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Sometime in the Spring of, 1991, I was at a meeting. Now mind you, I’d been to a lot meeting by this time, but this particular meeting brought on a new meaning for me. You see by this time I started to understand what people were reading, at the beginning of the meeting. How It Works, The Serenity Prayer, The Promises and so on, started to make sense, in terms of just simple English alone. Before then I just would hear echos of words, that didn’t make sense to me. The many years of booze and drugs, my brain was damaged beyond repair I thought. People would say at times, ” Chuck, maybe this is as good as you get. ” The fear of getting worse and winding up like one of those street guys, was enough to motivate me to not drink. However, there were times when I thought what’s the use and would want to give up, but I never did. No matter how bad I felt or hard life seemed to be, I never gave in. I knew deep down inside this was my last and only shot a life without booze. I couldn’t see myself not drinking, but at the same time I knew that alcohol would send me to a death worse then dying. You see my last drunk I wanted to die, my wife left with our son. Life as I had come to know it, because a living hell. I came to the next morning. even after drinking enough to put the average guy into a coma or even killing him. I knew drinking would never end the pain. It was made things worse. Somehow, some way I needed to keep on. I’ve got to get better than I am now. If I only I could see something that would show me, there’s something good about not drinking other than not drinking. Yes I felt better in the morning. Yes, I didn’t have come up with an alibi for my whereabouts the night before. No tickets or accidents either.I wanted to feel wanted, and useful. I wanted to be liked. I wanted friends, but most of all I wanted someone to tell me if I am better and doing better, because quite frankly, I just didn’t know!
Meanwhile, as I was thinking all this, the meeting started and was going on. It was time for the announcements. Oh boy here we go the same boring blah blah, about Open Talks, and social events I was too scared to go to. This old guy stands up and walks to the front of the hall, by the podium, and takes a huge deep breath. Seems like he’s trying to stifle his emotions, as if he’s announcing the death of his mother or another close relative. No instead, he gets all starry eyed, this big grin goes across his face and says, ” I remember when this young man first came into the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, he was broken. He was scared and angry,he felt hopeless and he asked me to help him. We worked together through the Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, and he’s a changed man. So it gives me great pleasure, and would you all help me congratulate Steve P., who is celebrating One Year of Sobriety! ” My jaw dropped,and my eyes wide open and tearing up. I felt something in that hall, I’d never felt before. I never saw anything like this in my life ever. Steve was grinning like the old guy, his sponsor, and tears were streaming down his face. He was holding this bronze token in his hand as if it were a gold medal from the Olympics. Everyone was shaking his hand and hugging him. I heard Steve tell his story at meetings before and to me he had gotten much worse than me. The first thing that came to mind was, if Steve can do it, so can I. He said that not only did his sponsor guide him through the Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, but he made coffee and helped set up for his home group meeting. His sponsor added that he also was Chairman for the group too. Well the gears started turning in my head. If I want to get what Steve got, I’m going to have to do what Steve did.
The following Sunday I got to my home group early and asked Ray and another guy if I could help set up. They said sure! I felt alittle on the important side, because I thought only certain people were allowed to be coffee makers and set up for the meetings. Besides it seemed anyone willing to help clean up could. Thursday at the same meeting hall, Ray and a different guy were making coffee, and I asked if I could help again. Ray showed me how to make the coffee and set up the area where we put the coffee, cream and sugar. This went on for a few weeks and finally I was given the key to the hall, Ray and Bob said I was ready to handle a big responsibility. I could handle the responsibility myself. I just looked at the keys and got scared and proud at the same time. They told me to pray and ask for GOD’s help and I’ll do just fine. Before my first meeting as the coffee maker and set up guy, I did what they said and everything turned out great. Ray was chairing the meeting by then, and I watched how he did it, because I had hopes of being chairman one day. Banging the gavel, asking for a moment of silence for those suffering, choosing people to read ” How It Works”, The Promises, and so on. You know that’s a lot of responsibility.
