I took my last drink of alcohol (please Dear Lord). I normally celebrate my first day of sobriety rather than my last day drinking, and will do so tomorrow, but I will not have time to write in the morning – because I will be going to a 6:30 meeting.
On July 23, 1984, I drank as normal. Nothing unusual happened. I drank all day, as I always did. My husband came home from work and we had a “few beers” as we always did. We packed the kids in the car and were going to go to the library. It did occur to me as I was driving that I probably shouldn’t be doing any of this when I was inebriated, but there was no time that I was NOT inebriated. This wasn’t an earth-shattering thought because I had been living like this for a long time. When we got home, I put the kids to bed, my husband went to sleep, and I sat at the dining room table and drank a “few more beers.” There was no incident, no awakening, no burning bush. There was especially no one who said I was a drunk and needed to stop living this way.
On July 24, I woke up with revulsion for myself. Again, nothing unusual. However, how I responded WAS unusual. I picked up the phone and called AA, because I was done. A young man answered the phone and quickly told me he would have a woman call me back. I thought I had just been given the brush off (as expected), but was pleasantly surprised when a woman did call me back within a few minutes. She was precisely the right woman out of all the sober women in the world. And it was the ONLY 12 step call she ever made. She is no longer sober, but I owe her an eternal debt (which I can only repay by passing it on).
She listened to me for an hour. I was amazed because for the couple of years prior to this no one listened to me other than paid professionals. I realized she was not going to send me a bill for her time. I could not believe it! She talked me into going to a meeting with her that night. The way she did it was magical and another story entirely – one I have probably written about every year since I started blogging. She showed up at my door, a lovely, soft spoken, well-dressed, intelligent, well-educated, sober woman. Her boyfriend was with her, he was also all of those things – and handsome! They took me to my first meeting.
I heard things at that meeting that absolutely electrified me. I had never heard anyone speak openly of suicide attempts, drinking so much you wake up in strange places you have no recollection of getting to, being a “bad mother,” and many more of my secret nightmares that I never wanted to see the light of day. These lovely women were talking about all of my shame! And they were sober!
I walked into that meeting a woman who was a drunk, and left that meeting a sober woman. I wanted what they had. I wanted it with a passion I didn’t even know I could possess. I was given a big book and with 24 hours I had read it.
I was pretty befuddled, but I got one idea loud and clear from the big book – and it was that If I worked the steps I would not want to drink again. I knew in that moment that I was motivated not to drink, but I also knew my track record of enthusiasm – it lasted anywhere from a month to six weeks, never longer. I knew I had that amount of time to get the steps done, and then if the program worked I would be OK after my initial enthusiasm.
The bottom line is: It worked.
No one wanted me to be sober. I totally destroyed the eco-system of my drunken relationships. My family was upset. My husband was upset. My husband’s friends were upset (I no longer had any friends of my own). My husband said to me at one point “I had no idea you were so lonely,” meaning that he thought I was so desperate for friends that I would embrace AA as a social outlet. He drank pretty much like I did, so I could understand why he felt that way. My sobriety was a threat to everyone I knew. I have thanked God for that over and over and over. If someone had been pushing me into AA, leaving pamphlets around, talking to me about the big book, etc. one second before I was done drinking, they may have driven me away from what was to be my life-saving solution. As it was, I was being a rebel by being sober. And I am contrary enough for that to work!
Twenty-nine years later, here I am. A sober woman. I have been sober nearly half of my life. Certainly most of my adult life.
These years have been good and bad. Mostly good. I have to go to work today, so I don’t have time to write about all that has happened in my sobriety. It has been miraculous. I have felt the presence of God in my life on a regular basis. There is no way I would have gotten sober or stayed sober without the grace of a loving God. I have absolutely no power to do this. I thought I did in my first five years of sobriety, but had a rude awakening at about that time and realized that “of myself, I am nothing.” But with God’s grace, my world is limitless.
That is why, since that time, I do not talk about “working” the program, or “working” the steps. All I can bring is willingness, and then God can work with me. The footwork may feel like I am doing something, but it is God doing the work. I am the recipient of His Grace – not mine. I thought I “worked” the program until I had that spiritual awakening at 5 years, and realized that I am not capable of bringing about the changes that had happened to me. No human person could have. I was beyond human aid. I have to continue to be willing and to do the footwork, but God does the heavy-lifting.
To consider who I used to be is shocking to me now. Sometimes in the middle of the night I will remember something from those years and just be horrified (then I can do the simple things we are taught to do). I am not that person today.
But I know she lingers inside me. I know she CAN drink again and then regain control of my life. But not today, not today.
Today I am living in the sunlight of the spirit. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.