Can’t get to AA? Read this now and every day as necessary

Think COVID-19 is keeping you from your regular Alcoholics Anonymous meeting? Think again.

SHARE Can’t get to AA? Read this now and every day as necessary
Marble stairs and a brass railing at Union Station.

Just because you can’t go to an AA meeting doesn’t mean you can’t work the 12 steps, symbolized by these dozen well-worn marble beauties in the Great Hall at Union Station, which were replaced in 2016.

Neil Steinberg/Sun-Times

Hello, my name is Neil and I’m an alcoholic.

Hello, Neil!

Welcome to the Friday Morning Inky Newshound Fellowship Meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, where we gather to (reading from a card) “share our experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.”

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I’m glad to be here — I’m glad to be anywhere — and glad that you’re here, especially the newcomers. As you know, the COVID-19 virus has caused the cancellation of thousands of AA meetings usually held in church basements and conference rooms. And since attending an online meeting is, for some, well, weird, I thought I would convene one here.

General chair scraping, coffee sipping. Somebody rushes in. “Sorry I’m late,” he says, stating the obvious. There’s a lot of that in AA, stating of the obvious. But since ignoring the obvious, for years, is how a person gets here, that’s actually useful.

No worries. There’s a chair at the back. The good thing about a meeting like this — sprung by surprise — is that it’s hard to avoid. None of that “I don’t have time” or “I’m stuck inside” or “Every aspect of life is convulsed by a global plague” to keep you from attending.

Amidst the havoc, this pandemic is serving up the two things most dangerous to an alcoholic: isolation and an excuse. Oh, and lack of employment. So, three things most dangerous ...

Sorry. This meeting is unusual in more ways than being held in a newspaper. It’s also being led by me, who has never run an AA meeting before. So please forgive any doctrinal mistakes, such as my picture and name at the top of this, which blows the “anonymous” part of AA all to hell. Just accepting life on life’s terms.

An Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in Moscow in 2012.

Alcoholics Anonymous meetings all over the world, like this one in Moscow in 2012, have been disrupted by social-distancing restrictions put in to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

AFP via Getty Images

Let’s go around the room and check in.

Various men and women, whom you initially dismissed based entirely on how they look, take turns unspooling elaborate tales that often have nothing to do with alcoholism or anything in particular until you realize that while you’re in a completely different place from them you’re also exactly the same.

Thanks for those arresting stories. Let me leave you with a quick story of my own. Last year, I joined a Canadian expedition ogling glaciers, on a ship sailing up the Chilean coast. When I first got to my cabin, I explored, as people do, opening drawers and cabinets. One cabinet was a bar; all these mini-bottles of Jack Daniels. “I’ve got to get the porter to take this out,” I thought. Then we were in rubber boats skimming across gelid fjords and eating elegant dinners and talking. Two weeks flashed by. Time to leave, and I was going around the cabin, making sure I had all my stuff, opening drawers and cabinets. And there was the mini-bar. I had completely forgotten about it. For two weeks. That might not seem a marvelous story, to you non-drunks, but the people who need a meeting will regard the tale with wonder, if not disbelief. Trust me; I was there. It happened. And if it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody.

This is the part of the meeting where, in the spirit of the 7th tradition that AA meetings be self-supporting, we typically collect a couple bucks to cover the room and the coffee. If you have your two bucks folded in your fist already, because you’re that kind of tightly wound individual, maybe you’ll consider putting it toward a digital subscription to the Sun-Times: only $2.49 a month. You get to keep up on the hour-by-hour crisis, don’t have to figure out how to thwart firewalls, and will do good — service before self! — by keeping democracy from sliding into the abyss of ignorance. Go to https://chicago.suntimes.com/pages/subscribe. Really, I’m not kidding. Go right now. Do it. You’ll thank me later.

Now we all stand up and hold hands — virtually, which is what’s great about this. No need to scrub up like a surgeon afterward. OK, together:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

OK, thanks for coming everybody. “It works if you work it.” Please remember to throw away your cups on the way out. Stay safe out there.

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