Hello Internet! My name is Jim and this blog is going to serve as a place to share stories about my life and my path to self-discovery, redemption and happiness. I can’t promise that I will always be interesting, funny, poignant, topical or intelligent. I can promise, however, that I will always be honest. 2016 has been the most transformative year of my life. I have set goals and accomplished them, faced challenges and conquered them. I’ve encountered demons and fell prey to them. Most importantly, I have found the path to inner peace and started mapping it. Discovering that truth and transparency can be valuable tools has been such a wonderful surprise and that is the main purpose of this blog. Truth.
I think for my first post I’ll share a post I made last week on my personal Facebook. It should give you a good understanding about who I am, where I’ve been, and where I am going. I hope you can find something inspiring or something you can identify with in this post and with my blog in general. I welcome reader feedback and challenge you to share your own experiences and your own “truth”. It has brought me such unbelievable serenity and I hope it does for you too.
Today is November 6, 2016. Today I am thankful, surprisingly, to Facebook’s “On This Day” feature for reminding me that today is the day my life changed. Today is the anniversary of my epiphany, the spiritual experience, the “awakening” I had which set the wheels in motion for me to make the changes I’ve made in my life on the path to emotional and physical health and sobriety. This post is my first official statement on something I’ve been dealing with along with everything else I’ve been working on.
My name is Jim Carroll and I am an alcoholic.
But I am getting ahead of myself…
My journey actually began back in 2004 when I joined an early precursor to the social media platforms we use today called “Livejournal”. It still is so amazing to me that 12 years later most of people I met on this platform I am STILL friends with and have met in person mostly ALL of them. These are men and women from all over the world. The internet used to be a very positive and hopeful place where people were interested in connecting with their peers all over the planet. While Livejournal did have it’s troll and drama(There was an amazing group called LJ_Drama which was absolutely the most entertaining thing that ever existed LOL) it was mostly, in my experience, a great and safe place to have a voice and receive feedback on whatever what was on your mind.
One of the awesome people I met on this site was a guy named Gary from Dallas, TX. His LJ handle was jediknightcub and based on the simple criteria I employed at the time which was “If I liked your LJ handle you’d be my friend.” What wasn’t to like? Star Wars…”cub”(for my non-in-the-know friends a “cub” is a man who identifies with the Bear sub-culture of the gay community. I won’t get into the difference between a Bear and a Cub because this is “Roe v. Wade” level internet debate-bait and I ain’t going there today.)
But I digress, Gary and I hit it off for a variety of reasons. We played a MMORPG called “City of Heroes”. For those of you who know my love of puns, Gary is the Grand Master Sorcerer Supreme of puns. I wish that I could remember the names of some of his hero avatars because they were drag queen level puntastic characters and were built hysterically appropriately.(It is my hope that Gary will reply to this post with the list of names and screenshots if they exist so you can share in the brilliance). Ok I am getting way off topic…
I met Gary in person in when my ex-husband Greg and I went to Dallas on vacation for a Bear circuit party called “Texas Bear Round-up” aka TBRU. Meeting in person was awesome as it was the first time I met someone I felt I knew well in person for the first time. It was like seeing an old friend after a long time apart and this experience, at least for me, cemented Gary’s place in my heart.
Ok, flash forward to 2015, I received a message from Gary informing me that he and his partner Brian had decided to get married and that they both wanted me to come to their wedding. To say that I was honored would be an understatement and I wanted to go so badly and I RSVP’d that I would be in attendance. Gary had moved to Chicago to live with Brian years earlier and I had never spent time in Chicago itself, unless you count a layover at O’Hare. I WAS IN. When I received the awesome invitation to their wedding I RSVP right away, but as I have done so often in the past I gave no thought as to how or if I could even possibly afford to go to this wedding, you see, at this point in my life if there was something I wanted, I would get it, consequences be damned.
As the date approached I was in denial about the fact that I absolutely could not afford to go. I spent a great amount of time trying to come up with a plausible solution and find some way I could get to Chicago. There was no way. About three weeks before the wedding I sent Gary a message on FB apologizing that I could not attend. Gary was not having it and made arrangements for me, at he and Brian’s cost, to attend. He sent me this message:
“Hey, I never heard back from you yesterday, and I can understand why (unless you were actually just distracted by Arrow, Empire, and American Horror Story all on the same night). I know this might be uncomfortable for you, but please bear with me.