A couple of months went by, and Ray came to me and said he’s going to go out of town to visit his mother, and would I fill in as chairman until he gets back. I was beaming with pride and as scared as I was accepted the responsibility. I did just as Ray did. Handed out the readings, called the meeting to order, that meant I asked for a moment of silence for all those out there suffering and started the Serenity Prayer. I just stood there scared and proud, thinking to myself ” I’m finally feeling like somebody.” The following week Ray called and said he couldn’t make it to the meeting, because he was still visiting his mother and that he needed me to do a special favor. I’m thinking to myself, here I am, the coffee maker, set up guy, what’s next he’s now secretary and treasurer and now he wants me to do to what? I know I’m a hyper guy with endless energy, but come on now, enough is enough! Ray’s voice was different though this time. He said, Chuck this is a very important task and a great honor. I want you to give Danny his 9 year token. Danny, was a guy who’s wife had died because she had gone back to drinking and came close to drinking himself, but somehow managed to stay sober. Danny, said things a meetings the helped me, and I just thought it would be weird that I was to be the one to give him his sobriety anniversary token, after all, I hadn’t even got one year sober. What about Gary B., I said? Chuck, it was Gary’s idea you give Danny his token. You’ll do just fine
Sunday, I made the coffee. Set up everything for the AA meeting, all the while rehearsing my speech. I wanted this to be as perfect as I can, and I was sounding pretty darn good too.
The meeting went as it always gone. Asked for a moment of silence, and had to holler to the guys in the back to be quiet, that we have a meeting starting. Got through the readings, I’m still rehearsing my speech, in my head for the umpteenth time. Finally it came time, for me to make the announcement. I held the token in my hand and rubbing all the sweat off it, on my shirt. I said, starting to choke up, ” It gives me great pleasure to give Danny F. his nine year token.” People stood up and applauded. Heck I didn’t think I was that good. Danny came up to me. I gave him the token. He hugged me! Oh my GOD! Why do men have to hug? Yeck. Someone yelled out, ” How’d you do it? He let me go. Thank GOD. He said, by the Grace of GOD, the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, my Sponsor Ray, and you people. I stood there tears running down my face and I didn’t care. Giving someone, an Anniversary token is like, letting them know you’re there for them, and giving that pat on the back that so many of us need from time to time, congratulations and thanks, all at the same time.
Another month or so went by, it was now March 3rd, next week will be my One Year Anniversary, providing I don’t drink. Every meeting I went to, people asked me how I was doing. They must have known, I was scared I wouldn’t make it. During the last year, I was going through a divorce, and hadn’t seen my son, who was now 3 years old, all while trying to stay sober. I was really hurting from all that. I kept making coffee, setting up the meetings at my home group, and chaired them too. Ray, was treasurer and secretary. Funny, how that worked out that way. I was sure there was some sort of conspiracy going on. I thought of Danny. He never gave in and never gave up. I thought of Steve P. He never gave up and never gave in. I thought of how I was able to give my youngest brother has 5 year token. Finally, March 10th came and what a long day it was before the meeting would start. All I did that day was think and look at the clock. Finally it was 6pm and I got to the meeting hall earlier than normal, because I couldn’t stand waiting anymore, doing my AA home group duties would help kill some time and I felt safe there. I made the coffee, set up the coffee area, laid out the meeting books, before I knew it, I was up at the front of the meeting and I asked, ” are there any announcements for the good of AA? My Sponsor Gene, a big famous, just ask him attorney, stood up with a big giant grin on his face, stood up and starting talking while making his way towards me, ” It gives me the greatest of pleasures, to give this little guy, who’s grown in this program and fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, his One Years Token.” People stood up, cheered, yelled ” How’d you do it? ” He hugged me. Why do these guys keep hugging me? I just said,” Thanks. I didn’t do it, we did! “
I’ll never, forget that day as long as live. It’s been over twenty years since that day, and I have not found it necessary to take a drink since coming into Alcoholics Anonymous, and if I had, it certainly would not have been necessary.
write by alvarez