I heard someone tell a story of the man who goes to St Peter and asks St Peter to show him Heaven and Hell. St Peter takes him to a door marked “Hell”. St Peter opens the door and the man is surprised by what he sees. Inside the room is a huge buffet. There are tables and tables and tables set with every kind of food you could ever imagine. Meats, vegetables, fruits and desserts from every country around the world. There are soups, salads and breads in abundance as well. There is enough food in this room to feed the world’s population for eternity, yet the people in the room are hungry. They are starving. They are sitting amongst plenty and they are dying.
It is easy to see why. The people all have long wooden spoons tied to their arms. The spoons are just a little too long. They can’t quite get the food in to their mouths. They continue to try to feed themselves and they continue to fail.
Next St Peter takes the man to the room marked “Heaven”. They open the door and are greeted with the same scene. A huge buffet, tables and tables and tables of the most amazing foods. Food to feed all the world’s peoples for an eternity . All the choices and varieties of meats, vegetables, soups and desserts possible. Sadly, the man thinks, all the people in this room have those wooden spoons tied to their hands as well. But the man soon notices a difference. The people in this room are laughing, talking and singing. The difference? One man is taking a spoon of food and feeding the man across the table and he is feeding the woman next to him and she is feeding someone else. These people are full, happy and content.
This story reminds me of Alcoholics Anonymous. We can do what I can’t.
How many times has an alcoholic, after an exceptionally painful bout of drinking promised a mother, father, husband, wife, child, boss or a friend that he is done for good? This is the last time he will be arrested, he will crash a car, he will not come home for three days, he will be drunk during an important business meeting, he will be drunk at Back to School Night, he will forget to pick you up from school, he will make an inappropriate pass at your wife. He means the promise when he makes it. He means it with every fiber of his body and yet in a week or two weeks or maybe as long as a month, he is drunk again and family members and friends don’t understand why or how it happened. They remember that he promised. They begin to question the drinker’s love for them. They may even begin to believe it is somehow their fault.
If the drinker was asked, “why?” “why did you break your promise?” “why did you drink again?” his honest answer will be “I don’t know”. He will probably not be able to tell you he has alcoholism. He might be able to tell you he’s an alcoholic but there is little chance he will know it’s a threefold disease. He won’t know it’s an allergy of the body, an obsession of the mind and a spiritual malady. He won’t know that he is totally powerless to stay away from the first drink and once he takes the first drink, the ones behind it come in rapid succession.
“I was really, really hungry,” the drinker says. ” I went to the Buffet but I had long wooden spoons tied to my arms. The length of the spoon extended beyond my mouth and consequently I could not put the food in to my mouth. I wanted to eat, I really did. With the spoons, it was impossible”.
Now, send that same man to Alcoholics Anonymous. He will be greeted when he arrives at his first meeting. He may be skeptical. He may wonder why these strangers are happy to see him. They certainly cannot know who he is or the things he has done. Would they be so welcoming if they knew how he neglected his family, if they knew he cheated his company out of thousands of dollars, if they knew he just was released from jail after serving a sentence for drunk driving?
He finds a seat and sits down just before the meeting starts. There’s a woman standing at a podium. She has said she is an alcoholic. The man questions, silently, to himself, what can this woman possibly share with him. She looks so wholesome. He listens to the story. She shared some things about herself that seemed shameful to him but the others in the room were laughing. As she finished telling her story, he was not completely “sold” but he felt, for the first time, that this place may offer some hope for him. As she finished, the people in the room raised their hands to clap and the man realized they all had those wooden spoons tied to their hands the same as he did. They couldn’t possibly get food to their mouths any more than he could but, as he sat back, he felt just a little fuller than he had when he came in to the room, before those people greeted him and before he heard this woman tell her story. He felt as though maybe he had taken a bite of something.
Leaving the room, two men stopped him and gave him their phone numbers. They handed him literature and pointed out where the meeting would be the next day. They told him someone else would tell a story and they assured him he would leave feeling a little better than he had when he came in. While encouraging the man to attend, they asked that he not drink before the next meeting. He was urged to use one of the phone numbers he had been given if the obsession to drink seemed too strong for him to resist on his own. It was always too strong, he thought as he left the room.
One man feeding another. Coming together in a meeting and listening to a story and getting a bite of food from the speaker. Listening to someone share and getting fed by them. Handing out your phone number or receiving a phone number and getting fed a little more. Calling another alcoholic when the urge to drink seems too strong and letting that man or women feed you.
Alcoholics Anonymous is not self help. Alcoholics Anonymous is mutual help.
Me? My AA Group is having a pot luck tonight before the meeting. I am going to share the buffet of endless possibilities knowing that left to my own devices I would be starving to death.
Email your questions or topic suggestions to: firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s experience this journey together. You will remain anonymous.