Coming home from my first AA convention was like coming home from a vacation from a completely different country. They warned me that for newcomers, their first AA convention is overwhelming and life changing. They were right. So I say now: Excuse all of the scattered thoughts and story telling…
Other than Alco-thon meetings every hour, Friday into Sunday afternoon, I wasn’t sure what else to expect. It was a herd of sober folk. The first night was great because there was not as many people around.
Myself and the other young alcoholics/addicts had dinner in which I filled up on mashed potatoes and french fries (I. Love. Potatoes.) The main speaker meeting was not until 9 p.m. that night so for several hours, I just walked around, my eyes and brain absorbing everything like a sponge (blah, that was a cliché comparison). All of the speakers at the convention were phenomenal, each story with a relatable chapter in my own life, and a message of hope. Hope that it is possible to go another 20-50 years without a drink.
The individual with the most sobriety at the convention had 50 years of sobriety, double my lifetime. There was a young alcoholic speaker for the young people’s AA speaker meeting who shared a very moving and hopeful story. She was funny.
Friday night, myself and a friend were the only two out of the group of us younglings who wanted to stay up late and do everything. Everyone else went home and we continued to roam through the convention, meeting other people, reuniting with people from home groups. I also was able to see and talk to people from the first AA meeting I ever went to about nine months ago.
Everyone was happy, silly, emotional, tired. It was like a fucking marathon. By 10 p.m. the dance floor and the DJ opened up (yes, there was a dance club for only us sober folk) and I danced for about an hour. I then ran over the hall to the other ballroom for karaoke. There is just something amazing and completely weird about people doing bad karaoke completely sober.
So, I gathered up my adrenaline, threw it over my shoulder and ran up to sing a good old ABBA song. The next thing i know, I was no longer at the stage/podium area but was dancing and disco-ing and running around the audience singing to people I never met!
Oh, and sober people are mic hogs too! You know, those individuals who sign up for a million songs back to back to back and you have to wait 45 minutes for one song…. and typically, these mic hogs are so bad they live in their dream American Idol fantasy only to chase out other sober people who have gone deaf. And yes, it’s only the first day of the convention.
I almost forgot to mention the most important part: coffee. Free, 24/7, coffee all over the convention at different hot spots. Ugh, can you say hell yeah?? I have never been so amped on coffee that I knew it would take days of detox from all of the free coffee.
Running around all day, and overdosed on coffee, my friend and I had to take a sleeping aid to go to bed, but continued to read our daily meditations (which were dead on, message-wise) and talk for 2 hours. Oh, and for manic coffee drinkers comes manic peeing.
Yes, every hour I had to pee.
One of the important messages I want to pass on from this convention is service. The first night there, a young woman who chaired the young AA meeting asked myself and friend to do service and volunteer for the old-timers panel in the morning. Of course I said yes!
Here’s the thing. Give back. Always. If someone from AA asks you to do something, you don’t say no! (Of course, unless it’s something illegal, or against your morals, or non-aa related, or something totally obscene…but you get my point, I hope.)
Starting off Saturday morning early with service, I was able to listen to all of the alcoholics with 20 years plus of sobriety speak.
There was that awesome run to lunch with my friend in which I won a weird-looking stuffed animal (that lunch is a story for another day!) But I was able to enjoy lunch at a restaurant with my friends, laughing hysterically, and being extremely inappropriate, obviously!
Heading back to the convention, I realized wow: It’s like I was just let out of the cage! Being crammed inside with so many alcoholics/addicts who are sober and happy and high off caffeine is like I said, a completely separate world. It’s good!
Saturday evening was the big meeting.
For those of you who are new to AA, the convention has this event called the “Sobriety Count Down.” Starting with the individual with the highest amount of sobriety (50 years) the chair of the meeting counts down while everyone enthusiastically claps. When your sobriety date is reached, you stand up and then everyone applauds like maniacs! It’s a massive celebration.
So, you better believe when they got down to 85 days, I stood my lil’ ass on the chair and waved my hands like I just don’t care!
While I am being silly in this, I have to say that the countdown experience this year was extremely emotional for me.
To put it simply: Imagine a ballroom, packed to standing room, thousands of alcoholics, side-by-side, clapping and yelling, whistling and cheering for every single day of sobriety. It really is beautiful.
I think a very important aspect of this is to notice that every single day of sobriety counts. There were three alcoholics present who stood and were recognized for just 24 hours of sobriety. But the love for them was exactly the same.
Following the countdown, the meeting speaker shared her story and it has to be, to this date, the most remarkable, heart-wrenching, hopeful story I have ever heard. This woman was hilarious, the “Ellen Degenres’ of AA. But her words, they pinched the nerves and shook the heart, and gave me chills.
Her story was not only relatable, funny, and tragic. But it was a success story. A life from rags turned to hope. She and her story was beautiful. I cried. And due to the sleepy ha-has I had experienced earlier, I then had the sleepy sobs.
Following the speaker, my friend and I ran out for some more food, an AA meeting in between, and then hit up the dance floor! We danced all night, shook it til’ we broke it. Literally, party fowl: We were trying to be skilled ass shakers and fell over on top of each other, and yes, ladies and gents, we were sober.
I danced with my sponsor, old friends, I even led the “Cha Cha Slide” (a type of line dance) on the stage. The DJ announced “I want the best three cha-cha sliders to get up on this stage. Come on now! You danced on tables when you were drunk! Come up sober!”
The moral to this massive post entry is this: Sobriety is beautiful, genuine and authentic. There is no amount of alcohol that could have made this weekend more fun. There were so many laughs, snorts and such wondrous messages that would be lost, killed off, struck down and muted for the mental state of being high or drunk.
Us people in AA: We party sober!