A report from Phuket, Thailand
The moment of silence before we begin meetings here in Phuket has taken on new levels of significance since December’s tsunami. Many of us have shared as to how the principles of AA have guided our actions in attending the wounded, searching for the dead, and helping to rebuild the region. A common refrain is that AA has taught us empathy, taught us to feel for others, taught us to serve others. The tsunami has taught some of us that we are quite capable of effectively being of use to people outside of the context of AA.
This has been a strange and trying time for the alcoholics of our group. Emotions surface that we never knew we had. Many have shared about survivor guilt and the frustrations of feeling helpless, lazy, and selfish. Others have shared their grief, as well as the good feelings that come from helping out. It has been a time of increased fellowship. By the grace of God (as we individually understand our Higher Powers) We are all safe. All of our families are safe. We have counted our blessings, though some among us have lost friends, associates, neighbors, places of work, jobs, and suffered damage to homes. The Patong meeting room was turned into a morgue, so island AAs have converged upon the Sunday and Wednesday night meetings at Mission Hospital and the Friday nighter at Bangkok Phuket Hospital. Meetings have practically been standing room only. Love is strong; gratitude flows. Three newcomers celebrated birthdays of two, six, and nine months, respectively, proving that the program works.
On Tuesday, January 4th, a convoy of three vehicles road-tripped north to devastated Khao Lak loaded down with portable stoves, propane, and sundry cooking materials for the displaced people; with buckets of KFC and bags of Big Macs for the ten attending members of Phuket AA. We carried a meeting to our fellow AA, Mark H., who works at a beachside hotel that did not survive the waves. In a scene that would have fit more neatly in a Vietnam War movie than one’s image of a tropical resort–coconut palms standing tall, stately, unmolested amongst rubble, broken walls, and twisted steel–we met in a circle on the beach.
To the west, the sun was setting over a perfectly tranquil sea; to the east, and beneath our makeshift chairs of washed up water jugs and lost plastic baskets, the unresolved catastrophe. We chose acceptance as the topic, and read the passage by Dr. Paul on p. 449 of the Big Book (p. 417 in the Fourth Edition). We had come to give strength to our fellow AA, one who had lived through the most intense destruction in Thailand, who had spent the past week discovering bodies of guests and staff throughout the crushed and crumbling resort. For many of us, we found yet more strength in his example, his living incarnation of the power of this program. We did not answer the questions as to why we had made it while others had not or why we are sober today while others are in the bars, but we did share our experience, strength, and hope, along with pain, grief, and fear, with each other. And it’s safe to say that each of us gained some comfort from the group and from the strange notion that “acceptance is the answer to all of (our) problems today.”
Darkness descended. The stars appeared over the palm fronds and the wreckage of cars, hotels, homes, and lives. We stayed sober for another day and night.