WHO’S SITTING NEXT TO YOU?
I know who you are. You are “X” who attends the ABC Meeting at the
XYZ Club where AAs meet in Anywhere, U.S.A.
I saw you there the other night at the eight o’clock meeting. I don’t
know how long you’ve been sober, but I know you’ve been coming around
for a while because you spoke to a lot of people who knew you.
I wasn’t one of them.
You don’t know who I am. I wandered into your meeting place alone the
other night, a stranger in a strange town. I got a cup of coffee,
paid for it, and sat down by myself.
You didn’t speak to me.
Oh, you saw me. You glanced my way, but you didn’t recognize me, so
you quickly averted your eyes and sought out a familiar face.
I sat there through the meeting.
It was okay, a slightly different format but basically the same kind
of meeting as the one I go to at home.
The topic was gratitude. You and your friends spoke about how much AA
means to you. You talked about the camaraderie in your meeting place.
You said how much the people there had helped you when you first came
through the door – how they extended the hand of friendship to make
you feel welcome, and asked you to come back.
And I wondered where they had gone, those nice people who made your
entrance so welcoming and so comfortable.
You talked about how the newcomer is the life blood of AA. I agree,
but I didn’t say so. In fact, I didn’t share in your meeting. I
signed my name in the book that was passed around, but the
chairperson didn’t refer to it. He only called on those people in the
room whom he knew.
So who am I? You don’t know, because you didn’t bother to find out.
Although yours was a closed meeting, you didn’t even ask if I
It might have been my first meeting. I could have been full of fear
and distrust, knowing AA wouldn’t work any better than anything else
I’d tried, and I would have left convinced that I was right.
I might have been suicidal, grasping at one last straw, hoping
someone would reach out and pull me from the pit of loathing and
self-pity from which, by myself, I could find no escape.
I might have been a student with a tape recorder in my pocket,
assigned to write a paper on how AA works – someone who shouldn’t
have been permitted to sit there at all but could have been directed
to an open meeting to learn what I needed to know.
Or I could have been sent by the courts, wanting to know more, but
afraid to ask.
It happens that I was none of the above.
I was just an ordinary drunk with a few years of sober living in AA
who was traveling and was in need of a meeting.
My only problem that night was that I’d been alone with my own mind
too long. I just needed to touch base with my AA family.
I know from past experience that I could have walked into your
meeting place smiling, stuck out my hand to the first person I saw
and said, “Hi. My name is – . I’m an alcoholic from – .”
If I’d felt like doing that, I probably would have been warmly
welcomed. You would have asked me if I knew Old So-and-so from my
state, or you might have shared a part of your drunkalog that
occurred in my part of the country.
Why didn’t I? I was hungry, lonely, and tired. The only thing missing
was angry, but three out of four isn’t a good place for me to be.
So I sat silently through your meeting, and when it was over I
watched enviously as all of you gathered in small groups, talking to
one another the same way we do in my home town.
You and some of your friends were planning a meeting after the
meeting at a nearby coffee shop. By this time I had been silent too
long to reach out to you. I stopped by the bulletin board to read the
notices there, kind of hanging around without being too obvious,
hoping you might ask if I wanted to join you, but you didn’t.
As I walked slowly across the parking lot to my car with the
out-of-state license plates you looked my way again. Our eyes met
briefly and I mustered a smile. Again, you looked away.
I buckled my seat belt, started the car, and drove to the motel where
I was staying.
As I lay in my bed waiting for sleep to come, I made a gratitude
list. You were on it, along with your friends at the meeting place. I
knew that you were there for me, and that I needed you far more than
you needed me. I knew that if I had needed help, and had asked for
it, you would have gladly given it. But I wondered . . . what if I
hadn’t been able to ask?
I know who you are.
Do you remember me?
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