Getting out of denial and into recovery was a blessing. I had written an autobiographical inventory, which I read aloud to my sponsor. It sounded like vignettes about an unpredictable and bizarre person. While listening to what I was reading, I had a moment of clarity. I realized beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I was indeed an alcoholic, and that the next door I needed to open would be into a Twelve Step meeting.
“The only way to have a friend is to be one.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
I have been walking through those doors many times a week for 18 years, even on days when I really could talk myself out of going. I go anyway – just because the meetings are mere minutes from my front door, but because not going to meetings can become a dangerous habit.
When I am there, I see my recovery “family,” which consists of people I have grown to love and trust. I always hear something I need to hear, and I am often able to give something to someone else. Either way, it is a gift given and received.
Some of my most interesting and exciting experiences have been visiting Twelve Step meetings while traveling. I have attended meetings from California to New Orleans to Seattle. I was even a member of a home group in the French Quarter where I experienced Southern hospitality at its best. Because of the personal nature of recovery and the warm connections I have found there, I have made friends all around the country.
The first time I visited my son and his family while they were living in Japan, I attended an international recovery meeting. There was only one meeting per week in Nagoya, the largest city in the state of Aichi, which was adjacent to my son’s home in Toyota City. The meeting was two hours and many miles away, which meant we had to catch a train on Sunday at 5:00 pm in order to make the 7:30 pm meeting.
My son and I finally arrived and found two Twelve Step meetings – one in Japanese, the other in English. The tiny room for the Japanese meeting had six attendees and was filled with smoke. We chose the English meeting, which had only one person.
Mike was an American living in Japan with his wife and family, and was active in recovery. He told us he showed up for this meeting every week, and every week he sat there alone, holding the space for anyone who might show up. He would always end up reading recovery material to himself; and in that way, he kept up an ongoing service commitment.
Because we were there, Mike had a story to tell. His wife was an addict who refused to get help. His story was heartbreaking, though not unusual. We just listened as he talked. Our time with Mike was a variation on what is referred to as a Twelve Step call. This is a visit made to an individual based on “. . . the assumption that another human being’s life is at stake.” Although on the surface this didn’t seem to be the exact situation, it was indeed a genuine cry for help. How grateful we were to be able to be there at that moment.
We listened to Mike’s story and helped by merely being present. He conveyed his sense of isolation as a foreigner and his struggle with addiction in his marriage. We were able to give back to him what we had so freely received in our own recovery: fellowship and a listening ear. We also told Mike about telephone and online meetings all around the world, so he never has to take his recovery journey alone.
The cost of that four-hour round trip was 40 dollars per person, but the outcome was priceless to all three of us.
That memory inspires me with a grateful heart for the easy access we have to our Twelve Step recovery meetings, our fellowship, sponsors, phone calls and the many available service opportunities.
Life in recovery is a joyful experience and a reason to celebrate each and every day. Let’s celebrate our friendships and recovery families with a delicious meal. Please enjoy my recipe for Asian burgers with slaw.