I was encouraged to give the lead at my home group. It is a rite of passage, I was told, a part of the Twelfth Step. I said I would think about it.
I am a lousy speaker. Sometimes I forget to breathe and in the middle of a sentence I have to gulp for air or turn blue. Sometimes saliva runs down the corners of my mouth like the spittle on an old man. No. No way.
But it happened anyway.
My lead had to be perfect—one that rocks the rafters and leaves the listeners awestruck. I would outline my lead, write it down, transfer it to index cards, memorize and practice, and know when to throw in a little humor to lighten my deep thoughts. I built imagined hurdles to jump over that I couldn’t jump even if I were bourbon-reinforced.
I was embarrassed by my story. It was dull. In the first Steps of recovery, as I took personal and moral inventory and made amends, even I was bored. I was just a drunk who drank too much and did not care. I knew that drinking was a slow death, but I was in no hurry.
I didn’t start drinking at the age of ten, was never beaten or molested, never jailed, never stole a police car and drove 110 miles
an hour on the wrong side of the expressway, never got naked on Main Street or kissed the pastor’s wife or peed in someone’s aquarium, and never had locks changed by wife or parents. These
were the kinds of leads I heard, and they were fun and exciting. (Well, at least I’m not that bad.) I had never done anything under the influence no listener had not heard before. Somebody’s boring and I think it’s me.
One evening the guest lead speaker couldn’t make the meeting. The chair looked around the room, asking if there was anyone who had never given a lead. No matter how small I shrank in my chair and stared at the ceiling, I couldn’t hide.
Okay. Since my Higher Power got me to A.A., certainly he wouldn’t let me down now. He didn’t,
I stumbled, I rambled, I hemmed and hawed. I said, “Oh, I forgot to tell the part about . . ..” and wiped the spit from my mouth.
Then God came through. I wasn’t giving a speech to a crowd. I was talking to my friends in my living room. They were listening to me! They were interested in me and they cared. I was so excited at being helpful, knowing that if only one person walked away a little closer to sobriety or staying sober, I was a success. I forgot to be frightened and was just myself.
At the end there was applause. An old-timer came up to me and said, “I’ve never heard a lead given just that way.”
I took it as a compliment.