Tonight I went looking for a meeting. After browsing the Tuesday night meetings in my area, I found one called “Open Heart” at 5:30. I chose this one because the name appealed to my femininity. Open Hearts sounded like rainbows, butterflies, ribbons and pink lipstick. So you can understand how confounded I was walking in and seeing mainly 60-year-old men. However, AA offers we alcoholics look for the similarity not the difference among us. I sat myself down, awaiting another female to hopefully arrive and relieve my conspicuous presence. The men were OLD. Not middle-age or recent AARP subscribers. Nope these men were well over 60, some pushing 70. Ok there were a couple guys my own age but I digress. Eventually another young girl entered the door of “Open Heart” and I was rescued.
Bob and Dan read the preamble, the 12 steps and the Serenity prayer echoed in the tiny room. The southern charm radiated off anything Bob and Dan had to say. It was an open discussion meeting, topic happened to be relevant. Sobriety and its effect on life. Many peaceful old men shared the good word with me and I laughed boisterously at their stories. And then…
Bob spoke of his life now and how wonderful, meaningful, rich it is and how sobriety had made it so. Bob got to talking…and I got to listening real hard. Here’s what Bob had to say. He said when he dies, he doesn’t want his funeral to be full of folks stating how sober he was during life. And how proud they happened to be about his “not drinking.” Bob said he wanted his epitaph to say “I lived, I accomplished many great things, helped many people, loved, lost, and managed well…and died.” Bob touched me so deeply I began to tear up. This was surprising even to me as I had so many preconceptions about my little Open Heart hour meeting. Bob you are so right. I don’t want my life to be about my ability to not take a drink. Alcoholics in recovery, well, we’re people just like anyone else. We live big and small lives. I have dreams, fears, goals, trials, and joys that fill up my days. I don’t want the rest of this life, my life, to be defined solely by my sobriety.
It’s an essential part of my life, no doubt. But like Bob says, his hope is that his loved ones and friends remember him for the good stuff. Not this choice he made to live clean and sober. I want the same thing, Bob. I’m more than my sobriety but I am nothing without it.
Oh and the name of the group? “Open Heart” is in honor of the man who started the group of my grumpy old men. He had a couple open heart surgeries before he died. The Lord works in mysterious ways.