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Grapevine : February 2011
the morning terror and madness, and yet were laughing about it. Be- cause he seemed to be so grateful for his sobriety, I wanted to talk to him even more. He told me that the center makes all the residents attend "AA meetings" each day in their large meeting room, but those meetings are run by the residents themselves. He went on to tell me that even though they mean well, they just don't have a clue. I wondered how many people would leave that treat- ment center thinking AA wouldn't work for them. I made a decision to attend a meeting there the very next week, and so I did. My first meeting there was far from sensational. In fact, I would be lying if I said anything other than it was the worst meeting I've ever been to. First off, the place was filled with people who looked like they hadn't showered in weeks or months. Everyone and everything smelled. They were wearing clothes that were torn and tattered. The treatment center doubles as a soup kitchen and a cold-weather bed shelter. Many of the residents are just looking for something warm to eat and a dry place to sleep so they can go back out and do more battle the next day. If there were a war on alcoholism, this would indeed be the trenches of the front line. Before the meeting started, I did what I customarily do at every meeting I go to: I walked around the room, paused at every person there, looked them square in the eye, shook their hand and introduced myself. The pain and suffering I saw in their eyes was almost too much to bear, but there were a few who reacted much as I did at my first AA meeting. The experience came back to me in a flash and I almost cried. I remem- bered how happy I'd felt that these strangers took the time to shake my hand even though I didn't feel like I deserved such attention or formality. The meeting started out with an introduction as an open meet- ing. We went around the room and introduced ourselves and then pro- ceeded to read all the handouts. This 'I've heard all my life that people can actually get sober from AA. I didn't believe it till about a month ago. Can you help me find a sponsor?' Right then and there, I experienced an overwhelming sense of power that wiped out all those smells, noises and sights. Grapevine 53