The fellowship I crave (a relapse story.)

Still you may say: “But I will not have the benefit of contact with you who write this book.” We cannot be sure. God will determine that, so you must remember that your real reliance is always upon Him. He will show you how to createalcoholics the Fellowship you crave.  p.164, Alcoholics Anonymous

When I came back to my home town here in Wyoming in 2006, they didn’t “do AA” right.  I had gotten sober in Dallas.  My home group was, for the most part, comprised of members who had long term sobriety, were serious about recovery and believed in staying in the middle of the triangle of unity, service and recovery.  Sponsorship and working the steps were a given.  In this town there are no speaker meetings.  When I came to town it was not unusual to sit through entire meetings without hearing a single reference to our literature aside from the reading of the Preamble and p. 58.  Let me step back and say I was not in a good place when I arrived.  I didn’t want to come back to Wyoming.  I left here with the intention of never looking back and to return felt like failure.  I had been drinking again even before the boxes were packed to make the trek westward, though I knew in my heart that I could never stay away long from the solution.  The pain was too great.

I distanced myself from the fellowship in this town, resigned to the fact that it wouldn’t keep me sober.  I grew the distance between God and me and my disease progressed.  I never stopped going to meetings but I hung out in the nosebleed seats.  I showed up as meetings were getting started and left as soon as they ended.  I looked for the differences and not the similarities.  I binge drank when my husband went out of town for work, each episode ending up in worse consequences; a lost set of car keys, a missing ATM card, then finally a DUI-at 38 years old, my first in a long drinking career.  By this time I had a sponsor and had been putting some effort into working the steps again.  The DUI woke me up to a certain extent.  I redoubled my efforts and went to more meetings but I did not admit complete defeat.  In short order, about 6 months, I was drinking again.  In October of that year (2007,) I died.  I took an overdose of sleeping pills while I was in a blackout.  My husband found me and I was dead when the rescue squad got to the house.  They brought me back to life in the ambulance.

I was given an ultimatum:  treatment or divorce.  I chose treatment.  It was a good experience, but not the necessary psychic change that our book talks about.  Within a few weeks of my discharge I was drinking again.  I am a bar drinker.  When my husband went out of town for work I would go to the bars and get hammered, pick up a guy and take him home.  On one of these occasions my husband came home early from his trip.  He parked outside of our home and watched me take a man into our bed.  The next day I was asked to leave.  He called my best friend and asked her to fly in and drive back to Arizona with me where my mother lives.  I was cast out as a result of my actions.  Held accountable.  Finally.

I kept drinking when I got to Sun City, briefly.  I got another DUI while in a blackout, 3 weeks after I arrived.  Two weeks after that night is my sobriety date, February 28, 2008.  That is the day on which God blessed me with the gift of desperation.  I was done.  I was spiritually, mentally and physically bereft.  I was empty and ready for Him to take me.  I got on my knees and asked him to do with me as he saw fit because of myself I was nothing.  I started to go to meetings in Sun City.  They were attended by retirees, men and women with 20 and 30 plus years of sobriety who must have wondered how I ended up in their lovely retirement community.  They loved me and let me cry through their meetings without batting an eyelash.  I read my books and found a sponsor.  I found a job and became a worker amongst workers.  I renewed my lifetime friendship with my mother and spent time with my wonderful grandmother.  I admitted my brokenness.  I surrendered to God.  I began anew.

My husband was hurt by my actions, understandably, but he loved me.  It took time for him to let me back into his heart but he eventually did.  We reconciled and I came back to Wyoming 7 months later.  I went back to Arizona for 30 days to serve a sentence in a Maricopa County jail for my DUI.  The only thing more horrific I’ve experienced is the lost spinning fear that is psychosis, pinned down in 5-point leather restraints, certain sanity will never return.  I returned to Wyoming quite shattered, holding on to the last shred of strength of a long disintegrating rotator cuff.  I scheduled surgery for November.  It was the greatest physical pain I have ever experienced, and being on pain medication was one of the most frightening things I’ve gone through.

At first I was utterly helpless, but as soon as I could I started hitting meetings as often as possible.  I was quickly up to three per day when I wasn’t in physical therapy.  I became more diligent than ever before about my prayer and meditation.  I used my sponsor so much she probably felt as flat as a piece of paper.  Most shoulder patients take 6 months to recover and come off pain meds.  I did it in 3.  I put my sponsee feelers out and had 2 within a couple of weeks.  I poured myself into the program with all the desperation of a drowning man.  I did not feel withdrawal effects from the pain meds, nor did I feel cravings or any tendency toward addiction.  Then again, I never was a pill person.  I believe God removed any obsession.

Today I love AA in this town, and I believe that all of the pain I’ve been through has been instrumental in creating that love.  Pain, as they say, is the touchstone for growth.  I am, unfortunately, not the type who can breeze into a situation of change and just be comfortable with everything.  There have been changes since my surgery.  I no longer have those two sponsees.  I have only one now and she is shining on.  I have a different sponsor who is the perfect spiritual guide for me at this point in my life.  I have a growing relationship with God that changes every day.  I am not in any acute spiritual or physical pain right now, but that could change by the end of the day.  There are interesting things happening in my personal life that are letting me grow as a woman and as a spiritual creature.  There are also changes happening in my recovery I would have never seen coming.

Something else I would never have seen coming:  I like the fellowship in this town.  The people really are diverse.  I’m happy here.  I have created the fellowship I crave.  Imagine that.

It is a spiritual axiom that every time we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us. p.90, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

Oh, and AA in this town has changed, too.  There is more of our literature in meetings and sponsorship is more active.  It’s exciting to see, and even more exciting to be a part of.

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