One of the tools I’ve learned in sobriety is to look at a problem or issue in my life and ask, “What will I learn from this?” When it’s painful or difficult, there is usually an opportunity for growth. This summer I started feeling a weird sort of distance from my sponsor. Things were fine when we got together to catch up and do work, but everything felt different otherwise. When I would text it would sometimes take a day or two to get a response along with a lighthearted “I thought I responded to this but I didn’t!”. Sometimes it would take time to nail her down for an actual phone call. We were still in touch, but I started feeling like I was being held at arm’s length.
Naturally my self-esteem (or lack thereof) began to whisper to me that maybe this was my fault. I started telling myself that I wasn’t a good enough sponsee, because my life was perpetually busy and I wasn’t doing enough in the program. I thought that maybe she didn’t like me anymore. While the negative self-talk grew, so did my resentment against her. I am a 39 year old woman who has grown leaps and bounds emotionally the past six years, but all of a sudden I was unable to ask a women who knew everything about me if she liked me/wanted to work with me anymore.
In meetings, I started scoping out the women who raised their hands to show that they were willing to sponsor. I was drawn again and again to a woman in my home group that has been sober since I was the in first grade. I kept making mental notes to talk to her, but I never did other than the usual pre and post meeting pleasantries.
Fast forward to the Sunday before Christmas. My sponsor and I met at a coffee shop for a catch up. After I filled her in on my usual busyness, she tells me that she has something important to tell me. Over the summer, she was overseas for a work trip and she relapsed. It was only one drink, and she says it was an accident but she knowingly finished the drink. And didn’t tell anyone about it for almost 6 months.
Classic alcoholic behavior.
She thought I would be furious, but at first all I could do was blurt out that I knew something was wrong and I was relieved that it wasn’t about me (addicts and alcoholics are really, really good at thinking only of themselves). But then I approached her from a place of love and understanding, which I’ve learned to do in AA.
I am responsible. When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of A.A. always to be there. And for that: I am responsible.
Despite my growing resentment, she is my sober sister and I love her. I also know that she is full of shame and beating the shit out of herself in her own head. Why would I add to that?
We had a great talk for several hours, and she cried a few times. I came close to tears as well. It’s emotional stuff, cunning, baffling, and powerful stuff. As her story unraveled in front of me I could see her distance, and how this relapse took shape in her life. The relapse begins to happen in our heads long before we pick up that drink. And she’s lucky she only had one; she could have stayed on a bender overseas and lost her job. And yes, it was only one drink but she obsessed over alcohol for the rest of the trip.
After our meeting, I was hurt. Pissed off. Seriously, I was lied to for six months? WHAT THE FUCK?! As soon as my hissy fit left my system, I started to turn this scenario into a learning experience. What can I do to prevent a relapse? How do I stay strong, and keep my sober toolbox at the ready?
My next soberversary is year 7. I know SO many people that have gone out again at 7 years, and I’ll be damned if that happens to me. Yes, my life is busy but I stay committed to my sobriety. I have a home group that I attend weekly, I’m in a committee in that home group, I volunteer and take AA meetings into our county jail, I work the steps, I try to remain spiritually fit, and now I am working with a new sponsor.
To some it may seem like a lot of work, but thanks to this program I rebuilt my life. Scratch that! I BUILT AN AMAZING NEW LIFE! My life is still incredible to me today, even on the shitty grey January days when my brain protests winter and the lack of light. Even on days when my anxiety is out of control, my life is such a blessing. I refuse to accept anything less now.
Onward and upwards, friends!