Lydia: Day 22

Powerless

It had been a week since Lydia had asked Tracy to sponsor her, and even though she had no idea what the role of a sponsor truly was, she relinquished as much as she could to the idea of vulnerability. Tracy had insisted that Lydia call her every day. At first, the conversations had been awkward and stilted. While she had many women friends in her life, Lydia had never been one to share intimate details about herself or Henry. It only took a few phone calls, though, for her to realize that Tracy was not intending on being her friend, but rather something more altogether. Their conversations were sometimes short and sometimes long, but they always focused on recovery, the steps, and emotional sobriety. Lydia tried her best to answer Tracy’s questions honestly, but sometimes Tracy’s observations cut Lydia to the quick. Never had she felt so shallow as when she reflected Tracy. It only took a matter of days for Tracy to earned her trust.

In one of their initial conversations, Tracy had given her a short list of things to do, and so far, most had been accomplished.

The first item on her list was to read the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. Lydia had already bought a Big Book a couple of weeks before. Normally a voracious reader, on a good day she could easily polish of an entire Danielle Steele or Barbara Cartland novel. But this book was different. If Lydia concentrated, thought really hard, she could make it a couple of pages before her mind wandered to what she might find on TV. Maybe it was the language. Maybe it was the subject matter. She didn’t know why, but most of what Bill Wilson wrote about was completely lost on her.

The second item on her list was to attend an AA meeting every day for ninety days. Although she had attended a meeting everyday for the last 22 days, sometimes two or three, the idea of ninety somehow seemed ridiculous. Lydia tried to argue this fine point with Tracy, but her sponsor seemed to have none of it.

Finally, Lydia was to begin her stepwork, the point that had brought her to her granite countertop on a Tuesday morning with a steaming coffee cup of green tea neatly positioned at a forty-five degree angle to a new journal, bought from Barnes and Nobles and bound in antiquated brown leather. Lydia had even bought a special fountain pen to record every piece of her step work. She wanted it just so. Even though she had only been sober a short while, Lydia looked forward to the day when she would have her own sponsee. When that time came, she wanted to be able to tell the girl that she worked her steps perfect.

On the first page, Lydia had neatly scrawled, “important phone numbers.” On the second page, she had neatly begun a list of goals. The list included running a marathon and writing a book. She even thought about returning to school, maybe getting a degree in psychology or addiction counseling.

But it was the top of the third page of the journal that had Lydia had become stuck. At the top, she slowly retraced the word powerless in the line, “1. Admitted we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable.” On some base level, Lydia knew she could not drink anymore, therefore the correct answer simply had to be alcohol. And yet, the word powerless seemed more perplexing than that. If, she though, the line had instead read, “Admitted we were alcoholic and that our lives were unmanageable,” the answer would be more direct, simpler. She could admit she drank too much. But powerless. What did that mean? She wasn’t powerless against alcohol. She had a house and a life and, at least for the time being, a husband and a family.

After a few minutes, Lydia moved her pen down from the word powerless and slowly wrote, “Alcohol.” With a sigh, she set down her pen and closed the book.

Lydia: Day 14

Lydia 14

Over the past couple of weeks, as the alcohol slowly left her system, she had been overcome with emotions. Feelings of anger gave way to self-pity, which quickly became elation. The day before, having gotten off the phone with her daughter, Lydia found herself in the awkward place of simultaneously crying and laughing. There was such a pall of depression and despair that clung to her life. And yet, for the first time in a very long time, there was also hope.

She had heard in the meetings that sobriety could only be reached when the pain of today exceeded the fear of tomorrow. That seemed to sum up so much for Lydia. She was worried about her impending divorce, about being poor and alone. The sensation was so acute, it made her body her body ache with the desire to drink. If she thought long enough about it, her palms would start to itch and sweat would break out on her upper lip. But it was also this gut wrenching, physical need to escape that had managed to keep her dry for the past two weeks. Lydia didn’t know much, but she knew anything that powerful, that existed inside of her, calling for her own self-destruction, was not good. She knew, in these moments, that if she gave in, she was likely to kill herself. And that terrified her.

The AA club had very quickly become a bastion of security for Lydia. As soon as she pulled into the parking lot, a wave of warmth and security began to replace her fear and insecurity. The club, though not especially lush, had a certain feel of comfort. Three overstuffed couches huddled in the far corner of the main room, next to a flat screen TV. Two tables sat in the middle. It was not uncommon for Lydia to see groups of twos or threes eating lunch, doing schoolwork, or playing a game.

But the people who attracted Lydia’s attention the most were the ones huddled over the hard covered, blue book. It was not very difficult to ascertain who was the sponsor and who was the sponsee. Lydia sat near them sometimes, sipping on her tea, trying at decode the meaning of their conversations.

Sometimes it would appear as if the sponsor and the sponsee were reading together. They would occasionally stop and point to certain lines of the Big Book and have a soft discussion followed by much head nodding.

Sometimes, the women looked like they were having fun. The conversation would revolve around a cup of coffee and a laugh. There seemed to be a comradery about these women and a genuine sense of care and affection. Lydia wondered to herself if she had ever had a relationship such as these women seemed to have. Certainly, she never had it with her own mother and she didn’t have any sisters.

But sometimes the conversations seemed earnest and serious. The two huddled together conspiratorially as the sponsee read from some sort of list or another. Sometimes there was crying. Sometimes a pat on the back. Once Lydia saw both women get on their knees and pray right there in the room. No one else took much notice, as if this sort of thing happened everywhere. But to Lydia, who was never much of a pray-er, this had a profound effect. Like her first meeting and her first sober phone call, Lydia wondered if she would ever get to a point where she would feel comfortable praying. It was right then and there, though, that she decided that if prayer would keep her sober, she would do it.

A few minutes later, as Lydia sat in the meeting, she decided it was time to take the step and ask a woman to be her sponsor. She knew the woman she wanted to ask: Tracy, the college professor. Lydia didn’t know what it would feel like to be beholden to another woman or what it might feel like to confide one’s deepest darkest secrets. A part of her recoiled at the idea, tempted to run away. But another part of her was curious. There was only one way to find out. And besides, the pain of today was greater than the fear of tomorrow.