First Things First: You Are Not Alone, There is Always Help

You just call out my name and you know wherever I am, I’ll come running to see you again. Winter, spring, summer, or fall, all you have to do is call and I’ll be there. You’ve got a friend.

You’ve Got A Friend – Carol King

Everyone needs help once in a while especially when making a major decision. Sobriety, while extremely rewarding, is a difficult choice to make and it’s not something that has to be done alone. When I decided to get sober this time around, it was a serious decision. I wasn’t playing around anymore. Although, I never had a life shattering rock bottom, alcohol wasn’t serving me or the way I wanted to live my life.

I am stronger than alcohol. I want to be happy and healthy and live a life that is inspiring to others. I know it won’t be possible if I continue to drink. Those were the thoughts that ran through my head the morning of October 1, 2018. Things are not always as easy as we want them to be. Every time I tried it quit, it was ten times more difficult than the time before. So, what do I this time around?

I tell a few friends, some are supportive as ever, and some respond with snarky comments like “oh, really, you’re stopping again?” These comments are coming from people who need to take a good hard look at themselves in the mirror at their own relationship to alcohol, so I try not to take their comments to heart but I also partly agree with them. How many times in the past year have I said I was quitting? And how successful was I? I wasn’t. I’ll be back to square one within a week. I get back on my sober forum and discuss this life decision with my therapist.

Well, I make it past a week. Eleven days into my new found sobriety, I’m already extremely aware of the fact that I’m going to need some serious support this time. I don’t remember the first week being this hard the first time around. I don’t feel excited, empowered, or enthusiastic. I am upset, angry, anxious, sad, and a whole plethora of other emotions. I am thinking about alcohol constantly (in the shower, when I’m eating, when I’m watching tv, when I’m having a conversation with someone). All. Of. The. Time. I’m having trouble sleeping, and I just don’t see how not drinking is going to make me feel better. It wasn’t this way the first time.

I reach out to a guy I met in college. We haven’t spoken since he graduated, which has been seven years at least but I’ve seen him post on social media about being sober. He quickly and enthusiastically responds and we set up a time to talk on the phone. It’s like I’m listening to myself talk – we share our stories and we talk about how drinking just isn’t fun anymore. We talk about how we can’t understand the concept of “just one drink” or even worse, how people can just leave a drink and not finish it. Then he says something that stuns me – “most people drink to enhance the experience, we don’t. We drink to distort the experience”. Well, God damn, he’s right.

We talk about support groups and AA. I tell him that I’m hesitant to go to a meeting. I’m not just hesitant. It’s more like there’s not enough money in the world you could give me to make me go. But, after our conversation, I decide I need to keep an open mind and at least try it out. From what I’ve seen on TV shows, AA is a group of about 10 downtrodden people, sitting in a circle sharing stories, with a group leader softly asks, “would our newcomer like to share?” Then everyone drinks coffee and leaves. I guess we will see how accurate tv is after all.

I secretly locate a meeting close to my school, I’m embarrassed to let anyone know I’m thinking about going to AA. There’s a meeting that starts right after class. Go. Just try it. No one knows you’re going so if you don’t like it, you just won’t go back. I drive ten minutes up the road, park about 3 blocks away from the building, and head over. The door is locked. I call the listed number and it says it’s been disconnected. Great. Now, I’m going to have to ask someone if I’m in the right place. I go next door a small book store and ask the man if he knows anything about an AA meeting. “Did you try the door?” He says in a condescending tone. “Yes, it’s locked. I thought maybe…” he interrupts me before I can finish, “Well, if the door is locked, I guess there’s no meeting there. You never know with those people. Guess you’re out of luck.” Well, fuck you too sir. What the hell!? I walk outside, it’s pouring rain now. Screw this. I’m done. I don’t need a fucking AA meeting. I’m not that bad. What was I thinking.

I get into my car; I’m soaking wet. Just as if the universe saw my frustration, there is a commerical on the radio about addiction and recovery. The man on the advertisement says “there’s no shame in asking for help.” FUCK. Fine, universe, I hear you loud and clear. Mumbling, I locate another meeting close to where I’m staying. 45 minutes later, I pull into the parking lot. The door is locked again. What is going on!!!!! What is the universe trying to tell me!!?? Out of the corner of my eye, I see a group of people standing outside what looks like a basement door. “Excuse me, is this where the AA meeting is being held?” “Yes it is! Come on in!” A man smoking a cigarette smiles and gestures me through the door.

