The Room of Hope

By the next afternoon, Lucas and I were in the office of a counselor who suggested that I should consider attending a recovery meeting. This was gracious counselor code for you need help. I didn’t know what else to do, so I went. I wore a black MTV Punk’d t-shirt and ratty jeans and sat on the back row.

The meeting started at 5pm and everyone looked so happy. They were smiling and telling jokes and hugging. There was a lot of hugging. I don’t like hugging. As the meeting started, a person at a desk in the front of the room, who I assumed was the president, began talking. There were some readings from people in the room. And then the president said, “Is this anyone’s first time to attend a meeting?”

With a sheepish hand wave, I acknowledged that I was clearly new to this and suddenly the meeting shifted. They all started talking about how they arrived in this room. Many of the stories were not like mine. I had not been to jail.  I had not lost a job. I immediately began a mental list of all the reasons that I didn’t fit. Sure, I knew something was really wrong, but I wasn’t THIS bad. All I could think about was that I was nothing like these people. Then I went home.

The next morning, it was 10:30am and I was already losing my mind with worry about how I was going to make it through the day. So, I drove back to the meeting place. And people were there. They gave me this fat blue book and told me to read it. I got a silver token that they called a Desire Chip and with it, I said that I would try this thing called staying sober for 24 hours. But I still didn’t think that I belonged. The wildest part of these meetings was that people claimed that they had been sober for 3 months and 23 years and 1,789 days. This was insane. There is no way that any grown adult does not drink or use mind altering substances for that long, right? Whhyyyyy would you do that?

I left the porch meeting and went home. I made it 5 more hours and I wanted a drink so badly. I was a lunatic. In self-preservation, Lucas asked if I had thought about going to another meeting. Dear, Lord! I must be really sick if I needed to go back AGAIN. This time I went to a different building. The sign said it was a women’s meeting. I was still in the black dirty t-shirt and jeans. I added a black hoodie to try to hide the shaking. I walked in and in front of me stood a room of women that looked like they could have been my mom or sister or Sunday School teacher. One reminded me of my aunt that is as prim and proper as they come.

And the room was full. There were women that were smart and together. There were women that had all the things that I wanted. I’m confident that I displayed sufficient outward clues of my desperation, but they didn’t seem to care. I sat between two of the most together looking ones and I just sank into my chair. The tears started falling and they would not stop.

Everyone that talked told pieces of my story. There were moms and daughters and caregivers. There were wives and friends and so much freaking honesty. I think the topic was surrender, but honestly, I’m not sure. I remember that at some point I felt like I had something to say. At meetings, before you talk, you introduce yourself. I was not ready to admit that I was an alcoholic, so with all the courage I could muster, I said, “Hi, my name is Lacy and I am an addict.” Somehow that seemed more tolerable. Please don’t ask me to explain this. That is where my whacked out thinking had delivered me. I had come to a place that somehow being an addict was more palatable than an alcoholic. That’s the kind of logic that presents itself in active addiction.

I have no idea what all I said out loud in that first meeting. I know that I said I was a mess. I know that I said I could not care for my kids. I know that I was genuinely loved by the women in that room. I didn’t have a clue what was about to happen. I didn’t know how I was going to get through the next 2 hours, much less the next 24. But they promised me that I could do with the help of God and the program. At that point, I had tried it my way. I knew that I was failing. I had everything to lose and everything to gain. I did what they said and showed up the next day. And the next. And the next.

I was given very basic instructions in the early days.

  • don’t drink
  • go to meetings
  • associate with sober people
  • pray
  • read the Big Book

For the most part, I could handle the instructions. The last was the hardest. This big blue book that they carried around was a bit much for me. They were quoting it and some pounded on their book in a very Pentecostal preacher kind of way. It freaked me out. The things that I hated about religion were represented by some of the most zealot members of this clan. But in the first week, I found myself lost in my own bad ideas, so I opened the book. And I found this passage on page 8:

“No words can tell of the loneliness and despair I found in that bitter morass of self-pity. Quicksand stretched around me in all directions. I had met my match. I had been overwhelmed. Alcohol was my master.”

It was in that moment that I knew I was in the right place. That was exactly how I felt. So I had but one choice. If I wanted what they had, I had to do what they did.

One day at a time.

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