by Bree L.

It takes a village

My sobriety date is September 11, 1986, my sister’s birthday. We drank and used together, shoplifted together, got into crazy dangerous situations together. She was a few months clean and sober and had been dragging me to meetings in Los Angeles every time I visited. “Bitch, if you don’t quit drinking, you’re going to die.”

I called her on her birthday. “Happy birthday; by the way I quit smoking dope. I think I flunked the bar exam because marijuana ruined my short term memory.” Long silence on the other end of the phone line.

“And what?”

“What about alcohol?”

“It isn’t my drug of choice, it isn’t a problem for me.” Long silence on my end as I thought over what I had just said. “Hmm, you know, I have been drinking a lot more wine since I quit smoking weed.” “Why don’t you try not drinking?”
“Okay, I’ll try.”

I snuck into recovery through the back door: meetings of Adult Children of Alcoholics and working the steps with a sponsor. ACA members who were also in Alcoholics Anonymous convinced me I needed to look for an AA meeting. The Hilldwellers meeting became my home group. It’s a Big Book meeting Monday nights on Potrero Hill. Thanks to my Higher Power, I met Bonnie and we worked the AA steps.

Hilldwellers became my home group

We did my Fifth Step in a study carrel at the UCSF Medical School Library. She took time for me, even though she was living in San Jose taking care of her sick mother and commuting to San Francisco every day for work. When I had about five years sober, at a women’s conference with my sister, I admitted in a small group that my program consisted of one meeting a week and no sponsees.

Afterwards a woman came up to me and said, “You’re going to drink! There’s no standing still in A.A. If you’re not moving forward, you’re sliding back.” She scared me into looking for more meetings, and maybe someone to sponsor.

The Cocoanuts meeting in the Mission District on Sunday mornings is still a mainstay for me. There are also meetings in West Marin, where my husband and I had a weekend cottage: my favorites are the Saturday women’s meeting in the Inverness firehouse and Sunday Serenity in the library.

In the Federal Building, where I was working since I passed the bar exam in sobriety, there was a meeting called We Care. Back then we met in a conference room on the second floor. An elevator took me to a meeting. A woman in that meeting asked me to sponsor her. She was enthusiastic about fellowship: chip meetings, birthday dinners. Thanks to her I started saying yes to A.A. and having way more fun. Sponsoring gave me the courage to try other kinds of service: GSR, H and I, speaking at meetings, writing and editing The Point.

Because of the fellowship that I avoided for so long, I do not have to live life on my own. When my husband was diagnosed with cancer four years ago and died a year later, Bonnie advised me from her experience as the caregiver for her mother. Other A.A. women, longtime friends, had lost husbands to cancer, usually after a lot of stress. To them I could say about my husband: “You know, sometimes I want to kill him myself,” and they would respond with knowing laughter rather than shock.

In A.A. we absolutely insist on enjoying life. At an event called Take Your Sponsor to Brunch in San Jose, Bonnie won a raffle and invited me to join her at the prize: A Sharks hockey game. My sponsees call and text and give me rides to meetings. With AA friends I have breakfast after morning meetings, dinners on all occasions. My A.A. village brings me joy every sober day.

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