Last weekend, I attended my first AA convention abroad. I’ve been to several conventions in my hometown and even more spread out throughout California. On road trips, at hotels, hyped up on coffee, and amongst friends- sober conventions have given life and meaning to my recovery. If ever you feel alone or dispirited in your recovery, attend an AA convention! They are sure to give you the very pick-me-up you need. Well, where this convention lacked the abundance of familiar faces, it made up for with vigor and the unique feeling of home that can only be found in Alcoholics Anonymous. And not unlike many of the accidental occurrences that characterize the sober life, this too would turn out to be one of those fated, fortuitous AA experiences.
It couldn’t have come at a better time. After discovering the news of my sister’s relapse into heroin, I needed the hand of AA to carry me. My husband and I travelled north to the beautiful beach town of Ostend. Nearly deserted this time of year, we traversed the beaches and enjoyed the rejuvenating salty air on bike. The hotel that accommodated the convention had beautiful views of the beach; about twenty paces to the sand. Spread out amid a labyrinth of floors, circular stairwells, and reception halls, it was quite challenging to find the meetings- but this small obstacle created the perfect opportunity to meet people. The entire weekend, we relied on each other to find our way.
One woman who couldn’t find the meeting hall admitted to me that she nearly drank upon arrival. Had it not been for the absence of the bartender, she would have relapsed. Thus began the start of a new friendship. We shared lunch together and exchanged information. I don’t know if I helped her, but she certainly helped me: she helped me remember that even though I can’t help my sister, I can be of service to other people. She listened to the story of my sister with the compassion of one who knows the struggle. And as luck would have it, we discovered our mutual interest in documenting our sober travels. She gave me the book she was promoting, featuring her friend’s experiences at AA conventions all over the world. Perhaps it is the start of a new business relationship, perhaps not. At the very least, it is a beautiful gift from a friend- one that will continue to inspire me as I travel a sober, free woman.
And as fate would have it, the theme of this convention was service. Discussing such topics as Sponsorship, How to Make Ourselves Useful, The Unsuspected Inner Resource, Participation is the Key, and Being Grateful for Each Other- I was reminded that this is a “we” program. We don’t have to do it alone. Just like that woman didn’t have to be alone with her precarious sobriety, I don’t have to bear the pain of my sister’s relapse alone. So I stuck my hand out, I shared, I allowed others to get to know me, and I thanked the speakers. By giving of myself to others, I got so much in return. I got the return of hope, the feeling of camaraderie and joy, and a great sense of purpose.