Tuesday, June 02, 2009

What it was like: Year One

I am boring myself with writing about how tired I am, how much rain we are getting, when I am running, and what I am making for dinner.  I thought about writing about my experience of being a sober member of Alcoholics Anonymous - year by year.  I don't know if this is interesting to anyone, but I think it will be good for me to go back and look at these last 25 years.

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."

20 comments:

Scott W said...

Every day we are sober we are making our sober history. We have a history so we can share it with others.

I know that feeling of being newly sober. It is one of the most astonishing feelings. It's like we have been scrubbed clean from the inside out.

Really looking at our first period in sobriety really puts today's problems in perspective. Most of us wouldn't have today if we had not gotten...and stayed sober.

Thanks.

Steve E. said...

Did you know Mary, you are taking me back also, to that first year sober in AA. I kept a log also, beginning several weeks earlier.

How wonderful, to be able to look back, and see, and KNOW, that God's hand was in this thing with me from the beginning.

Thanks for the memories. Yours and mine.
Peace!

Mike Golch said...

my first A A meeting was in 1977,I wqas living out in California,my first marrage was falling apart,and I turned to my favorite friend my booze for comfort.It was than when I crawled deeper in to the ooze of despair and started writting check for my booze and hoping that I could get my paycheck into the bank to cover the checks.

Gin said...

This was an awesome post! I really, really enjoyed it! It must have been great writing it as well and seeing where you've been and where you are now. You have to be so incredibly proud of yourself! Congrats!

Ed G. said...

Thank you...

Syd said...

Thanks MC for sharing this. It is touching to read how you got new clothes for the "new" woman. I read how willing and teachable you are--maybe that is how you were able to feel God and to have hope and faith. And all that still works for you which is why you are here today.

Trailboss said...

Very good post Mary.

AnyEdge said...

Wonderful. I am just now, of course, emerging from my first year (15 1/2 months). My life is light years better now too. The simple things are the best: success at work, making love to my wife, etc.

No: the best is sobriety.

wolfie185 said...

Thanks for sharing. It is nice to hear others experiences and see where we are alike, to be a part of the highs and lows.

wendy said...

I think one of the reasons I don't delete my blog is because my bottom is published there should I ever forget what it felt like. I have daily emails to reread throughout my first year of sobriety, I'm so much more comfortable in my skin these days that I can't imagine how I survived feeling that much pain. I'm glad I did. I have more in my life today than I ever would have known how to ask for...thanks for sharing.

kel said...

Thank you for sharing this, I cant wait to read more about the following years. You are a beautiful woman.

GG said...

Thank you for sharing your wonderful story. I relate to the part about remembering what you wore and feeling clean. I started dressing differently-- more the way I wanted rather than how I thought I 'should' -- shortly after I started going to Alanon meetings. I think it was because I felt for sure I was leaving my enabling days behind and coming into my own way of being, dressing, behaving.... I remember being aware of how great it felt to feel good and to look good.

Pam said...

I'm so glad you found this program, it seems to fit you perfectly...little pea pod.

Carol said...

I'll tune into you every night before I ever turn the TV on again. I want to hear what happens next!

Cat said...

Mary, thank you for writing these.

Willa said...

Thank you for sharing this with us. I remember feeling incredulous in a way that I was able to get through days without one drink. I am still grateful and am not taking it for granted.

Annette said...

I am way behind on my blog reading but I saw some of these later posts and had to go to the very beginning to hear the whole story. Thanks for sharing this....lots of good learning here for everyone.

Anonymous said...

Great post, thank you. I just passed 5 months sober and Life is so much better. I know I will go through many ups-and-downs but now I am learning how to cope with them all...day by day.

Dick Stone said...

I am going on 9 months hmm.. I know God has given me this gift.. One day I hope to look back with more cheer than I feel now. If I went on feelings though I would have been drunk months ago.. Thanks

Anonymous said...

Just cleared a year myself. My greatest gain is courage. I feel like nothing can shake me up now. Whew, I'm so glad to be out of the painful haze.
TB