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September 1988

If You Can't Live Or Die, Make Coffee!

It has been said in these rooms that, if we all threw our problems into one pile and walked around it for a while, we'd each reach in and take back our own problems. As an active alcoholic, I wish I had a nickel for every time I found myself in that state of utter despair. God help me! What can I do? I've alienated everyone I know who means anything to me; I don't know how to behave among normal people; and I can't stop drinking! I wish I could change everything, change everyone, so things could be better. I thought I knew the answers, but for some inexplicable reason nothing seemed to work out. Everything in my life seemed to be getting progressively worse when all I wanted was to make it better. I saw that I couldn't live this way, but there seemed no other way that I could live.

Death appeared to be an alternative. If I killed myself I'd have the last say after all, and my family would benefit from the insurance. It seemed my last opportunity to write a happy ending. But I wasn't really all that macho. I was seared and I knew I was about to lose everything I'd manipulated my way into. It was as if my whole life had been meaningless. What should I do?

Make coffee! That's what some insensitive guy suggested at a meeting. "Why dwell on what you can't do? It just gets you more frustrated. Why not concentrate on what you can do and do it? You want to be of some genuine value in this world? Then come down off Mount Olympus and join us. We don't need a corporate vice president--and your other credentials don't count here. Our only concern is to help ourselves by helping each other find what we were all so desperately in search of: freedom from booze and a contented, useful life. We don't need a genius. We need a coffeemaker. You want to feel good about yourself again? Make coffee!"

They had no way of knowing what they were letting themselves in for. I'd never made a cup of coffee in my whole life, and here I was being asked to brew coffee for a crowd of people. The prospect scared me half to death, though I must admit, it took my mind off my other problems. Here was a real problem: How do I tell the group members about my fear?

Well, I mustered all the courage I could and told them that I wasn't street-wise enough to make coffee. So they put two guys on it with me who knew what they were doing. Within a few weeks not only did I make a good pot of coffee (eighty cups, mind you), but I found that with the coffee maker's job came fringe benefits. They began to trust me with the key to the meeting room and it became my responsibility to set up the chairs and put out the signs for the meetings.

Thank God I didn't feel that any of this was beneath me, because as I did these things and didn't question the need for them or the reason for them (I was told it would help me stay sober), I experienced a miracle. For while I was doing these things I felt like I was a real, living, important part of this wonderful Fellowship. I belonged! It was my introduction into the now, and for the first time in years I knew serenity. I found that pushing a broom at the end of each meeting also helped me to stay sober--and--not because of some high-minded purpose like helping the group. No, it was more because I suspected that most, if not all, of the really sober ones had done the same thing and knew the secret of what pushing a broom can do for a big-time operator like myself. I was grateful that they loved me enough to know and give me exactly what I needed.

All I thought about as I was making the coffee was making the coffee and how people could enjoy it. At my sponsor's suggestion, I stood near the coffeepot and welcomed everyone who came by. I must have experienced a million smiles in a very short time. And when I pushed the broom all I concentrated on was the dust rising from it as I moved it across the floor. My troubles were gone for the time that I was doing these things. And so it can be for you. If you can't live and you can't die, make coffee.

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