This evening at about 7:10 in the basement of a church in the Raleigh Court neighborhood of Roanoke–where it started in earnest–I will be given a bronze medallion emblazoned with XXV, signifying 25 years of sobriety.
I’ll be at the first AA meeting I’ve attended in a while and I’ll be picking up the symbol I never expected to see in my hand. I’ll likely drill a hole in the top of the delta on the face of the medallion and hang it from the mirror of Daisy, my yellow VW Bug. That way, I can daily see both the reminder of who I am and that it doesn’t have to kill me.
These 25 years have been an accounting, I suspect, for the 23 that preceded them when I knew I was an alcoholic and tried oh-so-hard to be something else. I collected a fist full of white chips, signifying my commitment to a sober life, but I could not make it to that one-year chip in all that time.
Finally, one day I wanted to be sober more than I wanted to drink. It was that simple. I began to understand what the lovely people in AA had been trying to tell me for all those years and I went to a lot of meetings (about 180) in the first three months following what I hope was my final commitment. My sponsor at the time told me, “There’s a reason behind the 90 meetings in 90 days suggestion. You will likely be confronted with everything you need to know to get sober in those meetings. It won’t take immediately, but it will be in the back of your mind for reference.” So I doubled up, often taking my lunch hour for a meeting, then catching another at night.
I was working with Jim Lindsey at the Blue Ridge Business Journal at the time and when I told him what I needed to do, he didn’t hesitate before saying, “Do whatever you need to do. We’re behind you 100 percent.” And he meant it and delivered it.
Getting sober, in my experience, is a team effort. I thought for a long time that I could do it by myself and for a dozen reasons other than that I needed to do it for me. Once I figured that out, the path was cleared.
Being sober is more than I ever–in my wildest imaginings–thought it would or could be. My life has been full and complete and my initial fear that I would be both bored and boring proved to be simply silly. What in the hell is interesting or entertaining about a drunk? What does a drunk accomplish; whom does he help; what mark does he leave when he finally leaves this mortal coil?
Twenty-five years later, I know the answer to those questions and quite a few more.