After almost two decades, she stumbles upon the woman who saved her life
THAT voice, I thought. That’s the woman on the tape! I was sitting in a noon meeting that I had not attended in three months. I had been the secretary but had had to give it up because of a conflict with work. A friend of mine was visiting from out of town and my sponsor was there also. We were celebrating my friend’s 15 years of sobriety with friendship, conversation, a meeting, lunch and a trip to the ocean.
The woman whose voice I recognized was sitting in front, sharing on gratitude–the topic picked by the speaker that day. I had goose bumps as I listened to her; I began to shake, and my heart pounded in my chest. I wracked my brain trying to remember if she had said her name. Yes! She had. It was Sandy. The name matched the memory that was slowly materializing in my mind.
What I was about to experience was a sobriety dream come true. I had always wanted to meet the woman to whom that voice belonged and thank her for saving my life.
In 1987, I was trying one more time to get sober. I had just been blessed with my first DUI (two more were to follow) and a sober uncle of mine had given me the tape of an AA speaker, a woman he had heard in 1986. The tape had a black and red label with the name Sandy and a date written across it. I listened to it a few times but was frightened by some of the similarities in her story and mine, especially the part about playing Russian Roulette with a handgun and “pulling the trigger and hearing the click” and how “it was the loneliest sound because it meant one more time I had to live.”
At that time in my life, that was how I was living. I would put a bullet, just one, in my .38 and go drink. When I reached “that point,” I would leave whatever dive I was drinking in and drive around. (I still had a car at that time.) At some desolate spot, I would pull over, reach under the seat, pull out my gun, hold it to my head, close my eyes, and squeeze the trigger. Click. I would spin the cylinder, slam it closed, and try again. Click. I did this for a year and a half. One time it went off. The details of that scenario are not important for this story, but what I know today is there is no reason for me to be alive, except that I am supposed to be.
Sobriety was not to be mine for another year. Somehow, through all my insanity and the loss of everything–because it did get worse–I managed to keep that tape of Sandy’s story.
For the first six months of my sobriety, I listened to it every day, sometimes two and three times a day. I kept thinking, If this woman made it, maybe, just maybe, I can. I listened to it until I quit shaking. I listened to it until I found a sponsor. I listened to it until I had the courage to stop listening and start talking.
Although I have had many angels in my sobriety, none was as powerful as the one whose voice I heard coming from a borrowed tape recorder for six months. Throughout the years I have played that tape for every woman I have sponsored. I have dreamed of the moment, my entire sobriety, of what was about to happen after the noon meeting on March 26, 2003.
After the meeting I turned to my sponsor and my friend and said, “I have to talk to that woman.” They did not know what was happening, but they followed me down the aisle between the rows of chairs to where Sandy was leaning over, picking up her purse. I touched her arm. She did not look anything like I had pictured. She was shorter than I had imagined. She had red hair, and she was dressed all in purple.
She turned to me and smiled with a bit of a question in her eyes. I had never seen her before, and I’m sure she had never been to the meeting when I was the secretary. So, she had no idea who I was. “I recognized your voice,” I managed to choke out. “I have one of your tapes. You saved my life.”
Much to my surprise, she grabbed me and hugged me. I cried in her arms and told her the story of my first six months of sobriety. And I thanked her for saving my life. She reminded me of one of the promises and started to cry as well. “They do come true,” she said. “No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. You will never know how much I needed to hear that I have made a difference in someone’s life.”
My sponsor and friend were witnesses to all of this, making it even more special. They, too, had tears in their eyes. My friend, who was celebrating 15 years, exclaimed, “Well, this will keep me sober another 30 years at least!” I kept telling Sandy, “You saved my life. All of my sobriety I have wanted to thank you, and here you are!”
The day wound down. My sponsor, my friend, and I enjoyed a wonderful lunch and great recovery conversation. The ocean was spectacular, and my friend headed for home with renewed spirit for her own sobriety. After she left, I dragged out one of my boxes of AA speaker tapes. I probably have over 100 tapes. I was going to find Sandy’s tape. I hadn’t listened to it in years, but I knew it was in one of two boxes. I opened the first box and sighed. The tapes were piled on top of each other with no order to them, no neat little rows. I knew I was in for a long afternoon. I reached in and pulled out the first tape my fingers touched. I turned it over: The tape had a black and red label on it and the name Sandy was written across it with a date.