Old-timer? Well…that depends on your criteria.
When I stumbled into AA, I thought those old geezers with five years of sobriety were old-timers. They certainly were my heroes. Some of them still are, although all of them are dead now or have wandered off, still sober. They were good to me. Generous with their time. Unselfish. Painfully honest. And yes, blunt. Not always nice, but the kind of people I desperately needed to help me stay sober.
How has AA changed in my town and in my home group in my brief 34 years?
The good news is: not much. Newcomers still come in looking the way we looked, shaky and scared. Some stay, some don’t. The lucky ones come back, just as welcome, after months or years back out there, looking even more scared and more nervous.
People know where to find us when they know they need us. We enjoy a good reputation in this town, just as AA does everywhere.
Sponsors still sponsor. Some are tough. Some, like me, are soft. Pigeons either listen or they don’t. I didn’t at first and paid for it. Most sponsors are patient. I have had three and I owe them my life.
The stakes may be a little higher now. We have more drugs, although the old-timers, when I got here, said drugs would ruin AA. They didn’t, but drugs are deadly, quicker than booze. On the whole, we seem to be younger because of the drugs, but at my age just about everybody seems younger. Here, we seem to get just as many newcomers from treatment and the courts as we always did. Those old guys when I got here complained that we were being overrun by the treatment centers. We weren’t.
lronically, most of the complainers were graduates of treatment centers themselves. I was not, but I appreciate those facilities in our area. We have some good ones.
Oh yeah, we used to smoke. We thought that was a big change. The smoke literally hung in layers in my AA meetings, and cleaning ashtrays was the first job my sponsor gave me. Actually, he cleaned them with me. That was a big deal. The job made me feel like I belonged.
Relationships seem to be just as funny and deadly as they were when I came in. I was fortunate to be married (not for the first time) when I sobered up, but it took me a while to become moral. I was so fortunate to escape the perils of relationship trouble. I am sober today and still married.
We have very few Twelfth Step calls, the kind where we get up in the middle of the night and go out with a buddy to try to rescue someone. But we seem to get just as many newcomers in our meetings as we always have. Maybe the internet and smartphones and all that have changed how we do business. And there are those treatment centers.
Service work is just as vigorous around here, carrying the message into the jail, prison, detox and treatment. Maybe more so. The work is getting done and, I am glad to say, done well.
The Big Book is still true. The Twelve Steps still save lives and change people, just as they saved me from myself, and from a miserable death and a worse life. I and my AA friends are still sober, by the grace of God, one day at a time. No more and no less. I know, after 34 years sober in AA, I can still get drunk and get dead. But I would rather not today. Sobriety is a precious gift. Me, an old-timer? Nah!