I wanted to let you know that if you would be comfortable with sharing a room with someone for Friday and Saturday night of the wedding weekend, my friend Pennington (he was the newly-out twink friend I brought along with us to TMC at TBRU in 2005 or 2006, if that rings a bell) has offered to let you stay in his room for the weekend. He has a room with 2 queen-sized beds, and he’s not bringing a guest. You don’t have to pay anything for this. Nothing is expected in return except that you come to the wedding and have a good time.
The other part of this travel conundrum is the plane ticket. I will take care of your plane ticket. No questions, no strings, no payback required, no nothing except a round-trip plane ticket to and from Chicago for the wedding weekend.
Pennington is offering to do this because, as one of my oldest and best friends, he said he would do anything to help someone if it mattered this much to me.
Which brings me to the fact that, yes, you do matter this much to me. I know we haven’t been in the same physical space very often, but you have been a constant source of support and humor throughout many of the hardships of my life through your online presence in City Of Heroes, on LiveJournal, and on Facebook. You and I share a brain: evil, campy, and loaded with obscure pop culture references. Brian and I would really like for you to be at our wedding, because you are an important part of my life and have been for many years.
I know that it’s not easy to accept someone’s help, especially financially. I was once in a position where I needed help paying for something similar and a friend of mine paid for it. He never expected anything in return. He never expected to be paid back. He had no other motive than to help me out. The only thing he asked me to do was this: if I was ever in a financial position to help someone, help them without any expectation of being paid back. So, here’s an opportunity for me to do that.
The only things I ask of you are to accept this offer and come to the wedding (and tell me after the champagne toast that the champagne is burned, because reasons) and if you are ever in a position to do this for someone else do it without hesitation.
Let me know.
I was completely blown away. I was completely humbled. I was embarrassed and honored all at once. I felt like such a miserable failure in life and felt like I looked pathetic. I accepted because it meant so much to me that Gary wanted me to be there and I could not possibly let him down. I had no excuse. I would have to suck it up, swallow my pride, and be there for him. Little did I know that Gary and Brian not only gave me the gift of friendship and provided for me to be there to witness their union, they also saved my life.
For an obese person flying on a plane is a horribly humiliating experience. Having to stop as you are greeted by flight attendant and ask quietly if you can have a “seat belt extender” is a demoralizing experience. The look on the face of the people sitting next to you when they realize that for the next several hours they will have to sit with you in these uncomfortably close quarters is so very damaging to self-esteem. This has always been my experience and a source of great anxiety while flying. My flight to Chicago was no exception.
The flight went by quickly and without incident save for the cramped quarters and dirty looks from my seat mates. I was relieved to get off the plane and head to the rehearsal dinner and meet Gary and Brian’s family and friends. Over the years I had travelled frequently by myself to unfamiliar places. I was no stranger to traveling, but it became apparent very quickly that this was no ordinary trip. Something was different. I was different. I was at the heaviest I had ever been in my life. I don’t know what my exact weight was on that day, I imagine it was somewhere between 410-420lbs, but I might as well have been 600 lbs. I realized after about 5 minutes of walking and carrying my luggage that I would not be able to get to the baggage claim unassisted. The pain in my lower back was so intense I had tears flowing down my face. I searched frantically for somewhere to sit. I saw a bench around 100 feet away, it might as well have been a 100 miles away, I could not make it. I collapsed. A young security guard ran over to me and helped me up. Beyond embarrassed I tried to push him away insisting I could get up on my own, which of course, I could not. He helped me up and looked me in the eye and said “It’s Ok, sir. It’s my job to help.” It felt like I stared at him for an hour after he said this, something about his tone, something about his choice of words brought on a calmness in my soul I had never felt. It was ok. I needed help. Again, I accepted help. I surrendered to my circumstance. No matter how ashamed I was, no matter how utterly low I felt I was in that moment, I recognize that this moment was a turning point in my life. The moment I said, “Enough.”
That weekend I spent much time on my own as I didn’t really know anyone besides Gary. I had never actually met Brian until that weekend although it felt like we’ve known each other for years. I had the fortune of meeting Gary’s best friend Pennington who showed me such compassion and shared his hotel room with me without asking for a dime. I had a lot of time to reflect. And reflect I did. I made many decisions on that day. I made many promises to myself, and for the first time in my life, I felt hope. That was the day I decided to change and I am very happy to report that I did just that.
