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A Year Ago Today.

13 February 2014

One year ago today, I woke up in the last hotel room in West Virginia. It was bitter cold. I had nearly slept in the car. After fourteen hours driving, I’d hoped to settle in for the night at something La Quinta or better. I ended up in a no-name driveby motel that looked like it would have been willing to rent rooms by the hour. I was glad to get it. Every hotel for a hundred miles had been booked solid. Construction crews and electrical riggers heading northeast to dig the megalopolis out of a storm not unlike the one that hit last night. The entire eastern seaboard, then as now, was lacquered with brittle ice.

The day before I had left St. Louis. I haven’t been back. My things had been packed into a huge truck and shipped east. I was racing the truck to my new home in East Coast City. It wasn’t much of a contest. It took me two days. The truck took a week. In my car I’d brought a few changes of clothes, a mattress pad and comforter, a portable radio. I would sleep on the floor. It was an amazing adventure and terrifying. Looking back, I was in a daze the whole time. I barely knew what was going on or how I actually did all the things I did.

It was still a little more than a month until I would begin my job at Major East Coast Medical Center. I wanted to have time off. Rare, for an American, to get a month off ever during one’s working life. I needed to learn my new city. I needed time to establish ties to the AA community. I knew that I would be lonely and frightened and lost. I was. Immediately.

A year ago today I looked up an AA meeting in the early afternoon. It was in a small community center in ECC’s bustling gay district. I went in and sat down. I felt nervous and ashamed, but I didn’t really know why. After starting the meeting, the chairperson asked if there were any anniversaries “this week”. It was a Wednesday. My anniversary is the 16th. In New York, people announce their anniversaries ahead of time. In St. Louis, we don’t. I didn’t know what they did here. I raised my hand.

I said, “Well, in St. Louis, we wouldn’t do this, but I don’t know how you do it here. On the 16th, I’ll have 5 years.” A woman sitting next to me looked at me like I had just done something unspeakably disgusting. “We don’t do that here, either,” she said, wrinkling her nose as if I smelled bad. The chair said, “Why don’t we celebrate that after it happens?” I slunk down and tried to melt into my folding metal chair.

After the reading and discussion, when it was time, I raised my hand to speak.

“Hi. I’m [Dr24hours] and I’m an alcoholic. I have lived in [ECC] for about 4 hours, and I’ve already fucked it up by doing the wrong thing at a meeting. I feel like now, everyone in AA in this whole damn city already thinks I’m an asshole. I’m excited to be here, because I’m starting a great new job. But I’m lonely, and I’m scared. You guys do AA different. Thanks.” I cried angry, embarrassed tears. I never went back to that meeting. 

I wandered around the city until dark. and then went back to the big glass building I’d rented an apartment in. I sat down in the empty space. I propped myself up against the wall and stared into the world on the other side of my phone for a long time. I felt like I was making a mistake. A dreadful, horrible blunder in my life. I was lonely. And scared.

It wasn’t a mistake. I’ve flourished here in ways I can’t begin to do justice to. The intervening year from that day to this has been near-constant rising tide of wonderful, exciting developments that I do not begin to deserve. Professional success. The strange ensnaring tumult of new love. A new home. A new life. It’s been a good year.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Potnia Theron permalink
    13 February 2014 09:20

    Oh honey. Change is hard, but it is good.

  2. 13 February 2014 09:52

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. BbyHeadedDEater permalink
    13 February 2014 11:15

    Thanks for sharing. This entry really resonates with me.

  4. chall permalink
    13 February 2014 11:51

    Happy it went better after a peril start. Always hard to start “fresh” or what to call it. The meeting attendents sound a little harsh, and hopefully they can see that themselves too.

  5. scitrigrrl permalink
    13 February 2014 11:53

    Thanks for sharing. I’m so glad it’s been a good move and a great year for you. Here is to many more.

  6. 13 February 2014 12:20

    I am already a little scared and scared of being lonely and I’m not moving for ~1 yr. Part of it is not knowing yet where I’ll be going. Thanks for the reminder that even though it can suck at first it gets better.

  7. 14 February 2014 05:06

    Congrats on the year – I know it’s been a huge success from following you here and elsewhere. It is a shame about the meeting though and how that happened. I went to a meeting near me last night, I’ve never been there – it is a slightly different flavour of AA to mine if I’m honest. But they asked me to speak – which is nice – and a change they are often insular and isolationist – at least I’ve accused them of that before. That meeting is so different from mine – less laughter, more formal, very time bound at 15 mins I was asked to stop and no sharing for more than 3 mins – they do just chop people off mid sentence. So not for me as a home group but still AAs trying to get well and if that discipline works for them I can’t argue – I don’t like it. Being stopped in mid share as a newcomer would have meant I’d have walked out to the pub opposite and never gone back I fear. But takes all sorts… I will go back I think – I owe it to myself and AA to be more humble in my acceptance of them

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