I finally got a sponsor.
For the last seven or so months, every healthcare or chemical dependency professional (wording that way makes it sound like a professional drunk) has told me three things: go to meetings, work the program, and get a sponsor. I accomplished the first two things. Since I've been sober, the longest time I went without a meeting was nine days, and I've done the steps in increments and mostly out of order. I've made amends with the appropriate people unless it will cause harm to myself or others, admitted to myself daily that my life had become unmanageable while simultaneously being powerless over alcohol, and did a ruthless inventory of my faults and character defects. But it didn't seem like enough.
I've been extremely resistant to getting a sponsor. I heard horror stories about how sponsors were too involved in their sponsee's life, that I wouldn't be allowed to have a life outside of the program, that they were going to make me pray against my atheist will. I also resisted because getting a sponsor meant one more person to explain my past to, one more person to list the onslaught of negative events in my life and why they drove me to drink, one more person to report to. Before I was discharged from inpatient, I became extremely overwhelmed at what my counselors were expecting from me: go to two meetings a week, go to outpatient two days a week, find a therapist, find a psychiatrist, find sober friends, and find a sponsor.
That list seemed incredibly lengthy to me. It's taken me months to discover the right people and to figure out who exactly is covered under my horseshit health insurance. It's exhausting. I feel like I need to print out a resume of the last 11 years of my life and hand it to any professional I'm meeting for the first time. Here are the years of my life that were shitty. 2011 wasn't so bad. 2013 was awful for too many reasons, and 2004 was the worst. I started drinking here, here, and here, and I ate too much acid here and thought I was invincible here and here. Now I'm here. Now I'm here.
Picking a sponsor isn't the easiest task. You need to pick someone of your own gender because AA frowns upon the interminglings of those whose genitals don't match up. I went to a few different meetings in Minneapolis, mostly just to attend a meeting and not to find a sponsor, but there were many women with whom I felt an extreme disconnect, and overall didn't feel comfortable asking them to become an important role in my life. They may have had a very, very Catholic higher power, a backstory which I didn't identify with or maybe identified with too much, a view of the world which I had trouble processing, or that they were three times my age. Sponsors have also been known to tell you that you can't have friends who drink, and that you need to distance yourself from those who dabble with alcohol. I didn't want someone to tell me I had to dump all of my friends and find new ones, that seemed ridiculous and unrealistic. Overall, I didn't come across anyone comfortable I felt comfortable sharing my alcoholic resume with. So I went to my two meetings a week, savored sober alliances, and dinked around on r/stopdrinking when meetings were no longer in session for the day or until the bars were closed.
Until last Tuesday at my homegroup.
My sponsor shared that she's been battling depression, that she's been struggling to fully remove the comforter in the morning and greet the day. She was clearly struggling on an emotional level, and I connected with her before even speaking with her because I identified with so many issues she was sharing with a small group of drunks. At eight years sober, she was still struggling. I'm almost at eight months, and even though I'm still struggling, her experience signified that sobriety isn't easy: it sucks. It sucks, but there are things we can do to find a way through life that isn't painful or filled with alcohol. There have been times where I've collapsed on the floor, wishing there was "an easier, softer way." While my cravings have been minimal, I felt as if I needed to speak with someone who understood my struggles with not only alcoholism but depression, so I approached her after the meeting.
We traded numbers and I gave her the usual crash course of my birthday, why I'm back in Seattle (which has become my least favorite question to answer because there are too many answers), and a short explanation of why I didn't get a sponsor for the first eight months of my sobriety. Yesterday we met for coffee and I was able to explain my life in detail and why I live the life I do today: my life was out of control, which meant I, myself, was out of control. She has given me homework of really doing some soul-searching of why I have so many negative concepts of god. I have some very stark opinion on religion that I don't push on people because I expect them not to push their religious beliefs on me, like the one time I was sent to the drunk tank at age 19 and had a neighbor leave a bible on my doorstep the next day. If asked, I will explain honestly. But I consider myself a pacifist atheist, meaning I'm not going to be militant about something I don't believe to exist. So far, I am not praying. I am simply waking up and saying "please," and when I go to bed, I say "thank you."
