Like spirituality itself, recovery cannot be defined, but it can be described. Also like spirituality, recovery is an experience that involves a sense of “rejoining the human race,” of rediscovering one's basic humanity. For in recovery, if we are open to the experience, we discover the place where we belong. This true story is from the A.A. booklet Came to Believe:
A man in a small Wisconsin city had been on the A.A. program for about three years and had enjoyed contented sobriety throughout that period. Then bad luck began to hit him in bunches . . . At this point he cracked, and decided to go on an all-out binge. He didn’t want to stage this in the small city, where everyone knew his sobriety record. So he went to Chicago, checked in at a North Side hotel, and set forth on his project. It was Friday night, and the bars were filled with a swinging crowd. But he was in no mood for swinging – he just wanted to get quietly, miserably drunk.
Finally, he found a basement bar on a quiet side street, practically deserted. He sat down on a bar stool and ordered a double bourbon on the rocks. The bartender said, “Yes, sir,” and reached for a bottle.
Then the bartender stopped in his tracks, took a long, hard look at the customer, leaned over the bar, and said in a low tone, “I was in Milwaukee about four months ago, and one night I attended an open meeting. You were on the speaking platform, and you gave one of the finest A.A. talks I ever heard.” The bartender turned and walked to the end of the bar.
For a few minutes, the customer sat there – probably in a state of shock. Then he picked his money off the bar with trembling hands and walked out, all desire for a drink drained out of him.
It is estimated that there are about 8,000 saloons in Chicago, employing some 25,000 bartenders. This man had entered the one saloon in 8,000 where he would encounter the one man in 25,000 who knew that he didn’t belong there.