They asked for newcomers in the meeting to introduce themselves, and an old friend I was sitting next to snorted into his coffee.
"What's that about?" I asked.
"Nobody gets sober at this time of year." he said.
"Wow, you're just a little sunbeam for baby jesus today, aren't you." I offered. "What's the matter, feeling the pinch at your belt from all your feasting, and deciding to take it out on the rest of us?"
"You're the one wearing sweatpants." he snapped.
"No, seriously," I pressed on, "people get sober around the holidays."
"It's a three-fold disease." he lifted his chin, stroking his beard and using his best Elder Statesman tone.
I rolled my eyes. "Yes, I'm aware, thank you. Physical, mental and spiritual."
"Actually," he looked at me sideways, "I was thinking more Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years."
I laughed, "I like hanging out with you."
"Yes, when we're together, by comparison I look younger and less cynical."
"Perhaps," he tilted his head. "But not thinner."
"Oh, very, very good."
"You realize I'll be putting salt in your coffee the next time we go to Starbucks."
"But of course. Prankery is the last refuge of those who can't respond in kind."
"I want you to know," I said warmly, "if you drink, I won't judge you."
"I'm not going to drink." he said.
"A boy can dream."
"Oh no." he said, "I won't drink because then you would have more time than I do, and I cannot abide that idea. No, not one bit."
"It's not a contest." I said.
"In general, you are most correct." He put his hand on my shoulder "but between us?"
"A contest. Yes. I know. More coffee?" I asked, using Winning Smile Number 5.
"Yes, but I'll get it myself, thank you."
"Curses, foiled again."
He's my best sparring partner, and we've saved each other's lives more times than either of us can bother to count.
There are many kinds of friendship in the world, and all of them make life a little easier to bear -- but there's a special quality with old AA friends. Not wanting to alter that bond has, on occasion, gotten me through some tough, tough nights.
If you are new, stay sober, and you will find yours, too. They happen gradually -- but often the things which grow slowly are the most durable.