They call them “pigeons”’ these wily fly-by-day-and night creatures whose habitat ranges from the plush cocktail lounge to the bottle-littered doorway’ and whose plumage varies from the peacock’s display to something resembling a plucked chicken. Granted that they are birds-of-a-feather, the name seems ill considered and is one which I have studiously avoided in my own-thinking,
When I was an AA fledgling of some few self-satisfied, sober months, they sent me out to “carry the message.” And right away I found a bird who was receptive. Everything I told him, he agreed with In fact, he would go around repeating my ideas, word for word. The AA slogans were duck soup for him. When he gave his first A.A talk, his case history was brief, very confused and liberally laced with all the trite (and true) AA expressions The part where he told how the program worked for him was a masterpiece. I knew it was I had given it myself – three days before.
After the meeting, a solid citizen came up to me and said “Better watch that pigeon of yours. That was a nice talk he gave, but he has some pretty weird ideas”
But the solid citizen was wrong. This guy was no pigeon – he was a parrot. Trouble with parrots is you can’t stay sober by repeating what other people say. And one day this parrot paid a visit to his old roost, and a genial vulture said, “Joe you’ve been a good boy for a long time now one drink won’t hurt you “ And Joe Parrot said, “Yeah’ I’ve been a good boy for a long time now, one drink won’t hurt me.” I haven’t seen him since.
Next I tried to sponsor a mockingbird. This character disagreed with everything I said and would polish off each suggestion with a wise crack. The Twelve Steps and the slogans were sounding boards for his ego and within two weeks he had discovered everything that was wrong with the program. Unfortunately’ he never found anything that was right (for him) in the program, I found only one thing wrong with him. He couldn’t stay sober.
My next specimen was one of those who played everything real close to his chest and rarely had anything to say’ mostly he just sat in the meetings and nodded his head from time to time. When he did speak, I noticed an odd quality about his voice, I finally discovered that this was caused by the fact that he was trying to talk on an in drawn breath. And then one day’ he had what I guess he would call a slip, he exhaled. And then I discovered he hadn’t been getting my message about the first drink. I call his type the “Old Crow,”
Then I got a bird who admitted he was having a problem with drinking’ but didn’t believe he was a “real alcoholic He came to the meetings and I turned to the case histories and each time it was the same thing that never happened to me “I never got that bad” I tried to point out that this was a progressive disease and that the things that had never happened to him would happen if he continued to drink. But he couldn’t see it.
And all of a sudden, I got a mental picture of an ostrich with his head buried in the sand and I knew what kind of a bird I had on my hands. So I waited for the inevitable. Sure enough, within a short time he lost his license because of drunken driving, and was fired from his highly paid job, and was evicted from the house by his over loving wife. Deciding that he had hit bottom at last, I moved in and I discovered that an ostrich can run faster than any bird you ever saw. I haven‘t caught him yet.
Then I netted a real tame species I call his kind the “mourning Dove” He looked so sad when I saw him that I knew he was ready for the program. So I told him about the first drink and I took him to meetings, and he got sober. But he never stopped crying. The seats were too hard, the speakers were too long winded; his wife was always on his back; his boss expected too much. When he said he had no appetite, I could understand him. I could hardly stomach him myself. But I persevered with him, I knew that if I did’ one day he would have a spiritual awakening. Sure enough, one day he showed up at the meeting wearing a big grin. Here, if ever I saw one, was a man in good spirits. Then I got close enough to catch a whiff and I realised that it was the other way around. The good spirits were in the man.
So – one by one – the various species came, and flew the coop
There were the jailbirds (whose wings got clipped every so often, but they managed to fly in between times); and the- cuckoos (who were only too glad to leave their problems in my nest, provided I gave them enough money to drink on, in the meantime); and the peacocks (who paraded their sobriety like a coat of arms, but when others failed to share their open admiration of this lustrous new quality’ they went out and got drunk; to get even). And there were some I don’t believe are birds at all. I think they are bats’
And then one night as I sat in a meeting, counting the remnants of my scattered flock (a few had gotten sober and stayed sober, in spite of anything I could do or say), I rediscovered some basic truths, Call it a spiritual awakening,
Number One: I admitted that I was powerless over alcohol, (My fine feathered friends’ alcoholic problems as well as my own) and that I could no more manage their lives than they could (or than I could manage my own).
Number Two: I came to believe that a Power greater than myself could restore my hen-headed friends to sanity. After all, hadn’t He done it for me? At any rate, weren’t these realisations a sign that the process had started?
Number Three: I made a decision to turn my nestlings (including myself) over to the care of God as I understood Him.
And with this last I learned something that is one of – the corner stones of our AA program.
Nothing I could ever do or say would change another alcoholic one iota. But everything I had done or said had had its effect on at least one individual. One drunk had gotten sober, One alcoholic was staying sober (twenty-four hours at a time). One faltering chick was fluttering painfully through the Twelve Steps’ learning a little something in the process. I began to see how I could fly.
And I wasn’t the one who was doing it. It was the same Higher Power, working with some mighty unlikely assistants my birds of passage, successful and unsuccessful. In each of them I was enabled to see a little of myself – as I really was, and I realised that all the so called Twelfth Step work I was doing was not being done on them, but on me.
And so it goes.
The various species and subspecies continue to flit in and out of our fellowship, some continue again and again to try their wings in open defiance of the alcoholic law of gravity, which says that every drunk that gets high has to come down. Harder each time. Eventually, some of them seem to develop a homing instinct and find sanctuary in the fellowship of AA just like this pigeon.