Tomorrow I’m flying to Grand Rapids, Michigan and driving an hour north to the town of Greenville. It used to be prosperous when there was an Electrolux vacuum cleaner factory there, but the factory moved to Mexico in 2006. 2700 people lost their jobs, and the economy has not recovered. The town is 90% white, and many people drive an hour into Grand Rapids for jobs. There are no treatment opportunities in the county.
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.