phone list

I think I witnessed a miracle tonight.

For several days, I’ve been trying to get myself to walk into the doors of a local AA meeting. ‘Why?’ you so thoughtfully ask, with a look of utter bewilderment on your face. Well, because. Because, “Hello, I’m Rachel, and I’m an alcoholic.”

It was with great trepidation and persistent probing from a dear friend, an angel really, that I walked into the Lutheran church where the meeting was going to be held. Not only was I so apprehensive about going to a meeting, I arrived and found out it was in church. Because of course. When I walked into the meeting room, there were eight round tables with chairs sitting in the back half of the room and four rows of 10 chairs each in the front half of the room. Some people had settled at tables, others in the rows of chairs. In an instant, an internal debate was sparked, and I was making rapid pro-con lists in relation to where I should sit. Do I sit in the very back but be forced to sit at a round table and actually look at people in the face? Do I sit in a chair, facing forward but be forced to walk at least half the length of the room toward the front? Do I just turn around and quickly walk out? I decided on a chair, facing forward, and sat in the back row of them, in the one as close to the door as possible. It’s a thing.

Not even eight seconds had passed from the time I sat down before a lady in her fifties in the row in front of me had turned around, introduced herself, and welcomed me.

“Is it your first meeting?”

Looking at the floor…. “Yes.”

“Would you like a women’s phone list?”

“Um, sure.”

I expected her to pull out a pre-printed list of faithful attendees names and phone numbers and hand it to me with a polite, well-meaning ‘call us anytime’ type of statement, but instead, she stood, walked away for a moment and returned with a pamphlet in hand. Printed on the most obnoxious goldenrod yellow sheet of paper, I shuttered at the thought of carrying this signal flare out of the room for everyone to see where I had been. She then pulled a pen from her purse, and I watched her write something down on the back of the tri-fold sheet of paper. She then handed it to the woman next to her who did the same, and the process continued until I shortly lost track of where the goldenrod sheet had gone. I lost track because five more women had introduced themselves to me within the next two minutes – ‘piranhas,’ as another member referred to them. Two rows up, a young woman (I really just want to call her a girl; she seemed so little) asked if I’d like to move up and sit with her and three other ladies. ‘NOOOOOOOOOOOO’ is what I replied with in my head, but ‘um, sure’ is what I said out loud before standing and moving my oh-so-heavy legs up TWO MORE ROWS. I was practically on a stand directly in front of a podium in the front. It felt like.

The meeting began with various people sharing how a specific quote/topic related to them and their recovery. The topic du jour was one of being powerless to alcohol and realizing that your life has become unmanageable. Huh…. Tears burned in my eyes the whole time, and it was all I could do to not 100% fall apart in every way possible. I was trembling and jittery and my heart was racing – I had just finally figured out earlier in the day that I was withdrawing from alcohol and that was why I had been feeling so terribly. THAT is how much I’ve been drinking.

After the sharing, there was a 10 minute break. The most terrifying segment in my mind. But the women on either side of me filled the time with accepting conversation and ease. The meeting then resumed with a speaker. A woman who told her recovery story, from her years as a young child, through years mired in addiction, to the past (nearly) two years of sobriety. I related to so many things. So. Many. Things. It was shocking to me. I was sure that I was different, that I wouldn’t relate, that I wouldn’t fit, that they wouldn’t understand where I was coming from, etc., etc., etc. The meeting concluded after her story with everyone standing in a large circle, holding hands, and reciting. Just like any mantra I would participate in with yoga or many other settings.

I could hardly move, hardly think, with a woman on either side of me holding my hand and, unknowingly to them, holding me up off of the ground. I walked out of that building, with only one thought running through my head: I think I just saw what can only be described as a miracle. Never in my life, in any setting, in any capacity have I witnessed acceptance like that which was displayed in the meeting room. Ever. Not at work. Not in friend circles. Not in school. Not in church. Especially not in church. Those people know what it means to SHOW UP for each other. In soaring times and in devastating times. In sober times and in drunken times. They care naught what a person does for a living, what she is wearing, what he is thinking, what she did all day, what kind of child she is, what kind of parent he is… They care about people walking into the room and THAT IS IT. Facing what lies in front of them, with whatever amount of confidence they can muster, with their heads lifted high or their eyes glued to the floor – this is what they care about. I think this what it is supposed to be like, this humanity thing.

When I was sitting in my car before the meeting, trying to work up the strength to go inside, I was texting with the dear friend who had pushed and probed to get me here, one who has been in this exact spot herself. She said to me, “Go. I’m right here holding your hand. Sit and listen, sister. Those are our people.” Lord was she right. Those are our people.

Oh, and I left that meeting with over 20 handwritten names and phone numbers of women who had all written their information down on the goldenrod paper, with full expectation that I could call them any hour of any day. Never have I received such a gift.

Hour by hour, I have spent the last three days of sobriety, and hour by hour, I will continue.