I had considered weight loss surgery for a long time. I have struggled my entire life with eating healthy and losing weight. This seemed like the right way to go. I originally looked at it like “I need to take away my ability to over-eat. This will solve my problem.” I got a referral from my doctor to see a bariatric surgeon at Roger Williams Medical Center in Providence and went to an informational meeting in November. The meeting was very eye opening for me. It was not anything like I thought it would be. It had inspirational stories and live testimonials from former patients. It was exactly what I needed to hear. That the hard work didn’t happen after the surgery, it happened before. You had to be emotionally fit before you could be physically fit and I began my journey towards emotional and physical health that day.
I am proud of the way I handled myself before the surgery. I had the support of my friends and family, without which I could have never accomplished what I had. I decided that I needed to change the bad behaviors slowly and one at a time. I focused on things like cutting out excessive sugar slowly. Once I felt I had a handle on that I moved to quitting smoking. My niece and her fiancé had started becoming distributors for Herbalife and had had much success. I looked into the program and realized that the Herbalife “diet’ was in line with how I would have to eat post-surgery so it seemed logical that I should begin eating in this way. I explored the many options of apps for tracking my progress and invested in a scale that could keep me on track and work in concert with these apps. Becoming fit and healthy became a game of numbers. Numbers I could handle. Numbers made sense to me. The weight started coming off quickly. I could see how my efforts were being accomplished. I highly recommend to anyone looking to lose weight to seek out the technology that exists to help keep you accountable. It works.
By April I had lost enough weight to feel comfortable to start exercising and joined Planet Fitness. I purchased a FitBit and began taking challenges with people at work. It was motivating. I am very competitive and this helped and was completely rewarding. Throughout this six month period between January and June I had accomplished more changes in my life than I had in the past 41 years. I was a new person. By the time my surgery date arrived I had lost 75lbs. I was walking 3-5 miles a day and working out at the gym 3-4 days a week. I felt like a new man. There was however, one more demon that was biding their time to rear their ugly head. They had been patiently waiting and planning their attack. I actually never stood a chance.
The signs were there all along in retrospect. The doctors told me that drinking alcohol post-surgery was a BAD idea. But just like many times in the past, I scoured the internet to find evidence that could support the notion that it would be “fine” to drink occasionally. I just couldn’t seem to reconcile myself to the notion that I would need to cut alcohol out of my life. It just wasn’t an option. I was determined to prove highly trained medical professionals and the medical community that they were wrong. I COULD drink. I COULD handle it. My hubris was never higher and never more wrong.
My drinking increased astronomically. I started drinking daily within 6 weeks of surgery. I had created “rules” to monitor myself that would allow me to justify my drinking. I found myself engaging in new “rituals” which included mostly drinking alone and in my car. I gave no thought to the danger I was putting myself and others in, because from my perspective I “had it under control”. I became a master at hiding it from friends and family for a short time. It wasn’t until my ex-husband mentioned to me that he noticed a change in my behavior and that he witnessed the evidence of some empty bottles of vodka and whiskey nips in my car. I dismissed his concerns with statements like “I’m just going through something right now. I have it under control.” This was of course a lie.
With the increased drinking came also the increased lying. I lied to nearly everyone who loves me. My “dirty little secret” was being noticed and I needed to cover it up. Lying was the only way. My friend Julie tried to tell me she was worried about me, but much like my response to Greg I told her I had it “under control”. No one could tell me not to drink. No one had the power to make me stop, not even myself.
On September 2, 2016 I left work early and didn’t feel like going home yet. I decided instead to go to Goddard Park and play Pokémon Go. I parked by the beach and did not play Pokémon Go. I did, however, crack open a bottle of vodka and mix it with a peach flavored sparkling water from Cumberland Farms. I finished it quickly and made myself another. Then for some reason I’ll never understand I decided to leave and drive home. I have to guess it was home because of the direction I was traveling. The only thing I remember from that drive was a crash and then chaos. I had driven off the side of the road and somehow ended up on the other side of the road facing outward toward the road. I had no idea what happened. I remember cars pulled over on the side of the road and a man running toward me waving his arms telling me I couldn’t drive my car because the wheel was busted. I didn’t know what was happening. I got out of my car and walked around to the passenger side and saw that my wheel was completely bent and the whole side of my car was smashed in. I had apparently side swiped a tree.
