Five years ago, probably around this time, I woke up to the sound of pots clinking in a kitchen and ladies laughing, and the aroma of a homemade breakfast creeped into my room. Except, it wasn’t my room. It wasn’t even my home, and I didn’t know any of the ladies cooking for me – for us. I was in an unfamiliar bed, surrounded by unfamiliar pictures hanging on unfamiliar walls.
When reality kicked in that I was there, that I had finally landed myself in a place like that, all I could think about was burying under the covers for the next 14 days.
Fourteen days. I had to stay for fourteen days in a house in East Dallas intended for women to get sober. I’d done it before, I could do it again. Piece of cake. Right?
I finally decided to get out of bed around 5PM. Dinner was almost ready and we had a meeting in a few hours. I suddenly couldn’t picture anything but food – and cigarettes. And coffee. And food. Caffeine and Nicotine to save me. It was going to be alright.
When I got to the meeting, groups of women surrounded me, again with the laughing and the noise. I was weak, shaking, scared and annoyed. I sat in the furthest corner, hoping my demeanor would say, Stay Away. I don’t need you.
Names were called, tears were shed, speeches were given. Thirty days, sixty days, ninety… days sober strung into months turned into years for some. And they all smiled, and they all hugged, and they all laughed that laugh which I was beginning to dread.
And then, me. One day. 24 measly hours. Surrounded by women who wanted to see me string together fourteen full days of those 24 hour increments. Surrounded by women who genuinely cared about a girl who felt about as worthless as they come. A girl who didn’t recognize her own reflection. A girl who despised who she had become. Surrounded by women who, weeks or months or years ago, were in her same position. Except, even in my lowest state, I began to think that I was nothing like most of these women. I was different. I wasn’t as bad off as them. I could fix it.
This “realization” hit me hard, and as the rest of the meeting went on, I let it stew. I let it build up and decided I wanted out. I was just going through one of my “dark places”. I would be fine. I just needed to move back home, I just needed to go see my counselor more, I needed to change my friends, I just needed to…
I went into the Director’s office to tell her that I was done here, that I was so much better than these women and that I didn’t belong in this place. I told her I was leaving, and she told me no one would help me go, but I was free to leave and I knew where the door was. She reminded me that, a girl ‘like me’ on a night like this, alone on an East Dallas street would end up right back where I was sitting – that is, if I could make it back.
My sponsor at the time had come to visit me right around that moment- call it Divine intervention, if you will. I told her the same argument that the Director shot down, hoping she’d buy into my ridiculousness. I informed her that I was nothing like the women in the house with me, and she informed me that I was everything like these women. That we shared one common denominator: a spiritual malady that only God could fix. Not alcohol. Not drugs. Not men. Not my eating disorder. God.
And here I sit, five years later, by the pure, merciful grace of that God. A God that took me many years to understand and a God that amazes me every day of my life.
I stuck around for 14 days of 24 hour increments. I stuck around a little longer. I left the rooms, I came back to the rooms. I worked the steps, I got a sponsor, I got a sponsee, I stopped talking to both, I stopped working a program. I started again and stopped again and started and stopped and hated being an alcoholic and loved it all the same. The only thing I know that I’ve done right is not pick up a drink, or a drug, no matter what. One day at a time. 24 hours.
I haven’t done this whole “sobriety” thing perfect – at all. No. You took away my alcohol and my drugs and my vices and you leave me with… well, me. A “me” whom I ran from every day of my damn life for years. A “me” who was broken at her core, searching desperately for something to put my pieces back together again.
And no, I have no idea if all those pieces will ever be back together again. And you know, I don’t think I want them to be. The people, places and experiences I’ve met along the way this past decade, and especially those these past five years of sobriety, have shaped me and molded me into a new person, with new pieces mixed in with the old. A new person, who I will strive daily to better, who will turn to others for help and guidance and who will hopefully use their experience to give back and help someone who “isn’t anything like me” someday.
I couldn’t be more grateful today. I never imagined making it to today. One day. 24 hours. Here’s to 24 more.