Closer Than You Think
In the summer of 1993, I felt uniquely remote from in-person AA fellowship. I could no longer attend meetings due to some injuries. I was unable to even roll over in bed and totally unable to walk or sit in a wheelchair. Even holding a telephone was impossible. All I could do was lie in bed and pray.
I watched a bit of sky and tree limbs outside a small window and prayed for a cloud to pass by or a bird to perch there and sing. Mostly I prayed, “Thank you, Great Spirit, I’m glad you’re in charge because from my perspective, I don’t see how this will work out.” I also prayed as usual that Great Spirit’s will be done and asked Great Spirit to direct my thinking and guide me to intuitively know how to do the footwork to stay sober and to make spiritual progress.
Fortunately, I was blessed with regular contact with the Fellowship of AA. I was a member of an International AA correspondence group. I learned about the group from AA’s General Service Office one day when I was helping another alcoholic connect because they couldn’t attend in-person meetings. That gave new meaning to the saying I’ve often heard in AA, “We give it away to keep it,” because now I needed it. That was three decades ago, and I’ve been an active member of this group ever since. Currently, I serve as editor of the closed AA topic discussion meeting that we hold quarterly.
This AA group was started by one woman in 1956, the year I was born, to connect isolated AA members in remote areas. In addition to the quarterly group meeting by mail, individual members do service, sponsorship and correspond by mailing letters and cards, much like in-person fellowship visits before and after meetings.
I had first joined this group because I could rarely attend AA meetings within a 40-mile radius of where I lived, since nearly all were filled with tobacco smoke. Later, I could not often attend in-person meetings because of my strange schedule. Besides, I enjoy written meetings and individual AA communications. I often find those more deeply effective.
In recent years, since the COVID pandemic added new challenges, I continue to be especially thankful to be part of AA via international correspondence. We have members who hold a weekly virtual meeting; a women’s AA email group, and we send each other audio recordings of us sharing our experience, strength and hope. Other members correspond by postal mail, email or text.
When I was injured for some months in 1993, I needed help from my partner, who was also sober in AA. I was so physically disabled that I could not lift my arms to hold a letter to read or to operate a cassette tape player. Eventually, I managed to do my own correspondence, but could not attend in-person meetings at all for several more months, and then only if they were accessible. During those totally remote months, I traded audiotapes with members, and I read and wrote letters via postal mail and read AA literature and my Grapevine magazines.
The many cards and letters that arrived from group members gave me tangible encouragement. They were like hugs in print, helping me keep on keeping on through an extremely challenging time. My international correspondence group reached me when no other group could. They were always present, giving me hope via the mail.
Since I had been sober eight years when I became disabled, I thankfully had attended many in-person meetings. The quiet spiritual voice within had urged me to listen and learn from sponsors and others who had sobriety that seemed authentic and happy. Furthermore, I understood that I’d best pay attention even to what did not seem applicable to me then, or what I did not yet understand, because I would need all those meetings someday. True enough. I had lots of experience, strength and hope to replay from memory as I lay still in bed, trying to breathe, dealing with my pain. I needed the connection of my correspondence AA group to keep my thinking grounded in the program and focused on living the principles of AA. It still keeps me active in the Fellowship of AA, no matter what. I’m incredibly grateful for them.
To contact this correspondence AA group, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or mail: World Hello, PO Box 25672, Woodbury MN 55125.
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