There has only been one significant time in my life where I really felt like I was praying without the intention of doing so. An ex-boyfriend didn't come home one night. It turns out his legal trouble had caught up to him, unbeknownst to me, and I expected him home at a particular time. An hour and a half later, when I received no texts or smoke signals, I checked the Hennepin County inmate roster just to clear my mind. And sure enough, First Middle and Last Name popped up on the website I was certain from which he'd be absent. With my cat in my lap, I cried and repeated "please..." over and over. To whom, I'm not sure. I was in a state of true helplessness. Today, I consider praying to be "well wishing with a religious back." I explained this particular instance of spirituality to my sponsor, in addition to why I have been adverse to various components of religion, thus the morning "please" and evening "thank you."
Once we hashed out my religious skepticism, we discussed my meetings and why I've been only going to two meetings a week. Like I said earlier, having a heavy aftercare plan in regards to rehab was a little daunting. My counselors agreed two meetings a week would be sufficient as long as I was attending outpatient and seeking professional help. She has instructed me to go to five meetings a week instead of two. Initially, I was extremely put off by this, as I was hesitant about making my entire life about the program. What about comedy? What about family? Love? Friends? I'M NOT GOING TO HAVE ANY TIME TO DO ANYTHING ELSE! I thought to myself. I'M GOING TO HAVE TO QUIT COMEDY. I CAN'T SPEND TIME WITH MY FAMILY OR GO ON REDDIT AS MUCH AS I WANT TO. WHAT ABOUT DOING THINGS I ENJOY FOR FUCKS SAKE!? Obviously sobriety should be my top priority, but I have exhibited no intention of abandoning my meetings or leaving my 6 month chip at home instead of taking it with me wherever I go. I didn't like that she was going to increase my meetings after I had made significant progress with only two. But I tried it out, and in the last week, I went to five meetings. I enjoyed all of them, some go more off the rails than others, and I officially found a women's meeting, something I've been searching for ever since I uprooted myself from Minneapolis. In the last week, I've attended five meetings, yet I've still found the time to take myself to a movie, make important phone calls, hang out with family, listen to those who need it, go do a heinously disorganized one-nighter in Walla Walla, watch the Seahawks game, and express my feelings in more than one way. And yet I'm still here, and I'm still sober.
Something I have a habit of is always assuming things are going to take longer than the actual duration of said event. AA meetings are usually no more than 90 minutes. Five meetings a week means committing roughly 7 hours a week to AA, maybe more depending on phone calls and meetings with my sponsor. Some people work more than 7 hours in one day. Once I am able to whittle things down to a tangible number, I am able to make more sense of the time I'll need to set aside to complete certain tasks. This phenomenon is also why I am never late to anything. I leave an hour early when the drive will take roughly 30 minutes. I always need to be at the airport 90 minutes before a flight, sometimes 2 hours on days where the entire nation felt the need to accompany grandma for a particular holiday. If there's going to be traffic, I will reschedule my scheduled event for another time where I won't have to sit and swear in it. I think, in some ways, I do this to not draw attention to myself and because I don't want to apologize for something that was under my control. Some people are just late, and that's fine. I don't hold it against them. And then there's late like "comedy late," where the start of the show is posted as 8pm when actually it's more like 8:30pm. I kind of went off the recommended path of this trail here, but at the end of the day, I need to commit just 90 minutes of my day to my sobriety while still having "days off."
A lot of people have asked me if AA helps, either because they saw this blog or because I've been rather public about my recovery. I'm still sober, so there is no proof that it doesn't work. I followed the explicit directions of my inpatient and outpatient counselors while also setting limitations for myself so that I can still do the things I want to do, like scream-cry over how badly yesterday's hot garbage fire of a football game ended. In early recovery, I was hesitant to go to AA because I associated it as a form of punishment. An idiot friend in high school turned me in for under age drinking. After a chemical assessment, I was labeled as a "severe alcoholic" at 16 and sent to outpatient and AA. I wasn't ready to be sober. I hadn't even started at Evergreen and that's where I majored in Alcohol and minored in Hallucinogens. So of course, I didn't stay sober and was discharged early. I am now in a place in my life where I need to stay sober. My life and sometimes, the lives of others depend on this.
On Wednesday, I will be eight months sober. I have spent two-thirds of the last year sober. This is the longest time I've been sober in 11 years. I wonder what I could have been capable of if I had sought help earlier. I probably could have been unstoppable. But I can't change the past, something I have never been able to accept. But sobriety is about progress and not perfection. Eight months means progress, and even if I have to take it one day at a time, I can strive to be undefeated.