Somehow by the grace of God, I did not kill anyone or myself. The East Greenwich Police(who could not have been more professional and polite) gave me a sobriety test which I, of course, failed. They arrested me. I used my one phone call and called the only number I could remember which was my friend Ron. I blew 0.44 on the breathalyzer. I was brought to a cold cell. The door shut behind me and I waited. I cried. I puked. I banged my head against the wall. How could this happen to me. I had everything going for me. Why had I done this? I had no answers.
I wish I could say that this stopped me from drinking. I wish I could tell you that this was the epiphany I had that made me say “enough!”. That’s not how this story goes. Within days the people in my life took care of me and had me on the road again with a car I bought from my friend Darren. My friend Mike loaned me $500 to buy the car. I thought to myself “I’ve got this under control. Vodka is the enemy. I just need to switch to whiskey and everything would be fine.” Yes, that is what I actually thought. You see, what I didn’t know about alcoholism is that the alcoholic brain is in charge once you reach a certain point. I had gone way past the point of no return. If you’ve ever asked yourself “How can someone have multiple DWI’s? Wouldn’t they learn their lesson after the first time?” That means you are most likely not an alcoholic. There is a saying I’ve heard over and over in AA and in other recovery groups “One is too many, 1000 is never enough.” This is a true statement. A week or so after my DWI incident I began drinking again. I drank several pints of whiskey a day. I had lost all hope. I had completely given into my addiction. I was powerless.
On a beautiful Sunday, October 2, 2016 I met my friend Steve for coffee at our usual Dunkin’ Donuts near my house. We chatted for an hour or so and had some great conversation as we normally do. I looked at the time and realized that I had made plans with my friend Julie and her daughters. Julie and I were exposing her teenaged girls to the wonderful world of “Twin Peaks” and it was a favorite activity of mine that I looked forward to greatly. I had promised my Mom that I would pick up some sandwiches for us for an early dinner before I went to Julie’s so I placed our Subway sandwich order on my app and started to drive home. As I was approaching the Subway I thought to myself “Hey, its 5 o’clock somewhere, its time for a drink!” I walked in and bought a pint of Honey Jack and sat in my car waiting for the sandwiches(they were probably ready 10 minutes earlier) and drank my pint in about 5 minutes. If you are my friend on Facebook you can look back into my videos on that date and see a video of me, completely wasted, talking about going into “The Perfect Puppy” and wanting to take “all of the puppies”. I thought I was hysterical. I wasn’t hysterical, I was completely drunk. I remember being asked to leave and thinking it was because I was filming the puppies, it wasn’t.
I went home and ate about two bites of my sandwich and told my Mom I had to leave to go over to Julie’s. I got into my car, completely wasted, and drove on 95 south to her home in Coventry. Somewhere along the way(I only know this by viewing my online bank statement) I purchased another pint of Honey Jack, drank it down and somehow, again by the grace of God, made it to Julie’s without killing myself or anyone else.
The rest of this story I learned today from talking to my friend Julie for the first time since the incident. Some time had passed since I had arrived at Julie’s and Julie and her daughter noticed that I was sitting in my car outside their apartment. Her youngest, Lila, came down to see what I was doing. Apparently she helped me out of the car and helped me up to the apartment. I came in and something like “Wasssup, bitches” and bee-lined for the bathroom and vomited. When I came out I sat on the couch and slurred something about “getting our Twin Peaks on” and Julie asked me if I was ok. I was a mess and she asked me to go outside. She took my keys and called my Mom. I broke down and told her I wanted to kill myself over and over. I went and sat in my car and Lila kept me company so sweetly rubbing my arm and telling me everything was going to be OK and that she cared about me. That is when my memory of the day begins with Lila sitting next to me rubbing my arm consoling me and Julie standing outside my car crying. My Mom arrived shortly thereafter with a look on her face I’d never seen before. She had the look of a woman who lost her son. The only thing I remember for the rest of the night was sitting at the kitchen table sobbing hysterically, completely wasted with my mother, my sister and my brother-in-law Todd. I went to bed shortly later around 7pm and cried myself to sleep.
