An AA shows up anyway
Two weeks before Christmas at my home group, I raised my hand and said that I was celebrating seventeen years without a drink. I gave credit to my Higher Power, the group, my sponsor, the program, meetings, and my willingness to put in the work. Each part was important in making it happen, I said.
That evening, my other half and I went to a holiday gathering. We sat in front of a warm fireplace and shared fellowship with friends. It was a perfect ending to the day. I went to sleep sober with a smile on my face and a grateful heart.
After saving for many years, we had bought our dream home and had an appointment to sign the final papers in two days. Uprooting our lives and packing for the move had been stressful, but still, things couldn’t get much better.
Unfortunately, they got worse, much worse.
When I woke up the next morning, I took my usual few minutes to think about the day ahead. It was our last day in the old house, and there was last-minute packing to finish. I passed through the living room on my way to the kitchen to make coffee and saw my partner asleep in his chair–not an uncommon sight.
When I tried to wake him, I realized he wasn’t breathing. I called 9-1-1, started cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and wanted to get drunk more than I ever had during my seventeen years of sobriety. This couldn’t be happening, I thought. Deny it, it’s not happening. Drunk. Get drunk. This isn’t fair.
My heart ripped into pieces. I continued CPR as the 9-1-1 operator talked me through the procedure. The paramedics arrived and, within moments, the three of them were working on him like a six-handed lifesaving machine. Instead of looking for a bottle, I called a friend from my home group, told him what had happened, and asked him to meet me at the hospital. I was a mess and unable to drive; a deputy sheriff took me to the hospital.
My friend sat with me in the waiting area. When the nurse came, I saw in her eyes that the news was not good. They couldn’t save him. My world crashed.
If the desire to be drunk had been strong before, it was nothing compared to what followed. Thankfully, I was not alone. My friend offered all the support he could as we started paperwork, made phone calls, and contacted my partner’s out-of-town family. More program friends met us at my house. The phone rang and the doorbell chimed constantly in endless songs of support. A neighbor, also a sober member of AA, and his wife brought plates of food to feed the growing crowd. There was nothing anyone could do to make it better for me, but they kept me from picking up a drink and making it worse.
I was beyond consolation and in a fog the first few days, unable to, see past the pain. My AA friends told me when to eat, when to sleep, and when to go to a meeting. They reluctantly respected my wish to be alone for a few hours at night when I tried to sleep.
As long as I do my part, I know I will get through this, even though I want to stay home to grieve and cry. I want to isolate and not show anyone my “weaker” side. But I go to my regular meetings, even if I don’t want to. Each day, I call at least three people in Alcoholics Anonymous, even if I don’t want to. It hurts, but I practice the Steps around my grief, fear, guilt, and loneliness, even though I don’t want to. I relive the pain and write it down, even though I don’t want to.
When I went to my first AA meeting more than seventeen years ago, members said I didn’t have to drink, even if I wanted to. Now, to keep my part of the bargain, I do what the program has taught me to do, even if I don’t want to.
I came into AA alone. Even with a handful of drinking buddies, I was still alone. Seventeen years later, with less than twenty-four hours notice by word-of-mouth, more than 200 sober members of AA came to the memorial visitation for my partner. The Fellowship made a big impression on his family. The message that AA carried showed how much he was loved and respected, and it was a priceless gift. Two weeks after the service, his mother called and asked for the address of the “friend of Bill” whom everyone talked about. The group’s show of support touched his family and gave them more comfort than words ever could.
When my partner and I first moved to this area many years ago, we were the first open same-sex couple at local meetings. We learned later that some people wouldn’t come to meetings that he and I attended. We showed up anyway because, as recovering alcoholics, meetings were a vital part of our sobriety. Ironically, some who had shunned us gave me the most support after his death.
I still have a huge gaping hole in my heart because my partner meant the world to me. I don’t know how I can go on without him. But I keep putting one foot in front of the other, one day at a time. My experiences in most areas of my life have shown me that if I show up and do what’s in front of me, I will be fine. I haven’t had a problem yet that practicing the principles, Traditions, and Steps hasn’t helped solve. I suspect that will hold true with my grief, fear, and loneliness, too. I just have to keep doing what I should, even if I don’t want to.