Getting Old While Sober
By Lizzie R.
This afternoon, I found myself sinking into one of those dark icky funks. No reason, no particular cause—just a malaise that caught hold of me and wouldn’t let go. I’d been noticing all the ways I am getting old and feeling totally wretched. I was Miss Cranky-Pants, judging just about everything and everybody—even the cat. I couldn’t remember one darn thing to drag my sorry ass out of it. I forgot every slogan, tool and prayer—even the simplest one, “Help!” Didn’t think to pick up the 300-lb. telephone where I have some terrific people on speed-dial. No, I was just wallowing in this muck. My one creative idea was chocolate.
I walked uptown and bought three Justin’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups and a box of Haagen-Dasz coffee almond toffee crunch bars (the equivalent of about six vodka tonics) and hurried home to get my chocolate fix. When I came in the door, I saw it was 6:05 p.m. and remembered it’s Saturday night, time for the women’s meeting. So, thank God, I jumped on Zoom and saw the beautiful faces of 10 women! I felt immediate relief but still thought I’ll just listen. What do I have to offer? Nothing.
Then the secretary said it was a discussion meeting and asked who wanted to propose a topic. We all sat in silence for a bit. I knew I had nothing positive to suggest. But I opened my mouth and just said, “I am having a horrible time with getting old. And I don’t know what to do. I need what you have.”
And then the magic started happening. (You know how that is!) Women just started talking about where they are. One woman had just had a booster shot and felt drained and low, but here she was, in the meeting. Someone else talked about taking care of her father who has dementia and what she does to help him. One woman said she was only 43 and not qualified to talk about old age, but described how she’s coping with physical losses: Shee has only two years of sobriety but is on Step 12 and it helps a lot. Another reminded us about the 1-2-3 waltz and I secretly thought, “Oh yeah. I forgot that.”
Another old friend harkened back to when she had a brain disease 17 years ago (in sobriety) when she was only in her 50s and thought this is the end of life. And after three surgeries it was gone, and she’s gone on to have a wonderful life. She talked about how ever since then, she’s been grateful every day for everything. One of our members has had to move to another state and is grateful for Zoom so she’s still a member of these local meetings which were with her when she first got sober. One woman said something about living alone when you’re old and how younger people show up and offer help. And she’s getting over feeling insulted about that!
Every single share picked up my spirits and I remembered why I love meetings so much. Especially this women’s meeting which has sustained me and my sobriety for over 26 years. I do know to pick up the Big Book, to say the Serenity Prayer, Third Step Prayer and Seventh Step Prayer, to call someone and ask them how they’re doing. But meetings? Meetings are for me, the best thing of all. I always get answers from my HP in the voices of other recovering alcoholics. Always. From day one to this very day!
I’m telling you, I do not feel old now, two hours later! I mean, that’s nonsense, of course. I’m still old. But my whole attitude is entirely transformed! My oldness is no longer a source of pain or dread or self-loathing. I am restored to a place of acceptance. Gratitude. Connection. Community. I am restored to peace and the real joys sobriety—of growing old while sober.
At the end of the meeting I raised my hand again and thanked everyone for the incredible gift of their shares. I told them I felt the love in the room. This getting sober and living a sober life—in community—is all about love. Tonight I learned that really all that was going on with me earlier was a bout of loneliness which morphed into self-criticism. Chocolate wasn’t the answer. Being a member of my beloved A.A. community is. It is indeed all about love. I am a sober alcoholic who is loving and loved. Thank you, God.
Now I think I’ll have one of my ice cream bars.