She was crazy attractive in a disheveled sort of way. Work boots. Torn jeans. An over-sized shirt and a mane of thick tangled up curls. I met her at an AA meeting I attended while living in a different city. She was, and continues to be an inspiration to me. Not because of anything she ever said, but simply because she was sober; and, so far as I was concerned, her sobriety was nothing less than a miracle. I didn’t know a whole lot about her. Only what she shared. She had been cross addicted and homeless, I suspect both being the parting gifts of a relationship gone sour. The old timers welcomed her at the club house. Let her detox there on the old worn couch and later made sure she had something to eat. The club opened early and closed late, and she was there every day all day for weeks. Alternating between sleep and sobs. Those old timers got her sober and, so far as I know, she still is. The woman I met was living a life of joy and gratitude and freedom. And though I have long since moved away, I will never forget her.
Sobriety takes a tremendous amount of courage. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. The easiest, indeed, what seems the only choice is to “do whatever it takes” to perpetuate the madness. Self-perpetuated insanity feels like a much preferable option to dealing with the dismal reality of life and circumstances sobriety would inevitably reveal. There are those who have experienced what is referred to in AA circles as a high bottom: they recognize their lives spiraling out of control, assess their options, and choose sobriety. It takes guts to admit you have a problem and set off in a new direction, but I’m not talking about that sort of courage. I’m talking about hitting concrete at 70 miles an hour and having the courage not to die. That’s what it felt like for me anyway. Sitting there amidst the wreckage. Never wanting the fog to lift. I didn’t care if I lived or died. No. I take that back. Death would have come as a welcome end to the tragedy my life had become. Surely it would soon be over.
Except it wasn’t. Someone appeared in that fog, alright, but it wasn’t The Grim Reaper. Rather, it was a young upstart in a suit sitting behind a desk and two women from church who put me in their car and drove me to rehab. I kept insisting I didn’t belong there, that I could do it on my own, that the whole rehab thing is just a scam to bilk money out of insurance companies. But none of that was true and I knew it. I didn’t have that sort of courage. Not like the woman I had met some two years prior. No matter the mess I had made of my life. No matter that I was sick and getting sicker. Sobriety was too scary. I was terrified for the fog to lift. When I insisted I could do it on my own, what I was really asking for is another chance: let me try again. I screwed up. Okay. But I can do better. I can live in this fog and keep all my balls in the air. Just let me show you. Please don’t do this to me. I don’t want sobriety. I’m afraid.
I still am. Nearly a year has passed since last August, and I am still scared. But old timers have taken care of me, and a family of sorts has embraced me and, for the first time ever, I have found the courage—not to get and stay sober, but—to admit I can’t do it on my own. I need the eclectic mishmash of folk who make up my AA home group. I need the discipline of meetings and the support of those who have travelled this path ahead of me. And I desperately need the companionship of the friends who have and continue to love me. It has taken me a lifetime to do it, but I have finally found myself taken up by the Body of Christ: loved by others who , rather than holding me in high esteem because of my valiant striving toward perfection, cradle me in my brokenness with the healing grace of understanding and compassion. I was lost. I am found. Much to my grateful surprise, I am now sober and alive and free. Go figure. Me. Yes, beloveds, there is a God.