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SITTING NEXT TO YOU?
© The A.A.
Grapevine, Inc., March 1991
know who you are. You are "X" who attends the
ABC Meeting at the XYZ Club where AAs meet in Anywhere,
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.
wasn't one of them.
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.
didn't speak to me.
you saw me. You glanced my way, but you didn't recognize
me, so you quickly averted your eyes and sought out a familiar
sat there through the meeting.
was okay, a slightly different format but basically the
same kind of meeting as the one I go to at home.
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.
I wondered where they had gone, those nice people who made
your entrance so welcoming and so comfortable.
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.
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 belonged there.
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.
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.
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
I could have been sent by the courts, wanting to know more,
but afraid to ask.
happens that I was none of the above.
was just an ordinary drunk with a few years of sober living
in AA who was traveling and was in need of a meeting.
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
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 - ."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
buckled my seat belt, started the car, and drove to the
motel where I was staying.
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?
know who you are.
you remember me?
D., New Orleans, Louisiana
© The A.A.
Grapevine, Inc., March 1991
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