When I first got sober, almost twelve years ago, I was told at AA that I had to find a sponsor. This was not negotiable.
I was in a tender state of mind. Barely able to speak at AA meetings – let alone stop crying long enough to do so. I felt overwhelmed and intimidated by this “idea” of finding a sponsor. To make matters worse, every person I met in the AA meeting rooms asked me if I had found one yet. I was feeling the pressure.
It was explained to me that a sponsor would walk me through the twelve steps. This can be a very emotional process. One had to call their sponsor every day – every. single. day. It didn’t have to be a long conversation but a daily check in was paramount. I was also told to do absolutely anything that my sponsor requested of me or told me to do. If he or she told me to go dig a hole in my backyard – I was to dig a hole in my backyard. No questions asked. This was a daunting notion to me and very uncomfortable. I was used to running my own life, and well, being my own boss. My fellow group members explained that it was my best thinking and decision making that got me here. I couldn’t deny that fact and “here” was not exactly where I wanted to be. I started to pay attention in meetings to what other women shared and set out to find my perfect sponsor. That is, a sponsor that was perfect for me.
I was working with a temporary sponsor until that happened. She was great. She was a huge support and someone I could call every day, but we never made it past the first step. I was also getting more and more comfortable every day in the rooms of AA. Soon, the dimly lit 4pm at the Fellowship Hall felt like home to me. Everything about that room and the people in it provided comfort for me. The people that had listened to me cry and mumble for three months were suddenly hearing me drop “f” bombs and rant about whatever was on my mind that day – no matter how random. These people lifted me up and carried me.
I found her and her name was Liz. We began,what turned out to be, the most life changing relationship I have ever had. Our lives on the outside looked the same but it was the similarities of our “hidden” selves that connected us. We had known each other in high school and ran in similar crowds so we shared a history as well. It was huge for me to have someone from my “tribe” in this with me. Both Liz and I had “white picket fence” lives. Husbands, kids, PTA bake sales and yoga class made up our days, but that’s not what bonded us. Both Liz and I, closeted and hiding in our perfect white picket homes, were in alcoholic blackouts every single night. These were violent blackouts – the kind where you fall and fracture bones but can’t seek help because you are too ashamed for anyone to see you that drunk. The kind where you pass out, alone, in your backyard with a burning Marlboro Light in your hand. The kind where you see double, trip on your own feet, spill everything and slur every word you speak. This last part, however, didn’t matter because in our homes after 4pm no one listened us to any more anyway.
We both suffered from that inner decay that wears you like a wet blanket. No matter how many showers we took or how much perfume we used – the school teachers at drop off or the yoga instructor at the 10am class knew we had a drinking problem. They knew this because they could smell the decay emanating from our every pore and see it in our watery, reddened eyes.
Liz was three years sober when I met her, but we still recognized ourselves in one another. I was ready and willing to be her sponsee. All she had to do was help me with – everything.
She gently, patiently, but, undeniably, firmly guided me through the twelve steps listening to every detail of my life along the way. The ups and downs, the highs and lows, the lowest of the lows – nothing was left out – not even the most shameful and deplorable. We became the closest of friends. She saw a side of me that I hid from everyone else including my own family. I held nothing back.
The process took about six months. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I couldn’t have done it without my sponsor, Liz. Everything I had been told from my fellows in AA came true. I felt a great weight had been lifted. It was like the earth had opened up and swallowed me whole – digesting all the shameful, sorry parts and spitting back out a proud, hopeful and FREE me.
A lot has happened since that first six months and it wasn’t all good. My marriage fell apart and I had to start over at 36 with two young children BUT I was free – finally – from the prison of shame and addiction. I started to become the women I was always supposed to be. This journey was hard but extraordinary. All the pieces of my young, pre- alcoholic self began to show themselves again and I felt stronger than I ever had – ever.
I started my own business, raised my daughters and held my head high every single day. I didn’t hide from anyone and I re-discovered a world that I had forgotten about. Soccer games, coffee with friends and matinee movies with buttered popcorn became enjoyable again. These small changes added up and suddenly I noticed that I enjoyed all 24 hours in a day not just happy hour. The biggest gift was remembering every day. I had become accustomed to piecing together the blurry wreckage of each 24 hours. This was true emotional and spiritual freedom – and I still choose freedom as my meeting topic at every AA birthday.
There is no doubt in my mind that Liz saved my life. I will add to this that I never did actually dig a hole in my backyard but I would have if she had asked.
By: Amy Samuel-Meda
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