I have brushed off suggestions of trying out an AA meeting or working the steps. In fact, I have been firmly against it from the very beginning. I watched an episode of “Bullshit” the first weekend I was sober that centered around “the cult” of AA and wrote it off as an organization designed for and by Christians. This week however, I have been listening to and reading recovery stories online and a great number of them have some sort of foundation in AA. Further, many of the speakers or writers were like me, non-Christian… Hmm…
Fast-forward to the Friday night from hell. I just felt terrible. I reached out and I got support from online friends. I white knuckled my way through it but this morning I wondered if I needed another layer of support…
I have been leery of my town’s AA circle. Part of it is a (sorry if this offends anyone) mistrust of Christians, having been burnt by some so-called folks before. Part of my hesitancy might also be rooted (this is where things might get a little heavy) in my own perception of alcoholics in my community. Alcoholism is a pervasive social problem in my little town. The negative stigma is alive and well here. There are many people who suffer from debilitating alcoholism and I frankly have a hard time envisioning myself as a member of that particular social group (this is me checking my elitist asshole bullshit). Nevertheless, I hunger for a community, for face-to-face connection and support beyond what my dearest friends and family can (or should be asked to) provide.
So I decided, at 11:20 this morning, to attend the noon meeting. Before I left the house, I coached myself, “don’t get your hopes up.” The meeting was held in a single wind trailer surrounded by lush trees and bushes. Inside the trailer I found a large open room with two long tables, peppered with books and coffee cups. I was a little early, but when I walked in, everyone was already seated and either chatting or doing their own thing. I took a seat pulled out my knitting (to avoid talking to anyone, of course) and waited for the meeting to begin. A kind-faced, older man offered me coffee which I graciously accepted. A couple of older gentlemen a couple of seats away were arguing over the meaning of the word ‘cornucopia.’ A younger woman played with her phone. Two tattooed younger men sat quietly at the end. A few other people sat around the table seemingly preoccupied with their own thoughts. I made several snap judgments about their respective backgrounds and how they came to attend meetings in this little trailer. I am an idiot.
The meeting began. It reminded me of mass. I kept knitting. The leader, the same man who gave me coffee, asked if there were any new people or visitors. All eyes landed on me. I spoke the words: My real name. I am an alcoholic. I told them I had 33 days and was unsure about AA because I wasn’t a Christian. I figured I would get that shit out of the way right off the bat. I was half hoping, half expecting they would give me some sign that I was not going to be accepted. If they didn’t accept me, I could move on and strike AA of my list of tools right? As I spoke, I noticed the leader tense up (“Oh, boy. Here we go.” my brain said). As soon as I stopped speaking a man across the table from me said sort of incredulously, “you don’t have to be a Christian to be a member.” From there, each in turn, the members welcomed me and reiterated their own struggles and versions of their higher power. The same man who said I didn’t have to be a Christian said that the meetings were about alcoholics helping one another not what anyone believed or didn’t believe in. The man who tensed up when I spoke, spoke of his own agnosticism and struggles with defining a higher power. He even talked about atheism and physics (wasn’t expecting that). He gave me a 30 day chip (so cool!), bought me a big book and gave me a hug, commenting that he never missed an opportunity to hug a female.
Um… I was… a little shocked, ok more like flabbergasted, by their kindness, acceptance and thoughtfulness about the program. I shared a bit more and I thanked them all for welcoming me. I am still not sure if the steps are my cup of tea, but I found the meeting to be very reassuring. I left feeling quieted and hopeful. I think I might just go back. I feel honored that I might have the opportunity to learn a thing or two from these folks.
I am not a Christian. I try hard to respect all faiths but I do not ascribe to one myself. I have studied the Bible and was raised Christian but it is simply not my path. It is one of the main reasons I am resisting AA. I feel it is too connected to Christian doctrine. I do, believe there is something that connects us, however. I call her/it/ him whatever, The Universe. She has always been pretty kind to me. I have always been fortunate to find the people and resources I need in life. I am lucky, blessed, whatever you want to call it.
My Sunday sanctuary for years was running. I would run while I watched all of the religious folks drive to and from church. I have gotten away from my practice of running over the past couple of years. It is really hard to run hungover and even harder slightly or fully intoxicated. Running was replaced by Bloody Mary’s on the weekend and wine during the week.
For the past week I have been trying to rebuild my running chops. I have been running on the treadmill while listening to WTF (Marc Maron’s podcast). Running has always settled my anxiety and made me more mentally even. Today, I ran my old route outdoors. It is something I haven’t been able to do since 2010 because a bridge had to be taken out due to flooding that year. The bridge was finished last fall but I was too busy with my alcoholism to care. My run was hot and arduous but breathtakingly beautiful. The Universe, in her infinite kindness, even gave me a breeze.
I used to push myself on my runs. I would reward myself with beer or tequila. Today, I didn’t push. I ran when I could and took in the beauty all around me. After I crossed the bridge at the midway point, I heard a loud mewing. It sounded a bit like a hurt kitten. I popped my earphones out and looked in the direction of the sound to find the most beautiful, tiny fawn I have ever seen. We had a moment, standing there staring at each other. It was amazing (probably not for her- she was probably terrified). I tried to grab a picture for my kids but a truck came and she scurried off.
I feel strong today. I obtained my meds and I accomplished something wonderful. I feel reconnected to my church of running and to the benevolence of The Universe. It is a good day.
Oh and instead of rewarding myself with beer or tequila, I rewarded myself on sale running clothes. Much better!
View from the end segment of my run today. A huge improvement over the view from the treadmill in my basement. 🙂