Six guys in a van

We met at the parking lot of the now vacant A&P supermarket in the Peterborough Mall off route 101.  Dave the group bookie was coordinating the commitment and I thought there would be four of us and we could take my Jeep.  As it turned out Dave showed up in his van with Dennis his adult son who's the greeter and ticket seller at our meeting and Ed, a slight, bearded guy, with an injured right hand, who had about 60 days, so he was "just coming along for the ride."  Larry and John W. showed up and we piled into the van and began the ascent of Temple Mountain going east on 101.  Actually the van did pretty well considering the load it was carrying and the steepness of the highway there.  You gain about 2000 feet pretty quick to the pass between Temple Mountain on the South and Pack Monadnock on the North and then its all down hill to Manchester.  The van got going pretty good on the downside but Dave seems like a pretty conscientious driver and what the hell we all drove drunk for years, so I just gave up control and we were on our way to the Hard Hat Group's Thursday night meeting in Manchester.
Its actually a pretty straight shot down 101 through Temple, Wilton, Milford, Amherst and Beford (rising SES then a sharp fall off into Manchester the old mill city) to the lights where 101 goes sharply east to the right after the Bedford Municipal Complex.  We continued straight for a couple of miles into Manchester passing the one remaining Blake's Ice Cream Restaurant that I went to a few times with John Sweeney.  He was a recovedring dentist and a lecturer at Beech Hill Hospital during the 60's, 70's, and the 80's.  He was one of those very supportive old timers, always telling you you could do it, whatever it was, and always doing gratis dental work on indigent A.A.s.  He had a peculiar love affair with gigantic American sedans always driving the biggest second hand American sedan he could find.
It was a church hall of course.  A big meeting, the blue and gold banners, podium with a microphone and one of the banners hanging from the front, maybe it was "easy does it."  Lots of greetings and "Hi, my name's....." Got a coffee from the little anteroom off the front left of the hall, "Pretty weak looking stuff." John W. said, but coffee of any kind and a sandwich or a cookie is all some people have.  I was again reminded of how lucky I am to have had the down and dirty basic A.A. that got me sober in the Allston and Brighton section of Boston.  It was again one of those large, potentially intimidating meetings where a newcomer of a certain type could only say "When I get this bad I'll come back."  Personally I loved it.  I was so sick when I first came around, my ass was on fire, and the kindness and hopefulness of the recovering men of the Brighton and Allston area was so genuine, that the combination worked for me, despite my education and upbringing.
Jack from the Hard Hat opened up and invited David to chair as had been previously arranged.  I was the first speaker and I started with my current thinking about speaking in A.A. which is to talk about today, this day, this 24 hours first.  I described getting up and making coiffee for Barbara and me, listenting to music and talking about everything in our lives, and then meditating on the "Twenty Four Hour a Day" book's reading, doing a little writing, I'm on about Charles B. Towns at the moment and I explain that he was the person who owned the hospital Bill got sober in in NYC and an early professional expert in the addictions circa the early twentieth century.  Thought really sick alcoholics should be sterilized for one thing.  I talked about doing errands, reading the paper, not having any real "inside problems" today, really no outside problems either, and attributing it all to the simple message I got so long ago: don't drink or drug, go to meetings, get a sponsor, get active with your group, ask for help in the morning and say thank you at night. Make recover your priority and everything else will follow.  I talked about how Vinnie Shanely in his suit and tie and gleaming white shirt pointed me to the steps at the Saturday evening St Ignatius meeting near B.C. The I talked a little about how it was when I was drinking so there could be some emotional identification.  So my recovering friends could understand that despite any differences I had felt like they had felt.  I often try to summarize that by quoting F. Scott Fitzgerald as saying, "Its always three a.m. in the heart of an alcoholic."  Some day I better check that attribution.  Anyway my drunkalog seemed to go over OK.  Larry spoke next, he's quiet, honest, sincere and then we had a break for the raffle and some conversation.  Many people came over and said "Thanks for sharing." and it was quite genuine and I knew I had had an impact.  And I went and found Joe O. who I had known years ago and he knew me but was a bit confused about the past and I couldn't quite get a handle on what the cause of his confusion really was, but it didn't matter.  He was with some old timers, several of whom had been patients at the Hill.  We talked about old times, John Sweeney.  We made that type of emoitional connection that says "Yeah, I'm an alcoholic, your an alcoholic, we're trudging this road of happy destiny together, that's what counts here, keep walking." I talked to a lot of people after the meeting until someone shut the lights out.  We got outside and we talked some more and I short of jogged to the van, I knew I was holding Dave and the others up.
The feeling in the car on the way home was different.  We had shared bits of ourselves, the group process had taken over, there was a lot of laughter.  We discussed the important issue of whether you should leave gasoline in small engines, get the gas out out, and whether in either circumstance you should add fuel stabilizer or dry gas. Dave, Ed, Larry and John all had pretty definite and conflicting opinions about this momentous subject. We finally wondering whether reading the manufacturers manual and following its suggestions would be a strategy.  That got some laughs.  The bathos was unspoken: we were on a mission to save our lives and the question was gasoline in a small internal combustion engine.  But I think everyone really understood.  We talked about a couple of people who were drinking and or drugging.  Sad stories about guys in jail or on the street who probably weren't going to make it.  We got back to the Peterborough parking lot, got in our separate vehicles and left for our separate destinations.
This is how you get sober and stay sober in A.A. The time and effort is inordinate, its simple but hard to do.  Its a way of life now that has saved my life and given me that life that is second to none.
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