MY ACCIDENTAL VISIT TO AN AA MEETING
Updated: Apr 29, 2019
A couple of years ago I was doing a play in Connecticut. The theatre put me up in a lovely old house that was next to a beautiful building that used to be a church but now operated as the town meeting hall. There was something always going on there. When there was an event at the hall the overflow parking came over to our cast house parking area.
One incredibly gorgeous spring Sunday morning, before a matinee performance, I thought I would head out to a grocery store to pick up some candy or cupcakes for the cast/crew. The company car was blocked in by one of the overflow cars. I went over to the meeting hall to see if I could find the driver so they could move their car to let me out. I was directed to the basement meeting room. When I entered the room I found myself in the middle of an AA meeting. I wasn’t going to interrupt the meeting because I wanted to purchase sweets so I sat down and observed something that effected me in a most profound way.
It was a varied group of people there. Older, younger, male, female.
It seemed that day’s topic was gratitude. The sponsor called on individuals...invited them to share how their week went...how they were doing...what they had to be grateful for. One man said, after the required “My name is...and I am an alcoholic” “It pisses me off that I have to be here. It’s such a gorgeous spring day. Why do I have to drive to this meeting when I could be outside?” Then he paused, looked down and said, “But I remember when I was drinking I never saw beautiful days because I slept all day and drank all night.” There were mumbles... murmurings...nodding heads. Those murmurs and head nods came from a place of recognition. Many of them probably shared that sentiment and that experience.
Another man shared how hard it is for him to walk by a restaurant or a cafe and watch people just drinking a glass of wine...something he can’t do anymore.
There were so many stories I heard that day.
I didn’t truly realize the boulders people with an addiction to alcohol have to carry every day. The finish line is never there. In this goal oriented world we live in...if you are in a program to maintain sobriety, there is no finish line. As much as you try to Lady Macbeth it and “out damn spot” the alcoholism...the spot never disappears. The only goal...one day at a time. It’s as simple and as difficult as that.
I’m a casual drinker. And a cheap date...one and a half martinis and I will sing you the score of CANDIDE (not in Barbara Cook’s key...PLEASE). And I never tried any kind of hard drugs. Smoked a little weed. I had my first pot brownie a few weeks ago...quick cut to waking up in my bed fully clothed. So, I will never be a member of The Rolling Stones. But I can certainly
attest to my craving for chocolate, or pasta, or pizza...you name it. Food is my go to comfort. I love to cook. Enjoy having people over to my home and feeding them. I’m Italian. To us food is love. It can pacify. But I also know how difficult it is to fight off those cravings.
Years ago I was up for an acting gig I really wanted...a lot of callbacks...and then...no offer. My agent knew how disappointed I was. He said, and he totally meant this to help, “Just go out and eat a box of Entenmann’s doughnuts.” Always one to listen to my agent (well, not always) I DID JUST THAT.
But the thing is...after that box of doughnuts I didn’t need to see the Entenmann’s logo for some time. It was one (box) and done.
These beautiful souls I encountered that spring day were just trying to get through another day sober. Another wedding where they can’t partake the champagne toast. Another picnic where they couldn’t enjoy a cold beer. Another wine tasting they have to pass on. The strength it takes...the will power.
It could be that liquor made them feel better about themselves. Better about the world. I watched an interview with Ali MacGraw (of LOVE STORY fame) talking about her battle with alcoholism. She said something so revealing. That she didn’t drink a glass of wine to taste the new year...she drank it because it gave her courage as she had so much doubt about herself.
Addiction has befallen a couple members of my family. It’s painful to watch. You want to help... throttle...yell...look away...walk away.
That Sunday morning, with those brave people facing another uphill battle and talking about gratitude, gave me a perspective I didn’t have before. That AA meeting provided me with a little more empathy. A little more understanding. Less judgement. You don’t know another’s journey unless you walk in their shoes. So, I gotta put on the jacket of love more often instead of the judgement robe.
When the meeting was over and I walked out into that spectacular spring day I breathed a little deeper. Took in the beauty of it all. And the beauty of what I just witnessed. The beauty of watching a group of people, in community, there to keep each other buoyant. To help keep each other sober. To have each other’s backs.
It’s a lesson for us all.