In my tenth year of recovery , I found myself well – grounded in the program . I was active , my support system was strong , and my life was good . I had a growing career in local television as a studio engineer . Financially , I had more than I could ask for . In fact , I had recently purchased the first new vehicle I had ever owned . My support group consisted of one very close friend . This was a man older than me , whom I had known since I first entered recovery .
It would be foolish of me to try to justify my reasons for drifting from AA . Simply put , I began to substitute exercise for meetings . I joined a gym and started running on a regular basis . The more I did , the more I enjoyed it , the more I wanted to do . My ego said , you have ten years , you don’t need meetings every day ; and my vanity kept telling me how good I looked . I listened .
One Saturday afternoon , I returned home from the gym and my neighbor told me my friend had suddenly passed away . The shock of the loss was devastating . I could think of nothing but to go to a meeting . However , once there , my pride would not allow me to show my pain or ask for help . My disease had begun to flare up , and my support system was crumbling . I continued to attend meetings in the weeks to come , but only in body . I stayed to myself , spoke very little , arrived late , and left early . My pride kept telling me I was okay — I didn’t feel like drinking , I didn’t need any help , I had ten years without a drink . I was in AA and alone . Eventually , I stopped going to meetings altogether .
As time passed , I was consumed with my job and my workout program , all the while growing more and more isolated . I worked alone most of the time , and did not notice that I was becoming more distant with the people at the gym . I had no circle of friends , and my only family was my mother , who , like me , enjoyed isolation .
Time passed and due to corporate consolidation , my job was being phased out . I knew it for some time , but did nothing to seek work elsewhere . I refused to accept the things I could not change . In May of last year , as a last resort to save my job , I resigned my position with the company . I believed my resignation would draw corporate attention to the foolish manner in which an individual was running the department and , after seeing this , they would certainly acknowledge my value to the company and , in their infinite wisdom , create a new position suitable for someone with my vast qualifications .
Unemployed and with no income , the situation grew worse . Through the summer , I managed a few part – time jobs . There were several good opportunities for full – time employment , but because of my attitude and the prolonged isolation , I could not get past the interviews . I knew I needed help , but my pride would not allow me to ask anyone . I continued to justify my control by telling myself that as long as I didn’t drink I was alright . “ I’m not drinking , so why do I need AA ? ”
As the holidays drew closer , the part – time work began to dry up . My depression grew to the point where , by Christmas , I was considering suicide as the only option . I had lost all hope of my life getting any better . I had lost my faith in God , and my pride would not allow me to return to AA and ask for help . I went to church for the first time in years , hoping that I would find something there that would rekindle my hope and faith , but it was no use . I sat in the back , spoke to no one , and left without even being noticed . Finally , after Christmas , I returned to my local clubhouse .
I did not return with any humility . On the contrary , I was arrogant and angry that my disease had gotten the best of me , that I could not do this on my own . It angered me to see the laughter and the fellowship in the room . On the outside , I was bitter and deliberately keeping a physical barrier between me and the happiness ; inside , I was crying . I stood in the back — anxious , nervous , overwhelmed with emotions , fearful that someone would approach me and try to talk to me or , God forbid , offer me their hand in fellowship . I was afraid of being touched . As the gavel hit the table to announce the beginning of the meeting , I headed toward the door . I turned and ran head on into my sponsor , the only person I could never lie to . He grabbed my hand and , placing it in his , looked me squarely in the eye and said , “ Where the hell have you been ? ” The best way to describe him is a cross between Santa Claus and Dirty Harry . He has the compassion of a saint with the tenacity of a drill sergeant . He was smiling with a gleam in his eye . I knew I could not avoid his question . His look became serious and he asked if I had drunk . When I told him that I hadn’t , his smile returned , and he said , “ I have your thirteen – year medallion . You want it ? ” I said no , and explained that I didn’t feel I deserved to celebrate this anniversary in AA . Still holding my hand , he said , “ Cliff , you can’t do this on your own . ” I was falling apart inside . I managed to make him a promise that if I were still in AA in September , we could celebrate my fourteen years together . He laughed , let go of my hand , and took his seat . I , on the other hand , headed for the door . I made it to the coffee pot , where , out of habit , I stopped for a cup . That pause was enough . I returned and forced myself to sit through my first AA meeting in almost three years .
The next two weeks were difficult . I had to force myself each day to make a meeting . As the days passed , though , it became easier . I saw friends I hadn’t seen and I began to feel more at ease . God was doing for me what I could not do for myself . I wanted to reach out to people , but I could not . My fear , pride , ego , my disease would not allow me to . AA reached out to me . No one at the gym , at work , in my neighborhood , or even in church had ever put their hand out to me . In AA , it happened every day .
One day , on my way to a meeting , the insanity of my life was spinning around in my head . The anxiety , fear , and insecurity over my living situation all combined to take over my thoughts . Anger , remorse , and self – pity all bottled up inside me , making me feel physically ill . Suddenly , everything went quiet . It was so sudden and shocking , I stopped in my tracks . My first thought was of my friend who had passed on years earlier . I saw him in my mind’s eye , walking the same path I was taking , with his Irish gait and his smile , and I started to laugh out loud . After I regained my composure , I noticed how warm it was outside , a spring – like day , and how loud the birds were . A sense of well – being filled me . I cannot to this day explain what happened , but I knew everything was going to be alright . At the meeting , a newcomer introduced himself . I sought him out after the meeting and offered to be his sponsor . He became the first of three that I would begin sponsoring again . This action was not new to me . I had done this many times in the past , but it was new at this time in my recovery .
Today , my living situation is slowly returning to some stability . I know that a new chapter has once again started in my life — a chapter that has no ending , a chapter that I did not write , but a chapter with many characters . I have not felt alone in months now , even when I’m by myself . I have once again opened my heart to the God of my understanding . He is with me , and so is my friend .