Saturday, June 06, 2009

What it was like: Year Five

Oh dear.  The year my "real" sobriety began.  But it was hard getting there.  And it didn't look good at all.  But let me tell you how it went...

My year started in July 1988 just after I celebrated 4 years of sobriety.  I  was hating my job, and another department manager at the brokerage where I worked scooped me up and offered me a job I thought would be great.  I would again have my own book of business.  I had over 1,200 accounts.  All lawyers.  I was writing their professional liability insurance.  It started out good and went downhill faster than anything I had ever seen.  

The relationship with the 25 year old was ending in a very ugly way.  He moved out of my house.  My car got repossessed.  Someone called Social Services about the care I was giving my children.  My daughter broke her arm on the same day as the phone call was made.  I had to ask my ex-husband to take the kids for a while during the summer, but got them back in the fall.  

In October, I met the daughter I had given up for adoption when I was 15.  She came to visit me for the weekend.  Imagine seeing a person you have never met before and looking into her eyes and seeing your mother!  She looked just like my mother and my aunt.  She wasn't real impressed with me.  It was pretty awful.  I felt so ashamed of my life.  

On January 11, 1989, my boss called me into her office.  She asked me about an account I had screwed up.  I started crying and told her I wanted to jump out of the window.  Somehow I was surprised that she actually thought this was serious.  It was deadly serious.  She asked me to call the employee assistance program immediately.  I did.  When I couldn't tell the guy my address, he suggested I come to see a psychiatrist at once.  I went back to my desk and packed up what I couldn't live without and threw away things I didn't want anyone else to see.  I had a feeling I would never be back, and I was right.  

The psychiatrist said I was too agitated to even evaluate and suggested I get some sleep and call him the next day.  He also told me to take a couple of days off work.  When I called him the next day, after talking with me for a few minutes, he told me to get someone to take me to the hospital at once or he would send an ambulance.  I got my best friend to drive me to the nearest hospital and they admitted me.  

Imagine me, sober 4 and a half years, in the locked ward - for the first time in my life.  I was sponsoring 8 women!  I was sober!  It was humiliating.  It was also a relief.  

On January 13, 1989, I woke up and understood what it meant to thank God for my sobriety.  Not because of my "work" and my "virtue," but in spite of me and my self-will.  I understood that God was truly doing for me what I could not do for myself.  I spent 11 days in the hospital.   
When I got out, I was on short term disability.  I felt like someone had taken my brain and shaken it all up.  I was just all messed up.  I started going to meetings every single day.  I would get the kids off for school in the morning and then head out to a meeting.  

Sometime in the spring, the HR person from my employer asked to meet me.  I thought she was going to ask me when I was coming back to work.  But instead, she told me that I was no longer needed.  As much as I didn't want to go back there - ever - I was devastated to be fired that way.  

A dear friend gave me permission to fire the 8 women I was sponsoring.  Oh, what a blessed relief that was.  I began to have some humility about who I was and what was going on in my life.  Try being real proud when you are telling someone that you are on disability for depression.  But I thank God for what happened to me.  Had I not had that breakdown, I do not believe I could have possibly stayed sober.  I might have actually taken my own life because I sure had no hope about the future.  

I got to learn how to ask for help.  I got to learn how to go to a meeting and not be a "big shot" who had all the answers, but be a humble girl in the corner who was just thanking God that he loved her enough to let her live.  

By that summer, I gave up my townhouse, put my stuff in storage, let the kids go to their dad's, and I went to New York to stay at my sister's for a while.   I got to celebrate my 5th AA birthday in NY.  Here is the thing that happened to me at a meeting on my birthday....

They read the 5th chapter just as they did at all meetings... and that night I this familiar reading and I cried.

"Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves.  There are such unfortunates.  They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way.  They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty.  Their chances are less than average."  -- Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 58

I cried because I realized that this was NOT me.  I felt that I was going to be OK.

Even though I was looking at going back to Denver - without a car, without a home, without a job, without my kids... I knew I had what was important, and that was God and my sobriety.


Steve E. said...

Mary, I don't have words to describe the feelings which this blog gave me. You write in such a way, that I-or any one who reads- lived that year right along with you.

This was good! Don't stop, even if it hurts.

Great writers put themselves, their hearts and souls, into their work, and you are doing that each day here.

Thanks. Peace.

Jess Mistress of Mischief said...

WOW! Thank you for writing this!!!
I was touched!

Scott W said...

How It Works, and that passage in particular is astonishing. How they captured it in so few words is beyond my comprehension.

When I came back into the rooms of AA and had that complete, total surrender I knew things would be okay.

We don't forget the past, nor wish to shut the door on it.

Banana Girl said...

Do not stop this writing. It is amazing and just what I need to read today. You are amazing.J.

Carol said...

I so appreciate your sharing this devastating part of your life. As a non-alcoholic, I gave myself some really humiliating times (fired,ex-husb,afraid of social services etc). I confessed some of this to a member after a mtg, her comforting non judging attitude and words were 'these are just human troubles'. And they were, and they took their place in my history and now it is better because of the grace of God and because of program. You are a champ!

Mike Golch said...

Great posting,thanks for this message.

Cathy said...

Mary, I've been "lurking" on your site for weeks now and cannot tell you how much you have helped me. Thank you!

Hope said...

This hits a tender spot for me today.
Thank you for reminding me anew what a gift redemption is.
God's blessings to you today.

AnyEdge said...

My God. YOu are an amazing writer. I feel overwhelmed and astonished by the simplest things sometimes. I'm glad you're here, to show me I'm not alone.

Annette said...

Isn't it amazing how our heartbreak can lead to new life? Thanks for sharing this. Amazing stuff.

garden-variety drunk said...

Thanks MC for all your writing. I had my own version of humble pie with almost drinking earlier this year, but find it difficult to stay in that state.

Ed G. said...

Thank you...
It's spooky how many parts of our paths have had similar twists and results. I can relate too much to not identify and appreciate how hard all this is.
My short version is that I also reached my 2nd bottom with this disease at 5 years and, best I know, I also would not be alive without the program of AA.
Blessings and aloha...

Syd said...

Such a special post from...yes, in my opinion, a special person. Your honesty and humility is touching. I am reminded when I read your posts that it isn't how much we know or how many sponsees but it is about acceptance, humility and willingness. Thanks Mary.