My first meeting was on a cold February evening in 1989. I had accepted that I was completely beaten by alcoholism and needed something, anything, to help me.
I was in terrible physical shape. I was white as a sheet, and had tried to shave resulting in many nicks on my face which I covered in toilet paper bits, thinking I’d remove them when I got to the meeting (I forgot to do this).
I walked into a church basement just before the appointed time, and there were two really old (even older than I am now!) members sitting at the table. Ed and Jimmy, I later learned, had been sitting at that table for decades.
For many reasons, this should have felt very uncomfortable to me. It didn’t. Within a very short time, I felt that I had arrived home. They told their stories but I thought their stories must have been prepared just for me. They told me the story of my experience beyond my current, defeated situation. They were the common experiences of alcoholism. They told about their own experiences at the end of their drinking. The hopelessness, pain, and remorse that had come to define my secret life.
More importantly, they told me what it was like to recover, have hope, and move beyond my currently desperate situation. A weight was somehow lifted from my very being.
Others joined the table that night, and I learned, but more importantly felt, that I was no longer alone. There was a name for what I was experiencing – alcoholism. And there was a solution and people who were willing to help.
I’ve also come to understand that I was very lucky to see not the differences of age, language or experience, but the similarities of their experience to my own. At that time in my life, I was very judgmental thanks to my own insecurities, and I feel very fortunate that I was desperate enough to have an open mind.
I haven’t had a drink since, and I still remember Ed and Jimmy.