Monday, June 15, 2009

What it was like: Year Fourteen

In fall of 1997 I started classes at the university I had always dreamed of attending. It was pretty wonderful. It was a revelation to me to find that I was getting "A"s at this school too. And to find that I had a gift for statistics was absolutely incredible to me.

I had gotten a couple of promotions at work and was doing a job I really liked. I had been on the Ethics Committee for a couple of years and had learned a lot. I felt that I really belonged at my workplace - which is a feeling I hadn't had in too many places other than AA.

I was still living in North Denver, but that year, on Cinco De Mayo, I decided I really had to move. I lived 2 blocks off the main cruising drag and the days around the 5th of May were a scary nightmare where I had to either stay indoors and not leave the house, or leave the house and stay away. It was terrifying. There was a shooting in the alley behind my house. For as much as I loved the house and the neighborhood, I knew I needed to get away. So I started looking for a house to buy.

I applied for a mortgage and wonder of wonders, I got pre-qualified! There were a couple of old debts that I needed to clear up, so I did. I spent months looking and finally found a townhouse I wanted to buy. It was tiny - 870 square feet, but it was in a pretty area, very close to my workplace and my morning meeting place, and it was painted green! I made an offer and it was accepted!

The closing was on July 24, 1998 - my 14th AA birthday. I went to the closing and gratefully signed my name a thousand times. I went to the meeting to celebrate that night and had a whole new realization.

Many of my old friends were at the meeting, including my first boyfriend in sobriety - the one who brought wine and beer on our first date, and the young man from East LA who had lived with me. As these people shared in the meeting, they painted a picture of a person that I later realized that the newer people didn't even recognize. A few of the people in their first 5 years or so talked to me after the meeting and told me they had never seen this "crazy" behavior that was being described. Wow! What a thing to realize that I hadn't "acted out" for a very long time and I had really changed.

You may have already gotten the idea by reading these year by year descriptions that my recovery wasn't something that happened overnight. Actually, in my first five years, it SEEMED to have happened. But there was something amiss in those years. It looked good from the outside, but it was very very not good. At 5 years, I lost it all, and it was the best thing that ever happened to me because I could not have stayed sober or probably even lived at the rate I was going. I had to rebuild my life from nothing. And finally, after a while, things started piecing together.

But my priority could never be the material before the spiritual. That never works. Not for anyone. Not ever. (It may sometimes seem to, but it never does.)

I am so grateful for the Loving Hand of God, who was with me through all of the times, good and bad. These blessings could never be earned. It was all grace.
I have gotten some e-mail about this post. It sounds like I am saying everyone needs to lose everything and start over... and that everyone's first five years in sobriety are crap. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am just telling MY story... that is how it worked for me. Everyone has their own story.


Steve E. said...

How right, Mary! What I have is not from a position of deserving, but strictly Gifts from God. Everything!

From friends to funds, all had to proceed from a spirituality, from work, and from cooperating with God's Graces.

You wrote it so well. Thanks for the reminders.

Do not remember exactly...but my turning point--if there be such a thing--happened around year #15. It took THAT long for me to begin to "GET IT!"

Lou said...

Recovery, the changing from the inside..not just being sober--I see now takes a long time. And tremendous work. Starting completely over, as you write here.

All of you that have accomplished this (those I read on the blogs) I have renewed respect.

(I'm trying to say--what a great bunch of "alkies.")

Ed G. said...

At 5 years, I had 2 revelations:
1) If you had told me at day one that what I "had" at year 5 would be mine, I not only would not have believed it, I would not have wanted it.
2) That, as different as life looked like from day 0 to year 5, it would change (my perspectives would change) as much from year 5 to year 10, year 10 to year 15, etc.

This has been generally true on my path...

Blessings and aloha...

Syd said...

I can see that things have changed just in nearly three years. I am sure that the more that I practice the principles, go to meetings, read, and believe, the better each year will be.

Banana Girl said...

We are such sensitive people to misread your story and think you were declaring that all must be lost to be regained. Makes me laugh. I am grateful we each have our story. I am grateful to really read yours. This takes such great courage and serenity. But as you said in an earlier post your willingness and honesty has brought you to this place where publishing it in a newspaper would not phaze you. And here you are..all published and helping me stay sober. Thank you MC!

Scott W said...

You received those email in all seriousness? What is wrong with people? Good lord.

I swear some people don't read, they just comment.

Steve E. said...

Re: Amendement.

I Lost "everything", all possessions: family, boat, cars, bike, house, children, self-esteem, everything EXCEPT sobriety--at FIFTEEN years! All I had to call my own was a broken heart. Gosh, I hope nobody thinks they have to match THAT!

I just didn't drink, No Matter What!

Thanks for clarifying, Mary. Although I did not at all see a "five-year" time limit (in your blog) on being CRAZY. In fact I still subscribe to some of that...

Steve E. said...


Mary, even if you have been to my blog today??? Go there again, for the photo at top, you will like it.

No comment necessary, of course--because--what can one say? -grin!

Steve E. said...

Complain, complain!!!-grin!

Try it now...better? With some work I could tune out the 'blueness', but I've gotta write a blog now. OK/

Pam said...

oh God was Really guiding you that year wasn't he????