I had a really interesting weekend (and I should have written this yesterday, but I was too busy ranting about how ignorant some people are; I got distracted), and it sort of continued on last night. See, you all know I am in AA, and part of our program is about carrying the message to other alcoholics. When someone-whether we know them or not-calls for help, we do what is called a 12-Step Call, and we just go be with them, share our story with them if we can, offer whatever comfort we can. So on Saturday, I got a call from my good friend E., who had received a call from one of our members who had relapsed in a big way and was in need of some help. I am so selfish that my first reaction was to say no; J. and I were right in the middle of our yard sale (which was a bust, by the way: if any of you need boy clothing from infant to 18 months, I need cash. I also have some snow board bindings, some nice men's pullover-type jackets, etc...), I had all of these kids at home, including two that were not mine, etc...but then I remembered that every time I need someone, they are there, and told him that if he couldn't find someone else, I would go. And I just knew that I would be going, so while I was waiting for him to call back, I began making arrangements for us to be able to leave. Sure enough, about 15 minutes later, E. called back and off we went, J. and I.
We drove out to this place in the country, with THE most beautiful yard, and the house itself was also wonderful, and inside was this mess of a woman who had been drinking since 8:00 that morning: ah, alcohol: the Great Equalizer. God, it was just so, so sad. This woman has been around for only about 6 weeks or so, but is struggling with the fact that she might have a problem. Even though during her last divorce, some ten years ago, her husband said that the only reason he wanted a divorce was because she was an alcoholic and refused to get help. Even though she was sitting on her couch at 1:30 in the afternoon in her pajamas, drunk. Even though. I really think she WANTS to stop drinking, but at the same time, the idea of living a life without drinking is very, very scary for her. It was hard to sit there and listen to her talk (ramble), knowing that no matter how much we want to help her, it has to be up to her. It broke my heart to listen to the fear and the pain and the misery dwelling just underneath the thin veneer of drunken belligerence and drama-queen tears. and please know I am not making fun of her, not for a minute. I have been there, and I know what it is like.
Parts of the afternoon were funny; M. finished the drink she was working on when we got there, and kept getting up and saying, very defensively, "I am going to make myself another drink; you can't stop me!" as if we were there to somehow take away from her the one thing in her life that makes sense to her. Of course, it isn't our job to tell her she can't have a drink; we weren't there to pour out her stash or force her to have water instead. But then halfway to the kitchen, she would remember some other Really Important Thing she was going to tell us, would stumble back into the living room to tell us, and get distracted again. Enough so that she did not actually have another drink while we were there, and was actually starting to sober up and make some sense. I could tell the moment the true remorse kicked in, because she just looked at me and started crying-real tears this time, instead of the fake, attention-getting, drunken tears from before. Just shortly afterward, her boyfriend came home, and we left, unsure of just how much she was really able to hear.
So then last night, J. and I were both at AA and M. came in; late, crying, drunk. She just couldn't do it, couldn't make it that day without drinking, and it just broke my heart for her. There is some hope in that even drunk, she knew where she needed to be, at a meeting, but how long it might take her to string together a few days sobriety is impossible to know. And the worst thing about it is that the odds are stacked against her. Most people out there living the alcoholic/addict life don't get help; either they are just never exposed to a better way of life or they don't have what it takes to get sober and stay sober. The increasing awareness of the long-term ramifications of alcoholism has made it easier, the well-publicized meth -related problems has helped, the advent of Drug Courts has helped, but still, only a very small percentage of the people afflicted actually get recovery, and that is terrifying. When my ex-husband went through treatment, there were about 20 people in his group, and of those, I know of two who are still sober; I believe those statistics are pretty average. So we can hope and pray and help her how we can, but we can't carry her; she has to do that for herself, and at this point, it isn't looking good.
These 12 Step calls serve two purposes-to carry the message, but also to remind of us where we used to be, and boy, did this visit ever do that for me. I had made an offhand comment earlier that morning about wishing I still drank; the sun was out in full force, we were having the yard sale, and back in the day, it would have been the perfect day to sit there with my cooler of beer and just hang. I don't REALLY wish I still drank, but there are days when it seems like it was more fun than it really was. But then I walked into this house and saw what I would have ended up like, what I DID end up like, and it hit me once again. There is nothing fun about being drunk at 1:00 in the afternoon, feeling like shit but also still drinking. She was me just a little less than 9 years ago, and I don't want to go back there. I don't want to EVER feel the way I used to feel when I was still in the active part of the disease; I don't want to behave the way she did, I just don't want that. And the only way for me to NOT go there is to keep doing what I am doing: going to meetings, talking to other sober alcoholics, carrying the message when I can.
When I got home last night, the three older kids were happy to see me. Owen was already asleep, but I went in to check on him and make sure he was safe. I sat on the couch and journaled for a time, while the kids were getting their blankets gathered up to sleep outside. There were the usual scuffles, including one that ended Sam up in the kiddie pool, but in addition to the fighting, there was laughter and genuine love between them. In the background the dog was barking, and the combination of children's laughter and a barking dog and the nighttime noises were all so normal, so happy, that I just closed my eyes to listen. This is what being sober has given me; this is my life, and even with all of its ups and downs, it is a million times better than anything I ever had when I was a drunk. I feel sad for M.,for my Steve, neither of whom see to "get" it, no matter how hard they might want it. I feel sad for my mom, for all of the people I know who are still out there and don't WANT to get sober, who will die drunk. At the same time, I am so happy; way down deep, where it really matters, I know that I have a better life than a lot of people I know. Not on the outside maybe, but on the inside, the part of me that is ME, is content with the changes I have made in the last nine years. There is always work to be done, things I don't like about myself or my belief systems that I work on daily, but at the end of the day, I have a feeling of peace and belonging that I never had when I was drinking. And it is pretty hard to be pissy today when I know that all of the important things are right here with me, all of the time.