Friends of Bill W., Please Come to the Gate...

Friends of Bill W., Please Come to the Gate...

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reader's Choice 20th Anniversary Edition

Friends of Bill W., Please Come to the Gate. . .

Once you learn to walk, crawling is out of the question.

~James D. Davis

Sometime in the early 1990s I was treating a woman in an intensive outpatient chemical dependency group. Let’s call her “Grace.” Grace was a flight attendant and had been suspended from her job with a major airline due to her untreated alcoholism. She had been stealing the miniature liquor bottles, drinking in airport bars in uniform, and so on. Her employer, realizing she needed treatment, sent her to us.

After the eight-week program, I suggested to her it might be a good idea to solidify her foundation in recovery before returning to work, as she would be working in a high-risk environment (serving alcohol, being out of town alone, etc.). Grace did, however, return to work shortly after completing outpatient treatment. One day while she was departing from a plane at the end of a long day, a major craving for alcohol overpowered her. There she was, in the Los Angeles International Airport, pulling her roller-bag behind her when this massive craving to drink came over her. She tried to just “think through it, ” or “just forget about it, ” but it was way too powerful. It was so powerful, in fact, that she was resigned to the fact that she would just go drink.

Grace thought, Oh, the heck with it, I’ll get another job . . . or maybe no one will find out anyway. But deep down inside, Grace did not want to drink. She truly had wanted to stay sober, but she was in trouble.

On her way to the bar in the airport, Grace had a moment of sanity. She stopped, picked up the airport paging phone and said, “Will you please page friends of Bill W.,” she paused, quickly looking around for an empty gate, “to come to Gate 12?”

Within minutes, over the paging system in the L.A. International Airport came, “Will friends of Bill W. please come to Gate 12? Will friends of Bill W. please come to Gate 12?” Most people in recovery know that saying you are a friend of Bill W. is an anonymous way to identify yourself as a member of AA.

In less than five minutes there were about fifteen people at that gate from all over the world. That brought tears of amazement, relief and joy to Grace. They had a little meeting there in that empty gate, total strangers prior to that moment. Grace discovered that two of those people had gotten out of their boarding lines and missed their flights to answer that call for help. They had remembered what they had seen on many walls of meeting rooms: “When anyone, anywhere reaches out their hand for help, I want the hand of AA to be there and for that I am responsible.”

Grace did not drink that day. I would venture to guess that none of the people who came to Gate 12 drank that day either. Instead Grace had a moment of sanity, realized she could not do it on her own, took the action of asking for help and received it immediately. This help is available to all of us if we want it and sincerely ask for it. It never fails.

~Jim C., Jr.

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