Step One of Alcoholics Anonymous tells me that I am powerless over alcohol when I drink it. Step One of Al-Anon tells me that I am powerless over alcohol when other people drink it, or when other people want to drink it. Both treatment programs, and The Retreat (which is not a treatment program) are powerless over alcohol and addiction when the people in them want to drink.
This weekend, I will be an A.A. Speaker at the “Rogue Roundup” in Grant’s Pass, Oregon. Although I have spoken at a number of A.A. roundups, this will be the first one on the west coast. I’m the last of nine speakers, most from California, and I follow the famous Clancy I. One difference between the Los Angeles speakers and myself is that I don’t have a dramatic drinking story. I drank quietly, and I never got arrested. Because I don’t have a “war story” to present, I’m going with four important things I’ve learned in A.A. so far.
In the 1970’s and 1980’s, I attended open AA meetings for 13 years without figuring out that I was an alcoholic. This was odd, because I seemed to have a natural affinity for alcoholics and other addicts. As a pastor, I had conducted more interventions than anyone else in my town. Many evenings, I brought people to detox, and then sat up late at night learning about this disease. I taught college and graduate school courses on addiction without figuring out that I was an alcoholic and addict. I went to twelve step meetings because I really wanted to be with the people. My home group tolerated me well, because it was an open meeting. Occasionally I’d overhear someone whispering “He almost admitted it,” but I never did.