A Breath of Clean Air

I came to the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous by way of a suicide hotline on October 24, 2001.  The woman who answered the phone was kind.  I told her that I had a problem with alcohol.  She asked if I had ever tried AA.  I told her that at this point, I would try anything.  I was desperate, I wanted to die; after all, I had called a suicide hotline.  She said there was a meeting very close to where I lived at 6:30 that evening, that it happened to be her home group.  It was called Clean Air.  It was morning when I called her.  That meant I had hours to wait for the meeting.  I spent the day in morbid reflection of my situation.  I had cast everything good out of my life because of my behavior while drinking:  my job, my appearance, the health of my marriage and the friends in my life.  The last straw had been the loss of the one person in my life who I thought would never abandon me, my best friend Christy.  In the week prior she had not returned my calls.  Finally I had heard from her husband, who said that they just couldn’t have me in their lives at this point because of my behavior.  I was devastated.  I thought of dying and nothing else.  I was an atheist; I had no higher power to turn to, nothing larger than myself to give these feelings over to.  I didn’t even know the concept, having turned away from the church and God as a rebellious young girl of thirteen.  I had a psychiatrist from whom I got my meds but I had not seen a therapist in years.  My husband was already freaked out by my drinking and behavior; sharing with him that I wanted to die would have sent him over the edge.  I slept eighteen hours a day and drank during my waking hours.  By the time I went to the meeting that night I was full to the top of despair.

Clean Air was my salvation.  I was relieved at once of the desire to drink, which was a miracle.  I had not gone more than a day or two without a drink in the last five years.  I became a very active member overnight, going to three meetings a day, having breakfast after the morning meeting, lunch after the noon meeting and dinner after the evening meeting.  I went to every function and group conscious meeting.  I got a sponsor and started working the steps.  Clean Air became my family.  I know I was insane, but they loved me just the way I was.  Some of them told me things I didn’t like to hear, in fact I left meetings and refused to speak to some people over some of their advice from time to time, but the wisdom of their words would always sink in eventually.

After eight and a half years around the rooms of AA I know that Clean Air is something of an anomaly, or at least it was during that time.  This was God doing for me what I could not do for myself.  I was protected from some of the behaviors that I have since experienced in other groups, specifically the rumor mills and the predatory men.   All I knew at Clean Air was love and support.  I had the impunity to practice my program and get well.  I won’t exaggerate here and say that there weren’t other sick alcoholics around me, there were.  I had my share of shady experiences, but no men ever tried to get into my pants and no one ever whispered stories into my ear about any one’s private lives.  Perhaps these things went on but I was delivered from them.

I spent five years at Clean Air.  I chaired meetings, sponsored women and led a speaker meeting for a year and a half, which was both a challenge and an honor.  I drifted away from the group when I moved to another area of Dallas, where there was a clubhouse less than a block from my home, but I returned to Clean Air from time to time.  My relapse began shortly before I moved away from Dallas in July of 2006.  I went to the Sunday morning meeting the day before I left Dallas and asked for a desire chip, sometimes called a 24 hour coin.  My sponsor was chairing the meeting.  I had blamed her for my relapse.  We had not spoken in more than a month.  She handed me my coin.  It was the last time I was to see her or Clean Air in three and a half years.

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