Eight years ago, I lived in a run-down apartment off 59 and Newcastle in Houston, Texas. My roommate, a girl I knew from work, came home one day and informed me that she was moving out. It seemed she suddenly and unexpectedly eloped with the chef at our restaurant because her student visa was running out and she was going to have to return to Russia. (No, I’m serious. I’m not making this stuff up.) She suggested either we break the lease or I find a roommate. The simple thought of living with someone new terrified me in my final days. Looking back, it is almost humorously tragic to contemplate. There was zero chance of me opening up my existence to the scrutiny and judgment of a stranger.
So, I sat on the floor of my apartment and continued to drink and chain smoke in total isolation.
Not long after, I woke up one morning in withdraws. I was dizzy and shaking. It felt like a worse version of the flu. I knew if I drank something, I would feel better, but I could not think of one person in the world who would bring me something to drink. But more than that, there is not one person in the world who would bring me anything: not a cup of soup, a blanket, or a kind word.
I often write of loneliness because it is the emotion I most remember from of those days. I was so incredibly lost and ashamed and alone. I think, honestly, I give my immediate family a bad rap in this memory. Had I called them, had I reached out and asked for help, I am sure I would have been in rehab by dinnertime. They love me and are good people, but I was so disconnected from them. My pride, even in those down times, was so entrenched it would have been impossible for me to reach out to them for help.
But that was eight years ago. This year, I will be making the promise of friendship and fidelity to another person. With that comes a wedding and a party. A few days ago, I began the amazing task of writing down a list of all the people we would like surrounding us on our special day. First I listed my family, the people who are here now that I could not let be there then. Then I listed sponsors, then sponsees, friends from our home group, ladies from my yearly retreat, buddies from his half-way house. As one piece of paper filled, I flipped the page and continued to write. I could not help but smile as our small intimate wedding soon turned into a celebration of AA proportions.
“You are going to meet these new friends in your own community… High and low, rich and poor, these are the future fellows of Alcoholics Anonymous. Among them you will make lifelong friends. You will be bound to them with new and wonderful ties, for you will escape disaster together and you will commence shoulder to shoulder your common journey,” (Big Book 152-153).
True, it is our past that originally united us. AA supplied me with a place to meet people, people who like me experience fear and neurosis, people who suffer from guilt and shame and heartache. But it is our future which will keep uniting us.
And through the process, AA has begun the process of trying to teach me how to be a friend. I’m still not very good at it. I’m still really quite self-centered. But I’m better. At least I can see my faults, apologize, and try again. Once of my favorite lines in the Twelve and Twelve is “We have not once sought to be one in a family, a friend among friends…” (53). Today, I seek to be better.
Of all the blessing I have received from AA and recovery, my friends (and my honey, of course) maybe the greatest blessing of all. I like to say I belong to the “No Matter What Club,” but if I were as lonely today as I was on February 27, 2007, I’m not sure that I would still be sober. My AA friends save my sanity on a daily basis, but more than that, they have saved my life. Now… For the rest of the journey…