Thursday, March 22, 2007

In order to keep it, you have to give it away

On Tuesday, I got a call from the guy that I had taken to an AA meeting the week before. He is a coke addict without an addiction to alcohol. He picked up a one day chip at last week’s meeting. Since I was going to an Al-Anon meeting, I took him along to the AA meeting that is in the same complex. Yesterday, he called again and wanted to go to the closed AA meeting on the other side of town. I was working out downtown so I picked him up and took him to the meeting. Because it was a closed meeting, I didn’t go in as I had last week. I think that a closed meeting sets a boundary that I’m not going to breach anymore. Instead, I sat in the car, looked at the water, and thought about something my sponsor had told me earlier. It’s one of the fundamental principles of AA and Al-Anon: "In order to keep it, you have to give it away."

I would have liked to be home, reading the newspaper, and going to bed early rather than sitting in a parking lot at nearly 9 PM. But I also thought that if my getting this newcomer to a meeting or two would help, then an inconvenience to me was pretty minor. After the meeting, he and I talked about how things were going. He hasn’t used and said that he was feeling really calm and happy. He talked to people at the meeting about getting a sponsor. I felt that he was beginning to feel welcomed and accepted by the group.

So as I was driving home, I thought about the seeds that had been planted. I also thought about the fact that the best people for this young man to relate to will be fellow addicts and alcoholics. I think about the story of Bill W. who tried repeatedly to stop drinking, but could never abstain for more than a week or two. Desperate to achieve some success, Bill decided that he would stop trying to quit himself, and instead focus all of his energies on his friends. If he couldn't achieve sobriety, at least he could help his friends abstain from drinking. After six months of intense effort, he was in despair because not a single one of his friends has managed to stay sober. He thought that he had failed but his wife reminded him that even though none of his friends had managed to quit drinking, he had not had a drink in six months. Therein lies the wonder of the twelve-step program and how it helps those willing to find new meaning in life, a meaning that transcends their own needs.

I think that I’ve given away something but kept something far more valuable by helping this newcomer. He now has the information that he needs, phone numbers, contacts, and literature to move forward. The AA fellowship can now take over. It’s time for me to focus back on myself and my recovery. There is no advice that I can give this newcomer that will be half as meaningful as the advice that comes from other addicts and alcoholics. I’m glad that I helped out because it made me feel good, and it got a person who needed help to the place where help and hope abounds.


  1. OMG SYD! I think you are sooo cool..You really reminded me what this program is all about. I really admire that you took a new comer to an AA meeting, when you yourself were not going, and could not go in because it was closed and you waited foe him. How you took that time to mediate. you helped him get the help he needed.

    OH and by the way for HNT a your are more than welcome to participate. I dont know how to send the link, but I know Gwen, or Scott does, I will check with them and have them email you the link .. : )
    Have a great day, you really made me smile :D

  2. Hi Syd, thanks for stopping by my blog!
    I have to say that as an alcoholic I never "got" you AlAnons. I judged and could not relate, like DUH, why do THEY need help!.
    Today I am so grateful to ALL of us in recovery, you have as much to teach me as a new(er)comer to AA does.
    Thanks for sharing!


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