Passing It On

The incredible gift of being a senior citizen and a member of Alcoholics Anonymous

By Name withheld by author’s request | Mar 07, 2014

There is a difference between waiting until you are a senior citizen to join AA, or you do as I did and join at middle-age, and maintain a sober, active life in AA for more than three decades.

I was first introduced to AA in 1965 by a drinking buddy of mine. As was recommended at that time, I did 90 meetings in 90 nights. I didn’t drink in between meetings. There wasn’t much of a social life offered in AA at that time. But the principles of a 12-step program stuck in my mind. It offered a spiritual experience not offered by any other means.

I did drink alcohol for another 11 years, and I knew where to go when drinking brought me to the brink of insanity in 1976. That time I was totally ready to surrender to whatever AA had to offer.

AA was different in the ’70s and ’80s than it is now. The people are different and so is their attitude. The ’70s were winding down from the rebellious ’60s.

“Make love not war” wasn’t just about the anti-war effort. It was rebellion to all forms of authority: the church, the law, the government. In defiance of the establishment, hair grew longer, un-kept beards appeared, and bras as well as draft cards were publicly burned.

Some of these rabble-rousers got sober and used their newfound sobriety to justify their anti-establishment attitude. “We are sober now and free to think and behave any way we damn well please” resonated through the meeting rooms where many people, including myself, found a new way of life without the use of alcohol or drugs.

Lifelong friendships were formed as we carried our message to jails, prisons, detox centers, developing treatment centers and, yes, the homes of the suffering alcoholics. The incredible warmth of running into someone you haven’t seen for a while from that period is hard to express. Even those of us who had very serious disagreements (and dislikes) for each other at different times now have a deep respect for each other’s long-term sobriety because we pretty much all earned it the same way.

Sobriety is earned with gut- wrenching self-searching and through giving, as well as equally receiving, the tough love necessary to find our own personal truth – a truth that is necessary to stay the demons that might bring us to take that first drink once again.

Sharing our personal truth before and during recovery and giving hope to those struggling with addiction is a gift unsurpassed by any other. The gift is a younger generation’s interest in what you have to share. A respect from people 10 to 40 years younger than you; people going out of their way to thank you for being there is something not enjoyed by most seniors. There are no lonely seniors in AA, and none are quickly forgotten after their passing. What those people shared lives on in our memories of early sobriety. The nonconforming nature of the recovering alcoholic reminds us – the misfits, the rebels, the dropouts – we are what we are, thus we welcome you as we were welcomed.

 

This is a poem I wrote to express my story.

I have a story for good and for bad. I had ambitions that turned out so sad.

So down in the dumps with nowhere to turn, I don’t give a damn if everything Burns.

I had to give up something that comforted me so but it was a problem I had to let go.

Then a bright light of faith not really earned. I just showed up and my world did turn.

The love of my life with our kids did return a beautiful sad thing with children half-grown came to my place we all now call home.

I’ll tell you my stories and if they do fit, follow this path it takes some true grit.

Thousands of stories some told and some “writ”. So little it takes to come and just sit.

To hear the stories that will make you well or keep a closed mind and stay in your hell.

The final decision is all up to you to stay and to listen is simple to do.

Everyone’s welcome, no matter what. How dark is your past? How deep is your cut?

Your demons so many can be left behind, hear your gut feelings not so your mind.

Then tell us your story of glory and hell we will all come together and all will be well.

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