The next morning I woke at 3 am. I woke up sober, not at all hung over. But I was crawling out of my skin. I kept replaying what I could remember of the events from the day before over and over. I was lost…I had crossed a line. I had to go to my third court date later that morning. I kept thinking over and over that if things had played out differently the day before and I had gotten pulled over by the police there would have been no coming back from that. An intense anxiety attack ensued. I got dressed in my gym clothes and at 4 am walked out of my house and ran down to the gym. I needed to get some kind of fix. I ran. I ran the whole way there which I had never done and threw up twice on the way. I needed to punish myself. I somehow felt that by punishing my body that could somehow make the horrible and constant pain and guilt go away. It, of course, did not. Nothing could. Alcohol was my only friend. The only one with the answer. I made it into the gym and pushed myself hard than I ever had until I was exhausted. I barely was able to make it home and I am sure I was completely dehydrated. I made myself a protein shake and got myself ready for court. Mom and I didn’t really speak that morning. What could she say? What could I say? There were no words. I had no credibility. Anything I would have said would have been a false promise. I was running on fumes. I barely had the focus to get myself dressed properly.
Mom dropped me off at the Kent County Courthouse for 8:30 am. I texted my lawyer to make sure he would be there this time(my lawyer had previously missed my first pre-trial hearing date due to being help up with another case in Providence and my court date had been rescheduled.) When I arrived at the courthouse I searched the list to see which courtroom my case would be heard in and when I found it my heart dropped. I was to be seen by Judge Bucci. The judge my lawyer told me was the worst case scenario. She had a reputation for being unreasonably hard on first time offenders. It was her “thing” he said. He had told me that if some reason we were to be seen in front of her he would petition to get my case moved to Superior Court. If I was to be adjudicated by her the consequences of my actions would be the maximum. I could have my license suspended for a year with thousands of dollars in fines and up to 5 years probation. She would, as they say, throw the book at me. I began to panic. I texted my lawyer to tell him this horrifying news and received no response. He still hadn’t arrived by the time court had started at 9 am and did not answer my messages or phone calls. He was going to abandon me. I was going to have to go through this alone.
The judge called my name and I stood up and informed her that my lawyer had not yet arrived. She asked me who my lawyer was and I said his name and she, no word of a lie, did an epic eye roll and told me to leave the courtroom and call him again and ask him if he “Would be joining us today?”. The courtroom giggled. I did not. I left the courtroom demoralized and in the most heightened panic attack I have ever had. I couldn’t breath. I called him…no answer. Finally I texted his associate to find out what to do. The associate texted me back immediately and told me that my lawyer was probably stuck in traffic and that he was on vacation in California so he couldn’t help me. These men had a thousand dollars of my mother’s money and to date had done nothing for me.
I finally sent one more desperate text message to my lawyer:
“Chad, you are acting incredibly unprofessionally. I need you to contact me ASAP. I don’t know what to do.”
One minute later I received this text message from him:
“James, I’m in the parking garage.”
That was it. He was 40 minutes late and that was how he chose to reply. He didn’t show up for another 10 minutes. He strolled up to the entrance to the courtroom and without saying a word summoned me with his index finger, like he was my high school principal about to give me a stern talking to. His attitude infuriated me. I wanted to fire him on the spot. I couldn’t believe that this man could have so little compassion for me and my situation, but I guess when you hire “The DUI Guy” that’s what you get. I’m sure he deals with a lot of Jim Carroll’s and even worse. That didn’t matter to me. This was my life. This was possibly the end of my life. I had no control. I wanted to run. I have never been so scared. I could lose my job. How would I survive. How would my Mom survive? The anxiety level I thought I had peaked at earlier got kicked up another 10 notches.
My lawyer approached the bench with the prosecutor to have a conference. I carefully watched the judges stern expression. The prosecutor said something. My lawyer nodded his head and I could tell he was agreeing to whatever the prosecutor offered and the judge looked at both of them and very clearly said “No.” I was done. I was toast. My actions caught up with me. I was going to pay, harshly.
I started mentally preparing myself. I became numb. My lawyer called me into the hallway outside the courtroom and told me the judged denied his motion to have my case moved to superior court. He said something like “but don’t worry, we’ll appeal it at the pre-trial hearing and then they have to move us to another court.” So I walked away from the courthouse again, nothing resolved. My fate still in the hands of my idiot lawyer and an evil judge. I called my mother to come and pick me up.
