I started drinking at age 15 and continued until March 28, 1978 when I was nearing my 50th birthday. Thanks to the volatile combination of my alcoholism and my repressed sexuality, I spent at least a half-dozen nights in jail and I got expelled from Cornell Law School. I spent 34 years of increasingly heavy drinking before I admitted that I was an alcoholic.
I needed a lot of help during my first years of sobriety and fortunately I got it. In yesterday's post, I talked about my AA sponsor Joel Anderson. I'll mention a few of the many others who helped later in this post.
You can find an AA meeting in the Washington area at just about any time of day or night, but the vast majority of meetings are held at 8:30, often in church basements.
I just checked the onliine resource for finding meetings in DC and the Maryland and Virginia suburbs. I asked for the location of closed (AA members only) meetings starting at 8:30 tonight within 5 miles of my house. I got over 20 hits. A few were Spanish-speaking meetings; others were listed as GLBT. Most had no special label.
For my first five to ten years of sobriety I attended an AA meeting just about every day, usually the 8:30 p/m. meetings. Since the start of my sobriety coincided with my living alone for virtually the first time, the evening meetings were an antidote for loneliness as well as alcoholism.
Somewhere between my fifth and 10th year in AA I began to question whether I was going to meetings almost every night because I needed them to stay sober or whether I was doing this mainly out of fear of being "home alone." I began experimenting with spending one night a week at home or someplace other than a meeting. Then I'd try it with two nights. I felt as though I had climbed Mount Everest when I was able to comfortably spend a Saturday night at home by myself.
My attendance at AA meetings began to slack off. It could well be that I haven't been to a meeting for five years, maybe 10. But I do remember that when I had what I've called "the summer from hell" as a result of overdosing on sleeping pills, I scurried back to AA meetings. As I damn well should.
My life today is still linked was AA. Many of my closest friendships have their roots in AA. I often find that our conversations are laced with "AA talk."
Say those words "AA friendships" to me and this name and face will be the first to surface:
|Tinsley Halter Cunningham|
One of my favorite AA meetings was in the basement of St. David's Episcopal Church which was a five minute drive from my house. When I first showed up at that meeting, I was impressed with the observations of one member in particular. Yep, it was Dusty. He became my best friend and treasured mentor, guiding me as I explored my two new communities – – AA and gay.
His example and the thoughts he shared gave me the hope and direction that I needed to stay sober. He had a knack for helping newly sober people like me find the key to making AA work. He didn't pontificate. He had a gift for listening and then zeroing in on the real issues and helping you to find practical solutions.
And best of all, he had a truly wicked sense of humor.
His name has come up often in this blog. Put "Dusty" in the search box and you'll find links to several posts.
Dusty usually came to these meetings with another AA newbie who, like me, was 15 to 20 years older than Dusty. and who, again like me, introduced himself at the meetings by saying "my name is John and I am an alcoholic."
The three of us ended up becoming very close friends. The other John turned out to be John Harper, the Rector of St. John's Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square, which is known as the "Church of the Presidents." Dusty was an active member of the church and John turned to him for help with his problem with booze.
I was (and am) a lapsed Catholic, somewhere between agnostic and atheist. But given everything that was going on in my life at the time and AA's Third Step ("Made a decision to turn our will and our 'lives over to the care of God as we understood him") I figured my spirituality could stand strengthening.
So I followed Dusty into St. John's and joined him most Sundays at the 9 AM service. "Our" pew was the third row, right hand side. Name-dropping alert: Vice President George W. Bush (who I refer to as the "good Bush") sat in the row behind us often. I liked him because he was as bad as I was in singing the hymns.
John Harper was known for his excellent sermons. During the years when I was in regular attendance, AA's !2 Steps were reflected in John's sermons as much as the Ten Commandments.
I love this photo of John and his wife Barbie that I took at some church retreat:
We walked to a place that was the Chinese equivalent of a coffee shop. We sat and talked AA for about an hour.