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Why We Celebrate Sobriety Anniversaries in Alcoholics Anonymous
Sometime in the spring of 1991, I was in a meeting. Mind you, I’ve been in a lot of conferences at this point, but this one in particular brought new meaning to me. You see, this is when I start to understand what people are reading at the beginning of the meeting. How It Works, The Serenity Prayer, The Promises, etc. start to make sense in plain English alone. Until then, I only hear echoes of words, which mean nothing to me. Years of alcohol and drugs and I don’t think my brain has been repaired. People sometimes say, “Chuck, maybe that’s the best you can get.” The fear of getting worse and ending up like those bums was enough to motivate me to stop drinking. However, there are also times when I thought about the use and wanted to give up, but I never gave up. No matter how bad I feel, no matter how hard life seems, I never give in. I knew deep down that this was the last and only time I would live without drinking. I can’t stop drinking, but at the same time I know alcohol will kill me worse than death. You see, the last time I was so drunk that I wanted to die, my wife left with my son. Life as I know it, because it’s hell on earth. I came the next morning. Even after drinking enough alcohol to put the common man into a coma or even kill him. I know drinking will never end the pain. This makes things worse. Somehow, I need to move on somehow. I have to be better than I am now. If I could see something that would tell me that there are some benefits to not drinking besides not drinking. Yes, I feel better in the morning. Yes, I have no alibi for the whereabouts of the previous night. No tickets or accidents, either. I want to feel needed and useful. I want to be liked. I want friends, but most of all, I want someone to tell me if I’m better, if I’m doing better, because frankly, I just don’t know!
Meanwhile, just as I was thinking about it, the meeting started and is still going on. Time to make an announcement. Oh my gosh, we started the same blah blah blah, about Open Talks, and social events I dread going to. The old guy stood up, walked to the front of the hall, beside the podium, and took a deep breath. It seemed that he was trying to contain his emotions, as if he were announcing the death of his mother or another close relative. No, instead, full of fantasy and a big smile on his face, he said, “I remember when this young man first joined Alcoholics Anonymous, he broke down. He was scared and angry, he felt hopeless, he demanded I helped him. We worked together through the steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and he was a changer. So it makes me happy that you guys can help me congratulate Steve P., who is celebrating a year of sobriety!” My My jaw dropped and my eyes were wide open with tears streaming down my face. I felt something in that hall that I had never felt before. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. Steve was grinning like the old guy from his sponsor, tears streaming down his face. He held the bronze token in his hand like an Olympic gold medal. Everyone held his hand and hugged him. I’ve heard Steve tell his story at conferences before, and to me he was worse than me. The first thing that came to mind was, if Steve can do it, so can I. Not only did his sponsor guide him through the steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, he said, but he also made coffee and helped set up his family group meetings. He is also chairman of the group, his sponsor added. 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 showed up early to my home group and asked Ray and another person if they could help arrange it. They said of course! I think it’s kind of important because I think only certain people are allowed to be the coffee machine and prepare for the meeting. Also, it seems like anyone willing to help clean up will do. In the same conference room on Thursday, Ray and another guy were making coffee, and I asked if I could help out 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 got the keys to the lobby and Ray and Bob said I was ready for a big responsibility. I can take responsibility for it myself. I just looked at the keys and felt scared and proud at the same time. They told me to pray and ask God for help and I would do fine. Before my first meeting as the coffee maker and setter, I did what they said and it worked out great. Ray was chairing the meeting at the time, and I watched how he did it because I wanted to be the chair one day. To bang the gavel, to pray for a moment of silence for those who suffer, to select people to read “How It Works”, “The Promise”, etc. You know it’s a big responsibility.
A few months passed and Ray came to me and said he was going out of town to visit his mother and that I could take on the chair until he came back. When I accepted this responsibility, my face was filled with pride and fear. I did the same as Ray. Readings were distributed, meetings were called, which meant I asked for a moment of silence for all those who suffered, and began a prayer of serenity. I just stood there terrified and proud, thinking “I finally feel like a human being.” The following week, Ray called and said he couldn’t make it to the meeting because he was still visiting his mother and he needed my help Very busy. I’m thinking, here I am, the coffee machine, the setup guy, next step he’s secretary and treasurer now, what does he want me to do now? I know I’m an energetic super man, but come on now, enough is enough! This time Ray’s voice was different. He said that Chuck is a very important task and a great honor. I want you to give Danny his 9th token. Danny is a man whose wife died because she started drinking again and was nearly drunk himself but somehow managed to stay sober. Danny said a session would help me, I just thought it would be weird that I was going to give him his sobriety anniversary coin, after all, I haven’t been sober for a year yet. I said how about Gary B.? Chuck, the token you gave him was Gary’s idea.you will do well
On Sunday, I made coffee. Getting everything ready for the AA meeting while rehearsing my presentation. I want it to be as perfect as possible, and my voice sounds really good.
The meeting went on as usual. Asked for a moment of silence, had to yell for the people behind to be quiet, we were about to start the meeting. By reading, I also rehearse my speech countless times in my head. Finally, the time has come for me to announce. I took the token in my hand and wiped all the sweat off my shirt. I said, starting to choke up, “I’m happy to give Danny F. his nine-year coin.” People stood up and applauded. Heck, I don’t think I’m that good. Danny came up to me. I gave him the token. He hugged me! My goodness! Why do men hug? oops. Someone yelled, “How did you do that? He let me go. Thank God. He said, Thank God, the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, my founder Ray, and you guys. I stand There were tears running down my face and I didn’t care. Giving someone an anniversary coin is like letting them know you’re there for them and then giving them a pat on the back that many of us need from time to time, congratulations and thanks, all at the same time .
Another month or so later, it’s March 3rd and my one year anniversary is next week, assuming I don’t drink. Every time I go to a conference, people ask how I’m doing. They must know that I’m afraid I won’t succeed. I’ve been going through the divorce process for the past year and have been trying to stay sober without seeing my now 3 year old son. I’m really hurt. I’ve been making coffee, scheduling meetings in my homegroup, and chairing meetings. Ray, is the treasurer and secretary. It will be interesting to see how that turns out. I’m sure there’s some kind of conspiracy going on. I thought of Danny. He never gave in, never gave up. I thought of Steve P. He never gave up, never gave in. I thought about how I could give my youngest brother 5 years of tokens. Finally it was March 10th and it was a long day before the meeting. All I did that day was think and look at the clock. Finally it was 6pm and I got to the venue earlier than usual because I couldn’t wait and doing my AA family group duties would help kill some time and I felt safe there. I made the coffee, set up the coffee area, set up the conference books, and before I knew it, I was walking to the front of the conference and I asked, “Any announcements that would be good for the AA? My sponsor Gene, a big celebrity , just ask his lawyer, stood up, with a big smile on his face, got up and started talking, and walked up to me, “It’s giving me the most fun, giving this grown up little guy this project and anonymous Alcoholics Anonymous scholarship, his token for a year. ’ People were standing up, cheering, yelling ‘how did you do that? ’ He hugged me. Why do these guys keep hugging me? I just said, ‘Thank you. I didn’t do it, we did it! “
I will never forget that day as long as I live. More than two decades have passed since that day, and since joining Alcoholics Anonymous, I have not found it necessary to have a drink, and if I did, it certainly wasn’t necessary.
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#Celebrate #Sobriety #Anniversaries #Alcoholics #Anonymous