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The Writing on the Wall

Sometimes our Higher Power gets in touch in unusual ways

I attended my first AA meeting on June 1, 1990. My former drinking buddy, who was to become my first sponsor, had invited me to the meeting. It was held in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, in a halfway house. There was an assortment of unsavory looking characters smoking near the front door. I glided past them in my business suit and sensible shoes. Inside was a noisy, talkative crowd of about 50 people. They all looked like hardened criminals to me. Clearly I did not belong. My friend and I took seats toward the middle of the front section where I had a clear view of the speaker. I stopped looking around at people because I found them so disturbing. My friend sat quietly, smiling and occasionally sneaking glances at me, which I pretended not to notice. I fidgeted with the latch of my purse. I could not wait for it to be over.

The secretary got up and read some things and people in the audience read a few other things. I heard raspy voices and bad pronunciation. The speaker took the podium, which stood on a slightly elevated stage. He began to speak and tell his story. I listened. My heart rate accelerated. I felt a hot flush of embarrassment, but also a strange relief, a unnamable recognition, an unprecedented feeling of being understood. I was terrified.

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