Wearing orange juice cans and a wine-stained robe, she opened the door to AA. Because of Tradition Three, they opened the door to her
One woman’s journey to Alcoholics Anonymous began like this: The telephone call was made to the AA phone number and two lovely, clean, sane, sober women were sent to a middle-class suburb on a Saturday night. I’m sure they wondered what they would encounter. They rang the bell.
The door was opened by an apparition in a wine-stained robe, wearing orange juice cans for hair rollers, walking on tiptoes because her heels were greased with petroleum jelly and she’d fall if she walked flat-footed. The explanation this apparition gave for her charming appearance was that the next day was Sunday and she had to look good for her Sunday school class.
The visitors could tell from the wine stains on the robe and the carpet that this greased apparition had a problem keeping the alcohol on the inside. They could also tell she had a few other problems!
At one time I was ashamed to admit I was that apparition. Today I know—after countless tear-jerking, belly-laughing experiences myself—this experience can be used to save another life.
How those two women kept straight faces as they began to share their experience, strength and hope, I’ll never know. One talked about how her drinking had led her to AA. The other talked about how her drinking affected her family life. Both said they were finding hope and recovery in meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Of course I cried—a lot—as I listened to them. My shame and remorse and guilt were weighing me down (to say nothing of the orange juice cans). We talked about drinking. I tried to tell them about me—what a terrible person I was. And then the most beautiful words that I hope I never forget were said to me: “You don’t have to tell us anything about yourself that feels bad. We only want to help you stop drinking.”
I was doubtful. How could anyone like me? I didn’t like me. I wasn’t sure you would accept this woman. The mother of four children and stepmother to two who broke up two families and two homes surely wouldn’t be judged appropriate to come into this group, if these women were any example. Also, I was not a “pure alcoholic”—I was dually addicted, although at that time I couldn’t see how prescription drugs were also causing me monumental depression and anxiety. Although I had never heard of or read the “Twelve and Twelve,” I was sure I could be classified as a “fallen woman.”
Two nights later, minus orange juice cans and slippery heels, I was taken to a meeting. Still sure you would judge my outsides, I wore a brand-new white winter coat, fabulous straw hat, white gloves—the works. After the meeting was over, I looked for my white coat and couldn’t find it. Someone needed it more than I did. (They left me the hat.) I was too frightened to show my outrage at such an act. I was still afraid you wouldn’t accept me. But not one single person ever told me I didn’t qualify or that I wasn’t acceptable.
Three weeks later I heard a talk that broke my dammed-up tears. A man had done what I had done, walked out on a family and home for the only lover that was important—booze. He was sober six years and I heard him say everything will be OK, if you don’t drink.
In my home group there are 15 to 25 men and women. There are several dually addicted people. There are people who have pilfered from the till. There is a man who gets the Steps mixed up since he had a stroke. There is a woman whose husband has been unable to speak or function for over 10 years.
We range in age from 23 to about 67. We have a new member with six days of sobriety (at this writing) and an “old-timer” of 14 years. We are predominantly white, but often have a few Black men or women attend. We are single, married, divorced, widow and widower. We are doctors, lawyers, homemakers, computer operators, stable hands, salespeople and retirees. We have slippers and staunch members who didn’t touch another drop from the day they walked through the doors of Alcoholics Anonymous. We are believers, doubters and atheists. We all have problems other than alcohol.
But we are all there for one reason and one reason alone—we each have a desire to stop drinking. No one who comes through the doors of our little brick meeting house leaves without knowing that, and knowing that we not only want them to come back, we need them back.
In my home group we come together to share our experience, strength and hope with every suffering alcoholic who comes our way—or is already there. And we never ask questions—so no one has to tell us anything they don’t want to.