Most AA meetings I have attended are located in settings that have very little Feng Shui going for them. There is typically an awkward entrance somewhere on the side of the main structure, down a dark concrete staircase into a low-ceilinged room. Florescent lights flicker above, casting yellowish shadows on a chipped linoleum floor. Stackable plastic chairs line up in an arc facing a card table where the meeting leaders and guests of honor sit. Behind them, walls are adorned with faded posters of saints, tissue paper flowers or First Aid instructions. The refreshments are set out in cartons and packets, a large container of Coffee Mate invariably forming the centerpiece. And yet, in these rooms, I have found the deepest, most abiding respite, relief and peace that I have ever known. Sipping cucumber water near a Zen fountain in a cavernous, Italian tiled, world class spa has not been able to reach as deep into my psyche as the homely rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. No bar or lounge, even crowded with friends, has been as welcoming and inviting a place as an AA meeting room filled with an oddball assortment of familiar characters. No matter how I feel when I arrive for a meeting, there is a calm that begins to surround me as soon as I sit down and the first person smiles at me. I am here. And they are here. We are here, and we are all the same. If I am crazy today, these other people understand. They know what to do and they will remind me, because I know too, I have just forgotten. When the meeting is called to order and we begin with the serenity prayer, I start to breathe and let all of the bad mojo evaporate out of my system. The readings, the introductions, the greetings, the prayers, the basket, the closing, all of these rituals are like gentle hands, shaping and redirecting me, a chiropractic adjustment for my brain. In the nondescript room full of plastic furniture and assorted low-budget decor, I am righted and lifted, released into the world anew, peaceful, happy, untroubled by my burdens, knowing exactly what to do. I am reminded that my environment alone cannot heal me, and even the most healing environment cannot compete with a healing program, practiced in the humblest of settings, the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Photo Courtesy of MX