Eight months of sobriety kind of snuck up on me and found me standing proud last Saturday morning when the calendar turned to October 3rd.
Last month, as I neared my seven month milestone, I felt weak, full of questions and I was considering drinking again. The day after I posted about my journey to the seven month mark, I attended my first AA meeting and quietly mumbled the words I thought would never leave my mouth.
Hi. I'm Tammi. Alcoholic.
Those first few meetings were rough. I felt like a raw, exposed nerve and it took everything I had to stay in my seat, head down, and listen to the "shares" that were going on around me. I was in and out of my head a lot, on the brink of tears and have never felt so vulnerable, and accepted, at the same time.
You see, as I started living life without using alcohol as my emotional band-aid, I realized that I needed a larger community who understood exactly what I was going through. My husband and friends have been sweet, but they don't have a problem with alcohol. I do. And by walking through the doors of a local church at 7 a.m. in the morning to commune with other alcoholics, I finally found a little peace.
I have tried all different kinds of meetings, in different towns, in different rooms - but they were really all the same. The same words are spoken to open and close the meetings, making attending different meetings in different locations consistent and easy for those in attendance to feel at home. The space in between the opening and closing is reserved for members to share their stories, with all in attendance giving a safe, reverent place for these stories to be told.
The meetings feel sacred and holy, in a way. For a girl who has been baptized three times and now claims to be agnostic, it felt weird at first. I finally gave in and convinced myself to suspend my disbelief and stay seated in a cold metal folding chair for 60 minutes a day, with all questions about a higher power suspended for later contemplation. I just had to put my thoughts and doubts on hold - about God; about faith; about the hypocrisy of religion; about hateful and ignorant people doing things in the name of God. I just had to shelve those thoughts and feelings and sit with myself in a room full of people telling their truths. That's it.
And let me tell you, THAT is something to experience. A gift, really.
There is so much beauty and human kindness in these rooms and it feels like its spilling forth and swirling all around me while I'm seated there in the circle. I'm absorbing all of this honesty and can't help but be touched by this feeling of being humbled and overwhelmed by gratitude. Maybe that's what God is. Not a person but, rather, a feeling. I think I can wrap my head around that (not now, but later).
I scrambled to get to a meeting on the last day of the month and ended up attending a new meeting at a new time, so that I could make it work for my schedule. At this meeting, they handed out round colored plastic metal chips to commemorate sobriety milestones. I collected my first coins for 24 hours of sobriety (silver) and a 7 month sobriety token (red), as well. I had no idea you could get these little presents and you know what? They meant something. Sure, they looked like imitation poker chips, but I looked at them like valuable talismans and squeezed them tightly in my hand for the remainder of the meeting. It felt good to acknowledge my sober accomplishments.
I ended up rushing home and texting my bother a picture of my newly acquired sober tokens, along with the words "Boom!" My brother is approaching his 3 year sobriety date and he immediately called my cell phone and asked How do you feel? Are you proud of yourself?
And you know what, I feel great. And, yes, I am proud of myself.
Ever since that night, I've been walking into meetings with my head up; pouring myself a cup of coffee and taking a seat inside the circle. I've even "shared" a few times. This level of humanity has really touched me and helped me to see the bigger picture in my life and I can't believe I resisted attending these meetings because I was afraid of the moniker of Alcoholic.
I'm so much more than an Alcoholic, but that word doesn't bring me shame today like it did when I contemplated it a month ago. That word has actually set me free, in a way, and I'm sure it will continue to evolve for me.
I still sporadically feel raw and vulnerable, but I'm learning that instead of stuffing that down or masking it with a drink, that I can just say how I feel and move on. Or write about it.
I don't have to hide things any more.
I am learning to say no.
I'm finally able to be honest about things that freak me out.
I'm trying hard not strive to be perfect.
The resilience of the human spirit is fascinating to me. It's one of the reasons I read memoirs and biographies and watch documentaries. I love to learn about how other human beings get through life. The good and the bad; the rough patches and the resplendent joy in the mundane tasks of every day life. I'm curious about what makes people tick and how they choose to get through their time here on earth. It's mildly voyeuristic and I think that the writers who write memoirs are so generous to share their journeys with me, the reader.
And in that same vein, I'm sharing here with you in the event that anyone reading this is going through the same experience. I deposit these thoughts here on my blog so that I can revisit and read my own words when I'm feeling down or if I've lost my way.
I went to a meeting this morning and communed with new witnesses to my life. I had no idea how powerful and needed this act would become. Starting the day this way centers me in a way that I can't fully explain, but I'm grateful for it. I'm not going to overthink it. I'm just going to practice acceptance and leave it at that.
So here I am at eight months. I'm standing taller and being a little more honest about this journey. Last week I went out and socialized with others who drink and found my way to the tea, the soft drink, the water and the coffee. And you know what? It felt good to say no thank you to alcohol. It actually left me with a feeling of empowerment. I can decide whether or not to drink. It's not all doomsday and storm clouds around here. Not even close. I'm happy I'm not drinking and my life is so much better for that decision.
I didn't just survive another month being sober.
Instead, this time around, I embraced it.