Just over 11 years ago, I found myself in deep despair. I cowered alone in my apartment afraid to open my mail. I wondered when life was going to start and feared that it never would. Instead, I clutched my bottle and hid from the world – but I could not hide from myself. I had always considered myself to be religious and I attended church regularly, singing in the choir. Yet, my disease was one part of myself that I tried to ignore, deny and repress. Of course I regularly gave up alcohol for Lent. I had conversations with God where I would say things like “I promise I will never drink again if…” and “please help me manage my drinking.” I just didn’t get it – and my religion didn’t seem to help at all with my drinking problem. Driven by desperation and the growing sense of impending doom, I finally sought help in the rooms of twelve step groups. I knew in my bones that I needed to change my life, and I became willing to try another way. I had no idea when I walked into the doors eleven years ago that I would receive the gift of sobriety and recovery, as well as an amazingly rich new relationship with my higher power and my faith community. Through working the twelve steps and close contact with my sponsor and other people in the program, I began to take actions that opened up a new world for me. By connecting with my higher power, the nameless One of a Thousand Names that sometimes I call God, I learned I could walk through anything. My sobriety is the most important part of my life today, and because I am sober, I can choose to keep the channels of my soul open to where my higher power would lead me today to be of love and service. In my outside world, I enjoy a sense of freedom and responsibility in my work that I was unable to experience when I was hiding out in my disease. I have learned how to cultivate relationships with other people. Through the tender love of my sponsor and my sponsees, I begin to sense the magnitude of love and compassion for myself and others. I often sing “the Lord is gracious and full of compassion.”
Shortly after I got sober I met the man who became my husband, the love of my life. Under the full scrutiny of my home group of sober women, we fell in love and married the following year. With great joy, we welcomed two young children into the world. Throughout all of this, the hearts and hands of the 12-step fellowship helped me broaden and deepen my relationships with my church community. When my beloved husband was diagnosed with cancer shortly after our son’s first birthday, I knew I had to work my 12-step program more than ever. Hand in hand with the fellows in my program, I was able to walk through my husband’s extensive medical treatments, and his death. Because of my sobriety, I was able to care for our children, cultivate an extensive network of support, and provide my dear one with a faithful witness through the end of his life. Because of my sobriety I am able to care for myself, to nourish my relationship with my higher power, to bring a spirit of Love and Service to my life. Because of my sobriety, I am able to show up for myself and others in ways I could never imagine when I was sequestered in my small prison of disease and fear. Even today, as I give thanks for the miracle of sobriety and recovery, I am able to hang out in a hospital waiting room with a dear friend undergoing cancer surgery. I am able to tease her about her lovely scrubs and fancy IV, and we can laugh and laugh about silly things. I have a choice today – to walk the way of fear and death or to walk the way of light and love. And for today, I think I’ll choose to savor these moments of joy.