I was already sweating, thanks to our ancient air conditioner that decided to break last Saturday — the day I took my last drink — and the home warranty company still giving us the business about fixing it four days later.
I was already on the verge of tears, after walking into a narrow room in a church basement packed with about 25 strangers. It was a bigger crowd than I had been expecting, a crowd that necessitated setting up chairs behind and alongside the main circle. I was an outsider, in every sense of the word.
I was more nervous than I even fathomed was possible — and if you have ever been around me at an athletic competition, at work, in a doctors office where needles are present, waiting in line for a roller coaster, stuck in traffic and thinking I’ll be late for something…you know, that’s REALLY #$%^ING NERVOUS.
For a split second, I thought about just stating my name, then sitting down. Maybe running out of the room?
But something in me told me I should just say it, and somehow, I choked it out.
“I’m Jen……(imagine this feels like eternity crawling by in slow-mo, complete with life flashing before eyes, oh look there’s that time I rammed the tractor into the giant propane tank at the farm)….and I’m an alcoholic.”
I don’t remember much about the few seconds after I spoke those words aloud for the first time. Except the sweat. And the tears. No blood, but boy, it was my whole heart that I ripped from my chest and threw into the abyss at that pivotal moment.
Yes. It really was that dramatic.
Sitting here now, I’m suddenly having a flashback from my childhood, an incident that my family jokes about to this day. I was riding the bus home from my first full day of school, and I was so afraid the bus driver would miss my stop that I stood up in the aisle and yelled out, “MY NAME IS JENNY WIELGUS AND I LIVE AT [PARENTS’ ADDRESS]!” I didn’t just do that once; I did it three times over the course of the trip. I did it in front of rows full of kids, all of whom had been lucky enough to be born with the “chill out” gene that somehow eluded my pool.
Oh, that adorably neurotic, socially awkward little girl! What has become of her?
I can’t really answer that question, because I’ve never been more of a work in progress than I am at this moment. I am not now who I will become. But I do know that the courage to stand up for myself when I need to find my way home is still inside me. I’ve been lost a long time, but now, it’s me driving the bus, and it’s truly up to me where it goes and what I learn from the journey.
After that first meeting, I’m certain that A.A. is the right path to take.
Once I was able to pick my heart up off the floor, I felt it swell as I heard people I’d never met or crossed paths with before, people whose backgrounds and life experiences were worlds apart, express the same thoughts and feelings and struggles and fears that I’d been dealing with, either unconsciously or alone, for my entire adult life.
I related to every single one of them. And I just knew, I need these meetings if I want to succeed at never drinking again.
I went back the next day. Again, I was sweaty. Again, I was nervous. Again, I stood up, and again, I said it.
Still weak. Needs practice. Finding my voice in this setting, and my way through this struggle, will take lots of practice and lots of time.
I’m ready to go to work.