By M. Alexander and Jaron Zanerhaft
We arrive at the 53rd annual ICYPAA in San Francisco—the International Conference of Young People in Alcoholic’s Anonymous. 4,500 people. All of us, presumably, trying to stay sober. Most of us, hopefully, trying to better our lives. Some of us, regrettably, forgetting where we came from.
This is what we are:
We are recovering alcoholics huddled together over a big book, not bundled together over a glowing trashcan. Hyper and tired, not tweaked out and nodding off. Selling spirituality, not pushing the gangster mentality. Newcomers and old-timers, not chippers and fiends. Sponsors and sponsees, not pimps and hos. Happy and sad, not loaded and kicking. We are people who have taken the necessary action to change our lives.
This is what we do:
We remember that many are not lucky enough to attend this conference—they are smoking crack a few blocks away in the tenderloin, they are selling their bodies a few miles away in Oakland, they are cooking meth a few states away in Middle America. They buy guns a few borders away in Bolivia. They waste away at shooting galleries in Moscow. They wish they were here only a few memories away in the afterlife. We remember what it was like, what it could have been like, and we practice gratitude for what we have, for what it is.
This is what we see:
We see hope when the emotionally distraught attendees with less than 24 hours of sobriety stand on stage, announcing their name and disease to a spirit-filled crowd. We see hope when an 18 year old with 3 years sober helps a 25 year old who just put down the needle. And we see hope when both of us walk out of the conference and drive down to Los Angeles with 3 more days of sobriety.