On June 15, 1984, our 9th wedding anniversary, my husband came home from work and told me he quit his job that day and we were moving to Denver. DENVER? I could think of no place I would rather NOT be. I thought Denver was the least charming city where I never wanted to live. I was at least as horrified as I had been when my father came home when I was 14 and told me we were moving to Chicago. Just as powerless - and angry.
By July 5, we had a U-Haul truck packed up and we drove across the mountains to move into a little house on a little lot in a little suburb of this little polluted city. Instead of a river and canada geese in my back yard, there was a fence, with another back yard and another house, and another front yard, a street, another house, back yard, front yard, street, etc., etc., ad infinitum. I thought I was going to die. It was all so tacky.
And yet... when I got to Denver, I looked at my neighbors and they seemed so different. They weren't drinking. I felt so exposed. I felt so obviously gross. And I knew it had to change.
For a few days, I was getting the phone book out in the morning and looking up Alcoholics Anonymous. I didn't call though.
On July 23, 1984, there was nothing at all different. I picked up my husband from work because we only had one car. After work, we stopped for more beer. We ate dinner. We decided to go to the library. We loaded into the car and I headed north on Wadsworth to Broomfield. But for some reason the thought occurred to me that I was going to make an ass of myself and my children by showing up at the library drunk. That God alone knew what kind of scene might occur there. That I was endangering everyone's lives by driving drunk. I asked myself why I didn't do this when I was sober - and honestly I had a bolt of blue thought - "because I am never sober." I did not until that moment know that.
All of this was internal monologue... I continued driving. The library was closed. We continued driving north until we were in what was at that time a small town (and is now a large suburb). My husband and I were thrilled (THRILLED) to find a liquor store with a drive-through window! Just like the bars and liquor stores in New Mexico! Awesome! That is where I bought the last beer I would ever drink. We bought some beer and headed home.
When I got sober people used to say that if you couldn't remember your last drunk you probably hadn't had it. In my early sobriety, I was so afraid that my last drunk wouldn't qualify because it was so mundane. There was nothing dramatic or out of the ordinary about it. There was nothing at all about that night that told me that I was not going to drink again. I sat up after the family went to bed and drank beer and smoked cigarettes at the dining room table as I loved to do. I tossed my last beer can in the trash and went to bed at about midnight.
I woke up the next morning, sick as usual. Instead of having a drink, I got out the phone book again. Instead of putting it away, I actually dialed a number for AA. The first number didn't answer. And instead of giving up, I actually called the 2nd number! It was at an AA club, and the phone was answered by a 17 year old boy who was working at the coffee bar on his way to high school. When I started telling him my life story, he had the good sense to tell me he would have a woman call me back. And I thought that would be the end of it. But it wasn't.
Within a few minutes, a woman called me back. She listened to me for about an hour. She was just so perfect. This was THE only 12 step this woman ever did in her life. And it was absolutely flawless. After about an hour, like a salesman closing a deal, she asked me if I would go to a meeting with her that night. I tried making excuses, and she was able to steam roller her way through every one of them. Finally, I had to admit that I was much to sick to deal with her and I could think of something later and call her back, but she had definitely gotten the better of me. She did ask me to promise not to drink that day. "Oh sure" I said, as if that wasn't a big deal.
But as a couple of hours passed, I started shaking. And for some reason, I didn't want a drink to stop the shaking. I wanted to stop the insanity.
I believe that desire was a gift from God. There is no other earthly explanation.
I walked into my first meeting with a desire to not drink and a desire to live another way. I wanted that more than anything in the world. I was so grateful to the people who were willing to help me with that.
They told me to go to 90 meetings in 90 days, I went to 180. They told me to "read the big book as if your life depends upon it," and I had it read within my first 24 hours. They told me to "work" the steps, and I had the all "worked" within 6 months. They told me that if I had 24 hours of sobriety, I had something to share with someone who didn't and it was important for me to pass that on. They told me to make at least one AA contact every single day - face to face, or by phone - and I still do that to this day.
Nobody ever acted like I was doing them a big favor by getting or staying sober and I am so grateful for that. I feel that I have been given the biggest gift a person could ever be given and I hope to God I never stop being wildly grateful for it. Awestruck would be another word. Every single day.
Can you imagine being let out of the hell that I was living in for so long? I was let out of that! Can you imagine how grateful I am for that? Can you imagine how much I want to share that with others? How could I ever begrudge one thing about that? I never could!
Today I get to be a nearly 58 year old woman who has been sober for a little over 25 years. I have been an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous for all of that time. I have never left and I have never wavered in my commitment to the program or the fellowship. I sponsor a couple of women who I love and I suspect they love me too. My adult children come over and visit me of their own free will and we enjoy ourselves immensely. One of my adult children is now a newly sober woman herself. She is now sobering up with a lot of people I sobered up with and gets to hear stories from them about my early sobriety, thank God they are good ones (recently a man told her "The room always lit up when your mother walked into it, I guess you got that from her" Wow.) My grandchildren have never seen their "Nana" drink, and run to me with open arms when they see me. I own a pretty little house, with pretty little things that I really like in it. I have been employed at the same place for over 15 years and feel a sense of belonging there that is priceless to me. I was able to get my bachelor's and master's degrees from the University I always dreamed of attending. I was able to return to the church of my youth and am a part of my church. I am in the middle of my third year of a four year Biblical school, it is awesome. AND, in my sobriety, I was able to run my first race, the Bolder Boulder, 22 years ago, and have recently run 5 half marathons, and have participated in 6 triathlons. I hope to be able to run the real thing - a real 26.2 mile marathon in 2010. Oh, it just goes on and on... and on and on.... and on and on....
It sounds like boasting. But this is what I got when I admitted complete defeat. When I stopped trying to arrange life to suit myself. When I asked God to take over.
Every little thing, Every little thing. I am so grateful for today. When I go to bed tonight, I will look at my beautiful bed. I do really love my tiffany box blue flannel sheets, with the white embroidered pillowcases, the white duvet cover, etc., etc., but what I really love is that I can kneel down beside my bed and say my prayers. I can do my 10th step and ask God to help me with every little place where I am not doing my best. And then I can lay my head down in peace.
Because I am a sober member of Alcoholics Anonymous. Sober by the Grace of God.