I went to my AA meeting. It was generally held in the “gymnasium” of the church. It was a large room with a stage and a floor painted like a basketball court, the smell of coffee and the sounds of metal chairs in the room with friendly chatter and visuals of familiar faces. Instead, it was held downstairs. They were doing maintenance things in the bigger room.
The room downstairs was a small brick cave, the bricks painted lavender with visible brush strokes. I crammed into the crowded room and sat in the middle seat of a middle row, politely stepping over people and saying my “hellos.”
The meeting promptly commenced and the chairperson read the reading of the day. I have no recollection of what reading it was. It would pull this story together if it was based on forgiveness or some other something …. but I cannot lie. I don’t remember. The format lends itself to going around the room, “You may pass if you wish.”
The second person to share was a strawberry blonde in the front row. “Hi, I’m ________ and I’m an alcoholic.”
“Hi ________!” Everyone merrily answered in unison.
He started to share and the voice was familiar. I knew the name. He turned his head and there was the profile. The guy looked like Keifer Sutherland. (See my Gateway Drug Blog). It was the man who raped me nearly twenty years prior. All the hatred I had ordinarily felt was displaced by terror. It was illogical, and I knew that. But there was no telling that to the adrenaline that was churning through my veins, to my nauseated stomach, to my shaking quaking head and hands. I trembled and was afraid to stay, afraid to leave. The thought of pushing past this crowd of chairs and quiet alcoholics was too intimidating. I was also afraid I would piss myself – or in some way lose control. I shook and stared and didn’t hear a word he said.
“….and with that I’ll pass,” he smiled, turning and looking back at those of us in rows behind him.
“Thanks, ____________” the room merrily answered.
I shook. When it came my turn, I uttered “pass.” I didn’t want to call attention to myself. I didn’t want to say my name. I wanted to hide. I wanted to call my sponsor, but I couldn’t. My mouth was watering like I was going to puke.
Struggling for some semblance of mental clarity, I finally heard my sponsor’s voice. He’s a guy – and I know it’s unconventional – and he’s old enough to be my father. His voice itself is quite fatherly, very matter of fact and has a warmth about it as well as a sternness. How does he do that? I could hear him talking to me.
“This isn’t YOUR meeting. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking and you know how sick he is. Maybe he never would have done that if he didn’t have a problem. He needs help just like you. Let it go. It’s over. You’re safe.”
And you know? When I called him later and told him about it, he did pretty much tell me it isn’t MY meeting and that he’s sick and needs help like I do. I laughed. I knew he’d say that.
But hearing his voice in that meeting gave me peace. The adrenal glands eased up and the trembling subsided. During the break, I felt emotionally hungover and there weren’t many women there that night to talk to. I did grab one and talked to her. She huffed about it and how bad that sucked. I didn’t tell her which one it was, but he was really the only guy there that wasn’t a regular ….
Somehow, I kept replaying my sponsor’s message over and over. By the end of the meeting I felt peace. It was okay that he was there. It honest to God was. I can’t believe it myself. It was genuinely a miracle, this change of heart I had in that meeting. I had thought that during my 4th and 5th steps that I had “gotten over it.” Obviously seeing him was a whole other thing – and being crammed into a small room with him with 20 more people than a fire marshal would dig …. that was another matter entirely.
The following week, I chose not to go to that meeting. I made the decision the night before. Just wasn’t going to happen! The meetings I had gone to in between – I entered those rooms with cautionary glances. But I prayed. OH I prayed like only the desperate can. And I DID go to that meeting. I wish I could say he became a regular and we made our amends, but I never saw him again. That was three years ago. But it wasn’t a coincidence, I’m sure. And I’m at peace. Absolute peace with it.