Home in the Basement

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

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14 thoughts on “Home in the Basement

  1. These room are always the same wherever I go including the same poor lighting and tacky plastic chairs, which can be a major comfort to me when traveling. All I have to do is add one short sentence to know I am home.
    My name is Paul and I am an alcoholic.

  2. …..the weak coffee, or jet fuel…..-mismatched chairs, we are from all walks of life-with one common thread. I love my house-the last one on the block!!!

  3. I’ll never forget years ago in Las Vegas where I live, an old stove cleaner, filthy dirty and angry started complaining BIG TIME at an afternoon meeting . He was so angry (that) no one showed up with a key to open “the room” Finally I said why are you so angry you said you have been in AA for 20 years! You don’t need a room…why didn’t you use the green spot just out front.
    And more complaining (about me as well) ensued.
    I guess the room was never in his mind. No “design for life” ever happened!
    We have over 800 meetings here…
    Smiles from the desert…

  4. A dozen or so years ago my friend and I sought out a meeting of our worldwide recovery fellowship at Panama City Beach Florida.
    There was nothing unusual about the location and setting of the meeting; in fact it was in a pleasant Florida setting with oak trees and Spanish moss and the grounds were basically clean and un- littered except for the usual conglomeration of cigarette butts. It was late morning and everything seemed pleasant and idyllic.
    Then we entered the building, got our coffee and found a seat. Everyone we encountered was basically friendly and welcoming. There was the usual chatter going on until the meeting started. It was what we call a discussion meeting and in these meetings people generally share about what’s going on in their lives and about their personal recovery process.
    I was shocked and stunned by the overwhelming profanity. I never have heard as many g.d.’s, m.f–ers –sob’s, bastards, bitches etc. – you get the picture.

    All are welcome, all loved, all accepted. Even the unacceptable are accepted. 🙂 Everyone faith journey is tailor-made.

    One of the stalwart principles of recovery in addition to “don’t drink, go to meetings, read the book” etc. is to begin trying to behave the best we know how.

    Randy and I recall this meeting from time to time with continued amazement.

  5. Great shares and I’m glad all were welcome such as myself, wheww! I was a heroin addict with nowhere else to go. I had to find the humility to say I’m an alcoholic and se the rooms of AA to get sober. Sure I was also an alcoholic but felt different than the rest and was scared to death of the folks with many years of sobriety. I bonded with other newcomers at first slowly becoming friends with ole timers realizing that they were the ones with peace and serenity and I wanted that. I still want it and have found much peace, joy and happiness. I go to some really comfy rooms, one in particular has 4 couches and 4 lazy boys a pool table and ping pong table with a beautiful view of the trees outside. There’s also a hospital meeting room where the lights are so bright it feels like a surgical operating room but we can dim them, thank God, and the coffee is better at some than others but every where it’s available! The rewarding friendships are becoming more and more marvelous in the rooms. The reward is they’ve all got a message. I can get something from everyone. I am now becoming that which is useful and am so much more comfortable with less and less fear everyday, thanks to all of you! I’m now curious about cucumber water though? Peace!

  6. In tune with the 7th Tradition. Guess the old timers knew what they were doing.
    Same old pattern the binds me trial and error pain progress.
    Deal Feel Heal – Accept

  7. In my town in India we have meetings in Catholic churches (if they have schools attached then we get classrooms) and in schools. Hard wood benches to sit on, we tie up the banners before we start and a chairperson starts. And our meetings last for 90 minutes. Profanity is not allowed although one or two do use language. One in particular is my favorite. He keeps sharing the same thing over and again for 9 years so that I am watching him. He pauses for chuckles (he knows exactly when the chuckles will come – has done this speech a million times before, hasn’t he?). Someone told me there are a*holes in AA too so they are accepted too. But hey these are the rooms I belong in. The tea is served in ounce cups made of plastic, used and discard types and many a times I pick up the discards which is a great healing process for me.
    Smoking is a big NO NO in every single meeting in this town.
    I have attended meetings in the US too and I didn’t find them too different except for the beverages and the duration. I am as much at home there as I am in my town.
    Love, Oggs

  8. There is a meeting I like to go to at a recovery center because it is covenient and good (constant flow of newcomers and great foundation of old timers). The setting is peaceful and serene. The rooms are simple. I had a sort of out of body experience walking to a meeting there a few months back. I felt like I was going to the center to visit and care for myself as though I was a patient in the facility It was a very deep and emotive feeling. I am blessed to have the gift of being able to visit myself every time I go to a meeting. Thanks to all of you. Peace

  9. Yes, a chiropractic adjustment for my brain, or what’s left of it. By going to meetings I get the adjustments I need for that day. Last nights meeting changed how I will look at one of the slogans, “Think, Think, Think”.

    I used to always joke that I was like one of the 3 stooges, that would say
    ‘I try to think, but nothing happens!’ For me the notion of “Think, Think, Think” would to get my brain all twisted up, my anxiety would increase and that caused me to just ignore the concept. My best thinking got me here and I am very doubtful that I could think my way out of a wet paper bag.

    Well, in last nights meeting another fellow shared that he had similar feelings with this slogan, and that someone told him to just change one of letters so that the slogan now reads “Thank, Thank, Thank”. I can live with that.

    God bless all of you as we trudge the road.

  10. Many years ago, I traveled to Portland Me. from California to visit the daughter I had given up for adoption, 30+ years ago. I remember sitting through the whole meeting, thinking I really had nothing to share. Finally five minutes before it ended, I shared my reason for being in Maine.
    I don’t remember the people but I sure remember that room. It was in an old stately house with dark oak beams and lots of white curtains and white walls. It was exactly where I needed to be. The acceptance still stays with me.

  11. This reminds me of my first meeting at 7:15 am in a dank, old, and worn out Alano Club. Its on the rougher side of town and like most people I thought it was a bar. I did NOT want to be there nor wanted to admit that I knew in my heart of hearts…I WAS HOME. This is my CYBER HOME. Love you guys

  12. My first meeting was in the basement of the hospital where I was in rehab. I remember someone telling me to go up and pick up a white chip. No one laughed at me but they applauded me for something I had yet to understand. I now love picking up milestone chips but thank god I don’t have to do it in a hospital “johnny”!

  13. Renee reminded me of the White House a large 4 story mansion that was donated to the Portland, Or. intergroup by a member who passed away sober.
    This lovely and lovingly maintained old home houses 20 groups for a total of about that many meetings a day. Several Big movie makers have leased the house as it made such as great setting for scenes. One such company completely restored the old house after a fire had damaged part of it because they wanted to use the site so bad. It is always interesting to see well known actors setting in the local meetings there. The White House has always donated the majority of the monies from these companies to the local intergroup, districts, area, and GSO

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