by John W

At almost two decades of continuous sobriety, with daily meeting attendance a workable goal and a guide for my program, I have often heard the adage, “Time is not a tool.” The image of taking my usual seat, next to or as close as possible to the bartender’s pouring station came seemingly out of nowhere. The utility of that choice was to allow me to receive my first drink, and those following it, faster. The near opaqueness of the golden fluid, neat, almost filling the eight-ounce tumbler set in front of me, was the next cel of the movie I found myself watching. The taste buds in my mouth seemed to almost sense the tequila, to remember the burn of that first drink of the day, before they became numb to the river that followed (before the blackout). In my brain I was always fighting the good fight, yet my body and spirit were telling me I was KO’d. I just could not, would not, dare not hear that I had lost that fight once again.

Like so many other drunks, I had suffered though the 15 or so months of COVID-19 and the isolation from meetings it had brought with it. I found salvation, my daily reprieve, in the Zoom Rooms of recovery, literally scattered around the world in that difficult time. But as restrictions began to lift and my Home Group once again opened its 7:00 AM doors, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, the Zoom choice quickly became Plan B. Face to face with my peers, alcoholics in recovery, was the real deal. I could not wait to embrace that reality again.

My body and spirit were telling me I was KO’d

I had also heard that it takes a habit to break a habit, as in “90 Meetings in 90 Days.” So the habit of Zooming, which had served me well indeed, could best be addressed by reviving the habit of daily meeting attendance. The vivid reality of that decision took only several meetings to sink in, underscoring the depth of my disease. My alcoholism had been doing pushups outside my home group all through COVID. It was as cunning, baffling and powerful as ever. My disease had not been on a COVID sabbatical.

my disease had not been on a COVID sabbatical

At my in-person meeting, one member of the group had a particularly powerful share. They spoke of how alcohol in their disease in their word was their lover, always caring about feelings, always ready to address them and make things “better.” This struck a chord in me. There I was on that barstool, right in the middle of the meeting, at 7:30 AM, with years of continuous sobriety. I heard the echo: Time is not a Tool. 

But why in the middle of this meeting was this happening? Baffling. The clever images conjured up by me, in my private, separate little brain: cunning. The feel of my bottom on the barstool, the look of the tequila in the glass within my reach, the taste in my mouth — powerful. In this moment I remembered I was indeed powerless over alcohol. I listened to my friend speak of unmanageability of life which they were confronting, sober. I latched on to their candor and blunt honesty. As they now proclaimed before our group, I again admitted to myself what was also true for me, I too was powerless. I silently mouthed the prayer to my higher power: thank you for my sobriety and please help me stay sober today.

It takes a habit to break a habit

I heard from my friend that day, face to face at our meeting, the siren call of their “lover” luring them towards the bottle and the shipwreck that was certain to be their fate if indulged. In my friend’s brutal honesty came their hope that the step-work they had done with their Sponsor would carry them through the hard times they now faced. The three minutes of that share had seemed outside of the constraints of time, as well as my reaction to it. Gone was my veneer of recovery, revealing the alcoholic me who had never left. In my friend I heard the strength of their program, pulling them through what appeared to be, even to the casual observer, quite traumatic. They professed reliance upon the experience of their sponsor who exhorted them to remember that all would be well if they did not drink and they attended meetings. It was as if my higher power was speaking through my friend: reminding me I had admitted I was powerless over alcohol and life was unmanageable as a result. I must not forget this admission or why I had made it. 

As I was both a good drinker and a great forgetter, I needed to hear my friend’s share. I needed to remember that this program had picked me up off the fight ring canvas, a defeated drunk. It showed me I had a choice to enter a new ring in which to face life on life’s terms. In this new ring I had only to cease fighting everyone and everything. In that surrender I was told I would receive the gift of the life I had always dreamed of but thought could never be mine. This became my choice. I found no lies in it. The decision in my sober ring has been the gift of this new and wonderful life, one day at a time.

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