”, The promises, etc. You know it’s a lot of responsibility.
A couple of months went by, and Ray came to me and said that he was going out of town to visit his mother, and that I would take over as president until he came back. He was beaming with pride and as scared as he was, I accepted the responsibility. I did the same thing Ray did. I handed out the readings, called the meeting to order, which meant I asked for a moment of silence for all those who were suffering, and began the Serenity Prayer. I stood there scared and proud, thinking to myself, “I finally feel like someone.” The following week, Ray called and said that he couldn’t come to the meeting because he was still visiting his mother and that he needed a special favor from her. I’m thinking to myself, here I am, the coffee maker, the installer, what’s next? Now he is secretary and treasurer and now he wants me to do what? I know I’m a hyperactive guy with endless energy, but come on, enough is enough! Although Ray’s voice was different this time. He said, Chuck, this is a very important task and a great honor. I want you to give Danny his 9-year token. Danny, was a man whose wife had died because she had gone back to drinking and came close to drinking himself, but somehow managed to stay sober. Danny said things that helped me in meetings, and I thought it would be weird if I was the one giving him his sobriety anniversary gift, after all, he hadn’t even been sober for a year. What about Gary B., I said? Chuck, it was Gary’s idea for you to give Danny his file. You’ll do fine
On Sunday, I made coffee. I organized everything for the AA meeting, while rehearsing my speech. I wanted this to be as seamless as possible, and it sounded pretty good too.
The meeting went on as usual. He asked for a moment of silence, and had to yell at the guys behind to shut up, that a meeting was starting. The readings over, I’m still rehearsing my speech, in my head for the umpteenth time. Finally it was time to make the announcement. I held the token in my hand and rubbed all the sweat on my shirt. I said, beginning to choke, “It is my great pleasure to give Danny F. his nine-year token.” People stood up and applauded. Hell, I didn’t think it was that good. Danny walked up to me. I gave him the tab. He hugged me! Oh Lord! Why do men have to hug? Yes. Someone yelled, “How did you do it? He let me go. Thank GOD. He said, by the Grace of GOD, the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, my Sponsor Ray, and you guys.” I stood there with tears in my eyes. my face and I didn’t care Giving someone an anniversary token is like letting them know you are there for them and giving them that pat on the back that many of us need from time to time, congratulations and thank you all at the same time.
Another month or so passed, now it was March 3rd, next week will be my first anniversary, as long as I don’t drink. At every meeting I attended, people asked me how I was doing. They must have known, I was afraid I wouldn’t make it. For the last year, I had been going through a divorce and hadn’t seen my son, who was now 3 years old, while he was trying to stay sober. All of that really hurt me. I kept making coffee, organizing the meetings in my home group and also chairing them. Ray, was treasurer and secretary. Funny how it worked that way. He was sure there was some kind of conspiracy afoot. I thought of Danny. He never gave up and he never gave up. I thought of Steve P. He never gave up and he never gave up. I thought about how I was able to give my little brother a 5 year token. Finally, March 10th arrived and what a long day it was before the meeting started. All I did that day was think and look at the clock. It was finally 6:00 pm and I got to the meeting room earlier than usual because I couldn’t bear to wait any longer, doing my AA home group duties would help kill time and I felt safe there. I made the coffee, set up the coffee area, put out the meeting books, before I knew it I was at the front of the meeting and I asked, “Are there any announcements for the good of AA? My sponsor Gene, a huge celebrity, just ask the lawyer, he stood up with a big giant smile on his face, he stood up and started talking as he walked towards me, “It gives me the greatest of pleasures, to give to this little guy, who has grown up in this program and fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, their One Year Symbol.” People stood up, cheered, yelled “How did you do it? “He hugged me. Why do these guys keep hugging me? I just said, ‘Thank you.’ I didn’t do it, we did it!”
I will never forget that day as long as I live. It’s been more than twenty years since that day, and I haven’t found the need to have a drink since I came to Alcoholics Anonymous, and if I had, it certainly wouldn’t have been necessary.