My name is Rafael and I’m an alcoholic. I got sober in Berlin and have been living there for more than eight years. One of the reasons I chose this city was that it seemed to be socially acceptable to drink at all times and almost everywhere. I only got to enjoy that for a couple of months, though. Things started going bad very fast after my arrival. By the third month, I had already looked up information about AA meetings. It took me a couple more months to actually attend one and a relapse after two months to start working the AA program, but last May I celebrated eight years of sobriety. Nowadays, I like to think getting sober was the reason life brought me to the city.
Berlin is a great place to be an alcoholic, active or sober. Those of us that are lucky enough to get and stay sober can benefit from a very diverse and tight-knit AA fellowship that keeps growing. Last time I counted we had almost forty meetings every week. That’s a big increase from around the ten that we had when I got sober. The constant stream of people coming from all over the world creates plenty of fellowship and service opportunities for everyone.
I’m lucky to have a sponsor that is very involved in service and who has motivated me to do the same from the very beginning. Though at first I couldn’t really do much more than going to meetings and fellowship afterwards – which I now understand is also a form of service–spending time with people in recovery enriches my life in many ways. The fellowship after the meetings is one of the things I appreciate the most about Berlin AA and something I miss sometimes when I am traveling–and during the current online-only situation. At the beginning of my sobriety, meetings and fellowship were enough to keep me sober for some time. At a time when I couldn’t stand to be alone with my thoughts, I remember looking forward to the fellowship after the meeting. Nowadays, my sobriety and sanity are the result of some more work, but fellowship and service continue to be very important parts of it.
AA continues to give me great friendships and bring me to places I would have never been otherwise, literally and figuratively. I’ve done a lot of traveling with my AA friends, some of it to visit AA conventions. I’m a big fan and usually try to go to a couple every year. I still remember the first one I attended outside of Berlin, SCANCYPAA in Norway a couple of years ago. Although I was not familiar with the YPAA (Young People in Alcoholics Anonymous) fellowship, I was motivated to attend by the enthusiasm with which some of my Berlin fellows talked about it.
There is a particular way in which I relate to the experience, strength, and hope shared at YPAA meetings. Part of it is my own experience getting sober relatively young at 27, but I think it’s the enthusiasm with which they’re shared, combined with the light-hearted attitude of the younger members of our fellowship, that makes it so special for me. It gets me out of my comfort zone, gives me hope, and makes me reflect on my character.
I usually do service at the Berlin Convention, and throughout my sobriety, I’ve served at the meeting, group, intergroup and region levels. Though sometimes challenging, service has been a great way of training myself for life beyond the AA rooms, too. From talking to strangers at meetings, to asking people to do service at the convention or chairing a business meeting, I’ve been able to get out of my comfort zone in a safe environment and develop the willingness to eventually do the same outside of AA.
I didn’t really come to AA to get sober, I just wanted to get my life together, take a break from the chaos that was my life back then and eventually move on. But I’m still here. With the help of the fellowship I could stay long enough to get a feeling of what a life in sobriety could be and that’s something I will always be grateful for.
Rafael G., Berlin