TV did not prepare for this. I walk into a room of at least 40 people not 10 mingling and drinking coffee. Men and women, varying ages, styles, and stories waiting to be told. I can’t do this. I’ve made a mistake. Before I can turn around and run out the door, I’ve somehow manage to sit myself in the middle of the 3rd row. How did that happen? I don’t remember walking over here. A woman turns around and asks “Is this your first meeting?” “Yes. It is.” I say barely loud enough for her to hear me. “Welcome! My name is Sarah! Let me give you my number!” Within two minutes, Sarah and 6 other women have given me their numbers.” These people obviously aren’t drunk but they sure are acting like it randomly giving their number to a stranger!

The meeting starts with some opening remarks and the man up front asks if there’s anyone new here who would like to introduce themselves. I’m already here, there’s nothing to lose now. I might as well jump feet first. “Hi. My name is Brooke, I’m an alcoholic.” EW. NO. That term is 100% not me. The word leaves me cringing and I hope it’s not obvious to everyone in the room how I feel. All 40 people say in unison, “Welcome, Brooke, keep coming back.” I’m praying to the powers that be these people don’t make me share anything. Turns out, one of the women in the group is celebrating 18 years of sobriety. For the next 45 minutes, she shares her story and while I am inspired, I can’t relate. My story is pathetic compared to hers. These people are going to kick me out. I don’t belong here. After her share, a few people congratulate her and tell her how she has inspired them in some way. The meeting closes and Sarah comes over to me. “How was your first meeting!?” “Good. I’m just taking it all in. I don’t know if I should be here though, my story isn’t like the woman who shared.” I say. “Mine isn’t that way either. I never got a DUI, went to rehab, or hit a rock bottom. But I did wake up and realize I couldn’t keep living my life the way I was. I realized I am an alcoholic, I have a problem, and I needed help. I got sober in my early 20’s and have been sober now for over 20 years.” 20 years!!! I haven’t even made it two weeks and this woman has 20 years and she looks like she’s 35 – so quitting alcohol really is good for your appearance.

For the first 3 months of my sobriety, I continue to go to meetings and listen to more stories. Many I relate to as if I was the one up there talking. I enjoy the comradery. I enjoy sitting in a room full of people who understand, who don’t judge, and who want to help one another. It feels comfortable. Unfortunately, that is the only part of AA that does feel comfortable. I try briefly to work on the 12 Steps but I can barely get passed the first one – to admit that I am powerless over alcohol and that my life has become unmanageable. I don’t feel powerless. I feel powerful. I am in control. I don’t want to turn my will over to a Higher Power. The Higher Power concept is also not for me even though I know a Higher Power can mean a doorknob for all anyone cares. Regardless, there is still more “God” talk than I feel comfortable with and at the end of every meeting, the Lords Prayer is recited by everyone – while it is a nice sentiment, it’s 100% not my thing. For me, AA is too focused on the negative, too focused on listing all of the horrible things you’ve done, and the bad things you feel about yourself, and then having no power over any of it. It is just not for me and again, that’s my opinion.

I think AA is a phenomenal resource; it helps a lot of people and I am glad that I gave it a shot. It just isn’t for me. Instead, I continue to be apart of an online sober forum (Talking Sober), I read recovery memoirs, I listen to sober podcasts, I sing and play guitar/piano, I go to acupuncture, I meditate, I walk, I talk to my friends and family, and I actively seek out sober activities. There are a million different ways to live sober and one way doesn’t not fill all. Find a way that works for you, whether it’s the traditional route or not, and realize that staying sober takes a lot of hard work, time, effort, energy, self-reflection, honesty, and dedication. Be sober for yourself first and foremost because getting sober to save a relationship or to make other people happy will only cause resentment, frustration, and negative feelings.

There are days where I am happy as a clam (anyone else wonder where that phrase comes?) and there are days where I just want to throw in the towel and quit. But at the end of the day, I know I am a better daughter, friend, girlfriend, student, future acupuncturist, and a better me when I don’t drink.

Links to the AA website, Talking Sober, memoirs, podcasts, and other fellowships/online forums can be found under the Sober Resources Tab. Check them out!

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