I started back to work this week, but we don’t start classes until June 1, so the campus is blessedly quiet. I work steadily through the day, writing and editing and tweaking my syllabi and plans for the semester, and I finish fairly early. My in-laws came into town and took both my kids to their camping spot, and my wife went out to see them. This gave me the rare afternoon and evening alone. Wonderful, I thought to myself, I need to relax. It’s not like I have a physically demanding job, but work is work, and I come home tired. Couple that with general PAWS weariness (I assume that’s what it is, at least) and the idea of being alone in the house became quite appealing.
With all that free time, I knew I could go to a 5:30 meeting downtown or an 8:00 meeting at my home group, but I didn’t really want to go to either. My plan was to come home, walk our dog Charley, and then fiddle around. Maybe write some music, play Dead Space 3 (I love Isaac), and read.
I did some of that between three and five. I had a nice walk with Charley, cleaned up the kitchen, and cranked up the ol’ Xbox and blasted away some necromorphs. Around five o’clock, I paused the game. The house was quiet; the cats were dozing, and Charley was curled up beside my chair. What an ideal time to drink, I thought.
“Dammit,” I said and got up. I grabbed my keys, my 90-day chip, my phone and wallet, and headed out the door. I called my wife and told her I was going to the downtown meeting, and she was glad. Earlier, she’d encouraged me to go, and I’d said, “Nah, I’ll just chill at the house.”
Turns out I’m still not completely comfortable being left to my own devices during my trigger time (generally, from three in the afternoon through supper time). I want to think that I wouldn’t have gone to fetch a bottle had I chosen to stay home, but why risk it?
The meeting was fantastic. I met some new people, and there was a new-comer who was clearly struggling. She didn’t share at first, but toward the end, she shared her name, adding through her tears, “I don’t want to drink anymore, but I have to. I feel like I’ve had a hangover for a month. My head constantly hurts and drinking doesn’t help, but I still do it. I’ll probably go home and drink a bottle of wine by myself and smoke cigarettes on my back porch, but I’m so tired of doing that.”
I’ve seen new-comers before, but none have shared their pain so openly or expressed their desire to stop drinking so candidly. My heart ached for her. I understood; we all understood. Almost immediately, the women in the group began writing down their numbers to share with her later. When I was walking out the door, I saw two of them gathered around her as she held tightly to her white chip.
It was an incredible moment of empathy and relating to another person’s suffering. We couldn’t take the pain away, but we could meet her in it. We could hold her hand and tell her we knew what she was going through. We could offer her hope.
I left the meeting feeling energized and in-tune with my program. I’ve been worried lately that I was drifting away from AA, but I don’t think I am. Things look different for me than they did, say, a month ago, and that’s OK. I’ll continue changing in the right ways as long as I don’t take that first drink.
For now, it’s time to get ready for work. I’m still amazed and grateful to wake up sober and go through my day without planning and scheming to get a drink. It does, indeed, get better.