Jeremy Clarke goes to his first AA meeting, eats a banana and keeps quietby Jeremy Clarke / January 20, 1997 / Leave a comment
I have just started going to AA meetings. I am not talking about the Automobile Association here. As might be expected of a company of alcoholics, reformed or otherwise, the meetings I have been to so far have been convivial, forthright affairs which swing unexpectedly from the maudlin to the hilarious. I wish I had started going years ago. I feel like I have come home.
I first tried to give up the sauce about the same time that the Berlin wall was being dismantled. Convictions for three guileless smash and grabs on off-licences, three drunken drivings, and one for an unprovoked assault on a St John’s ambulanceman after being carried out of West Ham football ground on a stretcher-all this in the space of about 18 months-had given me pause for thought. Instead of talking to counsellors about my “feelings” however, I took up Shotokan karate and swimming, and punched, kicked and breast-stroked my way to sobriety in about four years. It worked. In fact it worked so well I thought I was normal again and recently awarded myself a few drinks to celebrate. Unfortunately, once again, it all went black (your honour), and now I am trying to stop drinking again, only this time I thought I would try to do it with the AA.
“Don’t bother about all the ‘higher power’ stuff to begin with,” advised the scouser at the end of the telephone when I made contact.
“But that’s what drew me in the first place. I’m desperate.” I protested.
He gave me the times and the address of the AA meetings held in the nearest town, but I thought I would probably know everyone there, so I opted to go to the meetings in the nearest town but one. When I turned up for my first one -in a church hall on a wet Monday lunchtime-I was relieved to see that there was only one person I already knew sitting at the table.
“I didn’t expect to see you in here, Jim,” I said, genuinely surprised-shocked even.
“I can’t say I’m surprised to see you, Jel,” he riposted.
After a bit of idle chit-chat over coffee, the head alcoholic called the meeting to order and threw it open.
A non-English speaker attending the meeting by mistake would have probably come away feeling that they had been at the final of a prestigious cigarette smoking…