Notes from the nearside by Bob Burch
Years ago, before MCI, during a family gathering at our house, individuals discussed things they wanted to do. Lisa said that she always wanted to build an airplane. I believed her because she is a bit eccentric. I can still hear her laughing!
So, I’m coming up on my 35th year of sobriety; it’s actually the day after Thanksgiving. Maybe that’s why Thanksgiving has always been so important to me. In AA or NA milestones are extremely acknowledged and celebrated. 35 years is a big deal for me; with early onset Alzheimer’s I’m not sure how many anniversaries I will remember celebrating. In some AA meetings, the leader or a sponsor distributes chips/coins to celebrate a person’s achievements. You can always get a chip for being sober 24 hours or having the desire to stop drinking that day.
Meetings are usually held in church basements, classrooms or community centers; the meetings are held several times a day/evening. The members are always quite diverse and willing to be your friend for life; I have never met a stranger in AA. I never thought I would love going to meetings, but I do. Even when travelling for my job, I would always try to catch a meeting in that destination city. The program has saved my life and has giving me a healthy way of living; a very happy life.
When it’s your chip anniversary/birthday (people call it both), you are usually asked how did you stay sober, what did it take… For me, it took a variety of things to keep me sober: meetings; a good sponsor; working the steps; big book meetings; I tried to led the same social life without alcohol; being honest with my myself; depending on my higher power; living in the day, willpower and trusting that I could do it! I also had to keep reminding myself of what I didn’t want to become…an active alcoholic like my father. I didn’t want to follow in his footsteps. I didn’t want my mother to have an alcoholic daughter; she knew her son was following in her husband’s footsteps. I wanted to be a stable force for me and my mother.
I started going to AA meetings in the Pocono Mountains area of Pennsylvania and in Morris County, NJ. I lived in Chester, NJ at the time. I remember going to meetings with farmers in PA and had a variety of groups I attended in Morristown and Chester, NJ. I also frequented Al Anon meetings in NJ; I wanted a fix for my co-dependency moments (lol). I had a huge bucket/train full of co-dependency traits. I was smart enough to move out of my childhood home as soon as I could afford a place of my own. I felt enormous guilt for leaving my mother behind; to this day, I still feel guilty for moving out of the house at a very young age and then moving out of state when Bob and I moved to Austin, Texas. I called my mother everyday!
My fellowship work in AA was incredible. We took meetings into the hospitals, prisons, rehabs and recovery centers across PA and NJ lines. The volunteer work kept me busy and accountable to myself and sponsor. Helping others in need has always come easy for me; it’s the co-dependency factor.
What was my drug of choice? Any hard liquor that gave me a warm sensation when drinking it; I knew it would put me in the place of dizziness the fasted, I loved that feeling! I can remember it like it was yesterday. I smoked pot; but never touched any other drugs thank God. I challenged myself to never drink or smoke again; forever. The way I look at it is…if I drink again, my life is over. I have absolutely NO reason to use again. Drinking alcohol didn’t give me anything positive in life.
Above I mentioned not changing my social life much. Some elders in AA tell newcomers to change their friends and places; due to the influences. I loved my friends and loved being around music and dancing. If someone asked me what I was drinking, I told them outright, “I’m a recovering alcoholic and can’t drink” then I order club soda with a lime. The reactions were always positive. My friends were extremely supportive. The elders also suggested attending 90 meeting in 90 days; I listened to my elders. I wanted the sobriety they had.
One day after my 1st anniversary of sobriety, I was excited to declare my sobriety to my family. You would think a father would have been happy for his young daughter to stop drinking; absolutely not! I clearly remember him saying, ”You think you’re better than us now?” and “why don’t you just leave”. I shouldn’t have been hurt; however, I was devastated. My father’s reaction reminded me just how much I didn’t fit in with most of my family. My father died from colon and liver cancer; my brother (with his own issues) was sneaking small bottles of liquor/wine into the rehabilitation home. So, I’m sure he died a happy man with his bottle(s) of alcohol.
So, on a more positive note; when in early sobriety and with a sponsor, I started to set my short term and long term goals for my future. I knew that as long as I stopped drinking and kept going to AA I could achieve my goals. I did. More on this in a later blog.
My husband decided to stop drinking once we became serious about our relationship. Bob didn’t have an addiction problem, he just thought it would be easier for me not to have liquor around and I appreciated that. It meant so much to me. Bob is still sober. He has told me through the years, that drinking alcohol didn’t add anything good in his life.
At several low points in my life and just some perfect moments I could have easily picked up a drink, but didn’t: After my first spinal surgery; travelling to Italy, staying at the Amatucci’s scenic vineyard in Tuscany; sitting in the quaint pubs in Ireland, watching everyone around me sing while sipping their drinks; discovering I was diabetic one week after our second visit to Italy, was it the gnocchi or the pear/chocolate gelatos I consumed every day?; when I was grieving my mother’s passing; or during my last moments with my dying father. I made it through all of these trials and tribulations.
The biggest test has been the diagnosis of MCI/Early Onset Alzheimer’s. My higher power is with me every second of everyday now, it would be so easy to give up! I stay sober not just for me, but for my precious husband, children and grandkids.
The people I have met in the AA program have been so inspirational and supportive! I finally fit in to a group of people with a positive motives in their lives. I needed them as much as they needed me. So many people in the program are like family to me now. I have a few blood relatives who I stay in touch with and care about; the rest I don’t mind eliminating from my life.
So, happy 35th to me! I’m proud of my sobriety today. Cheers!