As the saying goes, “identify, don’t compare.” I identified so much with Jenny L. and her early years about why she drank, “I don’t feel good enough, smart enough, pretty enough.” That was me and that is why I drank too.
I felt that hopeless state of mind and body. What I did not do, though, was I didn’t go to jail, I didn’t get arrested or have a warrant for my arrest. I did however marry men that I shouldn’t have. I let people take care of me. I puked in bushes at parties and at fancy resorts. All the inside feelings that Jenny L. described…that was exactly how I felt. When I picked up a drink those feelings vanished – temporarily. When I awoke though, the shame, guilt, and remorse were so heavy I could barely carry on.
It was a therapist who suggested I hit an AA meeting, or at the very least, meet with a friend of his who was sober. That friend introduced me to Alcoholics Anonymous in the kindest and gentlest way possible. He brought me the literature, the “Big Book” – which I affectionately referred to as The Blue Book for a few years because I was very “mocused” (i.e. mostly out of focus), Living Sober, and a meeting list book.
This gentleman, 13 years sober when I met him, has since passed. I will always credit him with saving my life by introducing me to the program. By that, I mean, he introduced me to a variety of meetings, discussion meetings, speaker meetings, step meetings, you name it – I attended. I found a fellowship that kept me company, helped me feel less lonely, validated my fears, doubts, and insecurities, and inspired me with the truth that if I didn’t drink, my life would get better. He asked me the most basic questions. “Can you read The Doctor’s Opinion?” Simple enough, yes. “Can you stay away from a drink today?” Again, sure…for today. “Are you willing to go to any lengths?” This I said yes to, but, I had no idea what it meant. I was willing to do anything though. I was desperate. My life sucked. I had nothing going on. Me, my lonely apartment, a cat…an inappropriate relationship with a married man. Drugs. Excesses. The blinds were closed, I was lonely and miserable – why wouldn’t I be willing to go to any lengths? I wanted to get better.
In AA, no one ever lied to me. They kept saying, things might not be perfect in your life, but they will get better. You will feel better. You will have everything you need in life. If something happens in your life, you will be given the tools to deal with it. One day at a time.
That was 23 years ago…when I walked into my first meeting, and I was afraid and scared. My skin tone color was ashy and gray, and I looked unwell. I was. My outsides had caught up with my insides. A friend often said I was a dressed-up garbage can. That was true. I tried to package it up, but, ick was oozing out. Until it no longer was. Slowly – day after day – I kept going to meetings, taking the suggestions that were being offered to me and I began feeling better.
Like Jenny L., when someone said, get in the car…I got in the car. I was turning my will over to my Higher Power, who I call God, and my life was getting better. Every day I took a new suggestion, I felt better. I remember when a cute guy said, “which meeting are you going to tomorrow?” When he told me which meeting, I went, as to not disappoint. I will never forget finally feeling like I was wanted and needed. I felt like, I must go to the meeting because I said I would. Well, the funny thing is, that meeting would’ve happened without me, but that friendly gesture kept me motivated to then turn around and smile at someone else and ask the same question.
That is how I learned, it came to me one minute at a time, one suggestion at a time. Get a sponsor, I did. Go to meetings, I did. Do the steps with a sponsor…I balked…until the emotional pain drove me mad, then I did the work. I found the God of my Understanding to be incredible. Working the steps with my sponsor put my hand into the hand of God.
The point is, there is plenty to keep you busy. Plenty to learn. Plenty of tools to keep you away from a drink.
When you walk into the doors of Alcoholics Anonymous it can be very scary. I was so afraid, I remember saying “I’m sure this will work for everyone but me.” I’m so unique, I’m the one person this program won’t work on. Well, I’ve actually heard other people say that too. Not very unique I suppose.
If you are getting sober, try to identify with the feelings that people share. Fear, doubt, insecurities, loneliness, etc. If you compare, you won’t hear the message. You’ll be stuck on the “I’m not like these people” of “that didn’t happen to me” and it’ll all be true.
The greatest gift I’ve ever been given in my life is the gift of my sobriety. The gift of finding AA. The ability to give back to others what I was given. The gentleman who took me to my first meeting was doing what we are taught to do, he was paying it forward. Sharing with me what someone had done for him. Today, I do the same.
Here is your reminder to smile at a newcomer, and remember, they are just as fearful and afraid as you were on your very first day. If you are heading to a commitment with your home group, look out for the newcomer and scream, “GET IN THE CAR and come along with us!”
Cathy C., Sober Date 3.1.98, Homegroup Newton Acceptance Group, Newton, MA