How do I begin to describe the 75th International Alcoholics Anonymous Convention? It's not an easy task for me, but like so many things, I find the way through a shift in perspective. The event was so large, so awesome, so bigger than life that it is in the description of the smaller moments and events that I can capture the experience.
The venue for the convention was perfect. The city of San Antonio, Texas is beautiful, quaint, historic and has a lovely energy. A river meanders right through the heart of the city and a "Riverwalk" has been built along its banks along which are nestled wonderful restaurants and shops. Touring boats carry visitors along the river continuously. Much of the dining is outdoor seating where 'people watching' is at its best.
Boudro's, a bistro on the Riverwalk, was recommended and it was a treat. We ate there the first night and went back again our last night to celebrate my 25th AA anniversary. These were meals I will not soon forget. I had a "Big Tails, Little Tails" the first night that had two baby lobster tails and shrimp with spicy crawfish tails over lemon, avocado and roasted tomato risotto. Fabulous! The second time we went I had their signature dish, "Blackened Prime Rib". I loved every bite. For dessert there was Toasted Nut Brittle Ice Cream in a pool of hot fudge one night and the other night was Creme Brulee. In case you haven't figured, I am a real food person. I love eating.
Now for the reason we were there. I was amazed that 65,000 people could all be in one place and I never saw anyone upset, angry or arguing over the 4 days I was there. People looked excited, enthusiastic, energetic, positive and very happy. It felt good.
There were meetings going on all the time. They were held in the Convention Center and the big hotels around the center. There were three large meetings for all participants that were held in the Alamodome, a gigantic closed stadium. The opening ceremony Friday night included a flag ceremony with someone from each of the 90+ nations represented entering the stage with their nation's flag. Very impressive. This was followed by three speakers. Saturday night was an "Old Timers" meeting with 12 "old timers" speaking for 5 minutes each. The old timers were all alcoholics with 40 or more years of sobriety. The last was the closing ceremony on Sunday morning with more speakers. It was a sea of recovering people. It was overwhelming to say the least. I felt "The Spirit" was everywhere and in everything.
There was also Al-anon participation with meetings held each day, all day, in one of the hotels near the convention center. The Al-anon meeting I attended was packed full by a quarter of the hour. The topic was "Check Your Motives". There was a 20 minute lead and then in a very orderly fashion attendees were able to share for two minutes each. I heard people share from all over the world and the universal message of Al-anon came through loud and clear. What did I take away from this meeting? If I am checking my motives, I will feel like I am on solid recovery ground if my motives are to do God's will.
Picture 65,000 people moving through the downtown streets of San Antonio almost as one unit as they head for the Alamodome. The city police were out in force to direct the gigantic crowds through the traffic. The city seemed to be ours. The city was so welcoming. This felt good.
I know many other thoughts will come to me after I publish this blog, but I end this post with my belief that the Higher Power of 65,000 people all in the same place for a common purpose is a very powerful thing to experience. There flowed through all the space a feeling of brotherly love, support, encouragement, recovery, peace and serenity. I thank God for this opportunity to have been a part of this celebration of life and recovery.