My hand was shaking, violently and uncontrollably.
I stared down at it in disbelief, as if I was observing someone else’s struggle for composure. Look at that thing go!
I tried to grip the microphone harder, but that didn’t help. It suddenly occurred to me: I’d never had “the shakes” when I was drinking, and here I sat, on my 450th day of sobriety, suffering DT-esque involuntary spasms in front of 25 or so other sober people. I was sure everyone in the circle was staring at my jittery hand, so I spit some self-deprecating comment into the mic before quickly launching into my story.
My first in-person speaking commitment in 15 months of recovery was nothing to be so damn nervous about. You can’t “fail” at service work, or “botch” your participation in a meeting. In fact, one of the most comforting maxims they throw around in the 12-step community says something like, “the only thing you have to do perfectly in this program is not drink.”
It’s October 2020, and this recovering alcoholic (and perfectionist!) has not had a drink since July 6, 2019. The moments when I think I might like one still come and go, like a dark shadow passing over me, and the very best way I’ve found to keep the demons at bay is to seek out some good old-fashioned human connection every now and then.
I’m mostly OK out here on my own, with my books and blogs and podcasts and hubby (and a new season of “Fargo”…hooray!) but there is nothing in the world quite like sitting under a big tree in Yardley, PA, with a bunch of strangers and sharing the gnarly struggles and miraculous triumphs that come with life in recovery.
There is certainly nothing like an old-timer with decades of sobriety pointing at you and saying emphatically, “I WANT WHAT YOU HAVE!” as one gentleman did during the open sharing portion of Monday’s meeting.
It’s true that I have felt deep connections to people I sat with, tipping ‘em back in bars over the years. I ended up marrying one of those people. Still, there’s something uniquely soulful about swapping stories with someone who truly knows your path, while being your 100% unadulterated self.
You know, I think I should break in here to mention the great power of virtual connection, since it’s often all we have in today’s 🤬-ed up world. The support I’ve received from my social media community, a lot of which has carried over from my days as a sports journalist, has buoyed my spirits more times than I can count.
Thank you all! 😘
My heart was warmed this week when I scrolled through Twitter and saw a slew of strangers posting about that moment in the presidential debate when Joe Biden proudly discussed his own son’s recovery from addiction. It reinforced my own pride in choosing recovery, and reminded me that I am never alone. Millions of people from all over the world — different genders and races and ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds and religions and sexual orientations — are all in this fight together.
About 25 of those people gathered Monday under a tree outside a church in Yardley, PA, and allowed me to speak to them. They welcomed me warmly, nervous thrashing and emotional ramblings and all, and gave me the priceless gift of meaningful connection that I know I can, and must, pay forward.
I can, and must, tell you that the miraculous triumphs of recovery are worth every gnarly bit of the struggle, and if you want what us sober folks have, it’s here — I’m here — for you.