Tonight was a first for me. I was asked a month or so ago to share my story at an AA meeting. I am naturally a reluctant joiner, unless there is something in it for me. The fact that I attend AA meetings means I get enough out of it to keep going back. Admittedly, not as often as I should, but I keep going. When asked to share my story, a deep, gut-level panic rose to kill my voice box. Then my brain kicked in, and remembered I need to try harder at making actual, real, live connections with people. So I agreed to speak, but got a reprieve when my mother's mastectomy got in the way.
I had effectively begged off for a month, so I got my ass to that meeting tonight and shared. With about 30 or so people in the room, I unloaded about 30 years of my drinking on them. Of course, there was SO MUCH to tell, I had to whittle it down to the finer points. Including taking my first drink before age 5; asking my bio dad for a drink to wash down my antibiotics, and being handed a Pabst Blue Ribbon (I was 8); how my 12 year old boyfriend used to bring vodka and grape koolaid to parties, none of the girls would partake, of course I did; that my curfew was 11:45 pm in high school, so I had to make sure my buzz was GOOD and fully on by 11:30; that my first REMEMBERED blackout was my freshman year of college, when I woke up on the lawn of my university, next to the sprinklers; that I once called out sick from work after a Fourth of July drunken weekend by saying "I ate a bad tomato"...I worked for my Dad; that I managed to stop drinking for 9 months before the Navy, and only picked up the drink again, because after two weeks out of Boot Camp, I was BORED; how I lived up to the pejorative "drunken sailor", and then some when I finally got to my ship; that I used to drink at a sad little bar called The Outback Pub which was connected to a Comfort Inn, with mostly men, who were in their golden years...because it was the closest bar to base that WASN'T a strip club; that my one and only DUI was after a night where I had NOT been drinking at my level best, and that cops don't like it when you slip out of the cuffs...TWICE; that when my division officer came to bail me out of jail, I felt like the lowest piece of shit on earth, but it didn't stop me from drinking; when I finally had enough of being harassed by men who were my age, but held higher ranks, and no education I asked to see the ship's shrink; that that shrink was worthless, and that I ended up just leaving...effectively going what civilians know as AWOL (UA in the Navy); that after that I didn't get in trouble because my record was just that good, I snapped AGAIN, this time checking into a hospital and admitting suicidal ideation; spending some time in the mental ward of a Naval hospital; going UA...AGAIN, this time because they were taking too long with my medical discharge; getting out of the Navy finally, but not before seeing for the second time that I had "elevated liver enzymes" on my medical report; if it is at all possible, drinking MORE when I moved back home; having to clean up the apartment where my bio dad literally dropped dead; going to a 12 week outpatient rehab to placate my parents; getting a job at a bar!; telling a friend "why would I want to date someone who drinks more than I do!?" then moving in with him a month later; deciding to get married, while sitting at a bar with friends; getting married while on vacation in Vegas; having an endocrinologist tell me point blank: "kid, if you don't stop drinking NOW you will DIE. Not later, SOONER."; quitting for 8 weeks; deciding on our one year anniversary that one beer with crabs won't hurt, and then even leaving a half a bottle of wine!; proud that I "proved" I could drink "normally", I go to a Memorial Day party and get so shit-faced I fall flat on my face, but not before I slammed my engagement ring into the grill, leaving my ring finger with a permanent scar of my diamond; that May 29th, 2007 is my sober date, and my first AA meeting was two days later.
Phew! And THAT was the short version! I left out all the really good stories. All the filthy debauchery, because, well, it was an older crowd, and I didn't need to put any of them in the hospital. After I was done speaking, each person was allowed to introduce themselves, and speak on the subject I left on the table "Gratitude". I really am, beyond grateful that I deigned to go to that first meeting. That I sat through, and gritted my teeth past all the "God" talk. That after I stopped focusing on what I just thought was a cult to get me closer to this so-called Higher Power, that people's stories resonated within me. I was shocked that no matter who spoke, there was something about their story that touched me, that reminded ME of ME. After being in the Navy, I didn't think I would meet a more eclectic group of people that really had no reason to be together outside of the military. AA is the great equalizer, I suppose. Rich/poor. Very young/Very, very old. Educated/not so much. Moms. Dads. Sisters. Bosses. Lawyers. CEOs. Bus drivers. Not employed. And it's not just the booze that we all have in common. It's much deeper than that. Alcohol is just part of the problem. I have never met a group of people that have been so open or welcoming. My jaded, non-trusting heart knows I could call anyone from any meeting I ever attended, and they would have my back. These are people who give a shit about what their lives mean now, and don't want to forget how bad it was, so they gladly help any alcoholic who asks for it.
The part of me that kept me drinking so long is the part of me that doesn't trust people. To make full use of this life, and to really attain happiness, I will have to reach out SOONER, not later. I still have three months to get a sponsor. I have my eye on someone, someone from tonight's meeting. :) I can assure you, it is not the old lady who came up to me after the meeting, all smiles, to tell me that my "disgusting language is not appreciated in AA, so to keep it clean and respectful." By the end of that sentence she was practically reeking of malice, and wasn't sure if she was joking or not, until she repeated herself. The lady who asked me to speak at the meeting was standing right there, and scurried off leaving me to twist in the wind. Then the old lady started smiling again and told me how "lovely" my story was. WHA?????
I learned something about myself tonight, or rather, I came to grips with the fact that I will never be one that has a quick witted response when insulted. It takes me a while to mull things over, to really dig at what was said. It's taken me four hours to come up with "Go fuck yourself old lady, RESPECT that my word choice is not YOURS." Oh, and I will deliver it with a smile. And because we are in AA, I know if I called her right now she would drop what she is doing to make sure I wasn't about to lip a bottle. I do the same for her, and try to keep the cussing to a minimum. Shit. :)