Year One: I hit the doors of Alcoholics Anonymous at the age of 32. I was a housewife. I had a husband and three children at home. To say I was overwhelmed with all of this would be an understatement. And yet, I had no idea of what else I could do.
I found myself sober. I was delighted. Really. I wanted to be sober more than anything in the world once I realized that God could make this possible. i.e., in my first 24 hours. I had been miserable for so long... never knowing if my problem was my marriage, or PMS, or myriad unfortunate circumstances... or my suicidal depression, but definitely not wanting to think it was the booze. When I finally admitted it was the alcohol and asked for help, I felt such relief. It was as if the entire world was open to me.
They told me to go to 90 meetings in 90 days and I went to 180. They told me to get a sponsor and I did. They told me to read the big book and I did. The big book told me to get busy on the steps and I did.
(To write this, I have been looking at my journal from the period of Feb. 2, 1984 til Nov. 20, 1984. My last 5 months of drinking and my first 4 months of sobriety. The mood sure changes! I wrote on my last day drinking "I never thought I'd fall into the Alice Cramden attitude of 'If I had married...' 'Not everyone has to grovel for everything...' Shit, I haven't had a new dress for 3 years. I don't think I ask for a lot. In fact, I ask for nothing. All I want is a few nice things to make me feel human..." In a few short months of sobriety, I was no longer writing about how fate had dealt me a bum hand. I was living to the best of my ability and enjoying it! In this journal are my first gratitude lists, they are very sweet to look at now.)
I have often in my sobriety thought that I was rash in leaving my husband of 10 years and the father of my children within 5 months of getting sober. It is easier to believe that the less I have to do with him now. In the last year or so, I have had a lot more interactions with him since he has custody of my grandchildren... and I can see why I left. And I know that I had to. I had no choice. It was terrifying to leave him. But I did.
I got a job, making a living wage, and rented a pretty little townhouse at 112th and Huron. My son was in 3rd grade and the girls had started kindergarten. I paid for half days of day care for them. I could actually make a living! I could actually buy myself clothes and shoes and things women need! I could provide for my children!
And since I quit drinking mass quantities of beer every day, weight fell off of me. I lost 40 lbs. in my first 3 months of sobriety... without dieting. I was suddenly attractive again! And there are very few places better for getting male attention than AA (sorry, but it is just true). I got plenty. And I really liked it. A man I met in AA asked me for a date. He was an older gentleman (52), and appeared to have a lot of money. He was very charming and had a large vocabulary. I agreed to go out with him.
On our first date, he brought a bottle of wine, and a 6 pack of beer! I did not drink any of that, but he did. And the amazing to me, all these years later, is that I continued to date him for another year and a half! Until he got his 12th DUI and I decided that his future was bleak and I was able to break up with him. (He died a few years ago, and I have such fond memories of him. He was a sweetheart, and although I would not recommend dating a drunk in your first 2 years of sobriety, maybe he taught me more about powerlessness than I would have ever learned otherwise.) He ended up being a dear friend of mine - even though he never could get sober.
What I remember most about that first year was the feeling of being clean. I felt like I could hold my head up. I know that talking about the clothes I wore sounds superficial, but I always remember the little lady loafers I had that I wore with my lady jeans. I had skirts and blouses and high heels and pantyhose to wear to work. I suddenly dressed like a lady. The last few years of my drinking, I wore only T-shirts (X-L) and Levi's 501 jeans.... yuck.
My first AA birthday was a speaker meeting. Another member shared the hour with me. He was also celebrating a year. We celebrated together for a few years... I haven't seen him for probably 20 years now. I hope he is OK and just moved somewhere else.
For my first birthday, I bought a new pair of lady blue jeans, a blue and white striped shirt, earrings and a necklace that matched the blue. It was so pretty. That room was so full that night. I was so grateful as I got up to the podium and introduced myself. That night, I got an inkling that God was doing for me what I could not do for myself. And I realized that all the faces in that room were carrying me through. Through and out of my self centeredness and into a life of sobriety.
Someone that night said that for those who celebrate a year of sobriety, there is an 80% chance that they will die sober. I don't know where someone would get a statistic like that, but apparently I remembered it.
My life felt clean and new and pretty. It was hard. But it was so so so so so so so so good.
I am so grateful for these wonderful memories. An old lady in an AA meeting told me once "Some day all you will have is your memories - make them good ones."