Over the past few years, I have been to many meetings. These meetings are filled with Experience, Strength and Hope. But I have learned and am reminded again, that the Experience, Strength and Hope part, it is up to me to listen and to allow myself to receive the message.
In Accordance with the Third Tradition, AA Meetings are to help alcoholics achieve sobriety. “The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking.” That leaves a lot of leeway in how that happens. Every now and then, I am amazed at the behavior that is exhibited and tolerated in order to support the Alcoholic that still suffers.
Oscar The Grouch
When I first came into the Halls of AA, Oscar would often be at meetings. When I heard him share, there was no doubt in my mind that Oscar was nothing short of genius material. When I listened to Oscar share, his monotone voice was full of information, facts about the Big Book and other AA Literature, in almost every occasion that he shared, he would end up insulting or chiding another speaker that had spoken earlier in the meeting. Those of us that were listening, clinging to every word like it was a lifeline, would walkaway sometimes thinking, “If this is what being sober means, you can have it!”
Oscar took no prisoners. What I have come to believe is he is completely incapable of compassion. He says what he says with a sort of cruel eloquence that varies depending on his mood. If a person with 20 years of sobriety shares and Oscar is in a bad mood, when it is his turn, he spins a web with enough AA Speak, when the claws come out he quietly attacks the person, it can be a little disarming. If you didn’t know that Oscar lived in an old school bus with hula hoops and mardi gras beads hanging inside and garbage bags and duct tape to block broken windows, you may just think he was an asshole.
In Maine, we call them snowbirds. Before the snow flies, people pack up their cars or in some cases a backpack and head for warmer weather. This includes the homeless, high functioning mentally ill population. If people feel the need to be outside, (including sleeping outside,) they know that they would freeze to death in Maine in the winter. The solution is to head South. I never understood how they got there, no money, no belongings to sell, but they end up on the beaches somehow and return to Maine in the Spring. Oscar gets here in a dilapidated school bus. His own.
Oscar and his bus are no doubt Higher Powered. He parked it next to me last night. As I went to my car to leave, I wondered how the thing got here from Louisiana (license plates). It was about 20 minutes after his comments ripped the speaker to ribbons in his quiet way. The quiet way that was not lost to anyone in the rooms but was accepted and not rejected like it would be if it was done in the “normal world.”
I had walked across the parking lot at the Recovery Center thinking, “Jesus that guy is such an asshole, why didn’t Stu or someone with tons of sobriety pull him aside and check his attitude?” As a female, people like Oscar, unpredictable yet highly functional, are best left to the male population to sort out. Only no one did. As I sit here now, I am understanding why.
I need to be reminded that the message comes in all shapes and sizes. My Higher Power wants me to see people like Oscar and understand. My Higher Power wants me to love and accept them for the people they are and not the people I would like them to be. My job isn’t to be offended, it is to be sober and to help other alcoholics achieve sobriety.
Now that Oscar is back for the summer, I have no doubt that he and his bus will be parked at the Homeless Shelter and he will be at our Meetings. It is my choice to be offended by his message or to try and see the wisdom in it, be amazed at the miracle Oscar is, finding his own path in Recovery and staying on it.