I stood alone outside the courthouse on a beautiful, sunny Monday morning in October with one thought:
“I want to feel numb. I need a drink.”
Something inside me snapped. I knew if I didn’t take drastic measures and get help I wasn’t going to be as lucky as I had been. I admitted to myself outside that courthouse that I my life had become unmanageable and that I was completely powerless over alcohol. I had unknowingly completed the first step of recovery. My mother picked me up and asked me what happened and I told her briefly what had happened and she began to barrage me with questions I just did not have then answers to. I told her that I needed help and that I wasn’t going to work. I went up to my room and called or texted my therapist Rob and asked him for recommendations for a treatment program. Which he replied to with lightening speed. I called my insurance to find out if any of these places were covered by my insurance, which of course, they were not. They gave me my choices and I cal/led the Phoenix House in Exeter. They had a bed available and I checked myself in later that day.
The Phoenix House was such an eye opening experience for me. I had never been in such a situation. It felt like prison. The facility was old and dated. The unit was filled to capacity and completely understaffed. I realized quickly that there would not be any counseling or meetings. There were three activities that happened in the detox unit:
* Adult coloring books
* Endless junk food
* Cigarette breaks every 45 minutes.
Aside from the coloring books, which was my least favorite childhood activity, I had nothing to do except talk to my fellow prisoners and talk we did. I learned that of the 16 or so of us that were there at least 10 of them were there for opiate withdrawal. I learned, for the first time, about the heroin epidemic that was killing their friends and family. I heard horror story after horror story of overdoses and death. There was a young gay man there who was young enough to be my son. Hearing his story was heart breaking. It also provided me with a much needed perspective on my situation. My life, while having its problems, were nothing compared to what these pour soul were enduring. I had a moment while speaking with this young man when I looked into his eyes and said something that to this day and even as I’m writing this I don’t know why I said it or where it came from. I said “You don’t have to be in pain, Tyler(not his actual name). You don’t have to be afraid. You have the power to beat this.” He looked at me and said. “How did you know my name is Tyler.” He had introduced himself to me by his middle name Paul(again not his real name). I could not answer his question. I didn’t even remember saying it. He then went on to explain that Tyler was his grandfathers name and that his family called him by his middle name because they wanted to name him after his grandfather who had passed before he was born but his grandfather had died suddenly and it was hard for them to call him by his name.
Paul went on to tell me that the only person who called him Tyler was his grandmother(who he referred to in a child-like voice as his “grammy”) and that she had recently passed away. We both sat there for a minute in silence. We both had a significant moment. We both realized that something spiritual had happened. He began to cry. I began to cry and we embraced. I told him he was going to be ok over and over again. What’s funny is that I wasn’t talking to him, I was talking to me.
I was released from the Phoenix House the next day after a conversation with the doctor and the counselor. It was clear from my vitals that I was not detoxing and we all agreed that my stay wasn’t necessary. I asked if there was some outpatient programs they could recommend and the counselor had me call a place near home called AdCare. I called the intake and made an appointment to be seen the next day. I met with my counselor Erica and made a plan to attend their “Intensive Outpatient Program” or “IOP” three times a week starting the following Monday.
The following Saturday was my mother’s 70th birthday and the plans my sister and I had tried to make for a surprise party had become an abysmal failure so we decided that instead we would invite her and her two girlfriends along with my niece Tabitha and her husband Jay, myself, my sister Kelly, my brother-in-law Todd and my nephew TJ. I invited my buddy Ryan to join us due to his wife being out of town, and because I genuinely enjoy his company.
We all had a lovely time and I planned to leave after dinner to go to my first AA meeting in Providence. I had contacted an acquaintance on Facebook who had been open about his struggle with alcohol and asked him if he knew of any Gay meetings I could go to and he sent me to the “Brother’s in Sobriety” meeting which meets weekly on Saturday nights at 7:30 at the Community Church in Wayland Square on the East Side of Providence. In all honesty, I was so nervous about going that I almost didn’t. I parked on the street and debated whether or not I could do it. When I had finally convinced myself that I would not go in and was about to leave a man got out of the car in front of me and looked at me and smiled like he knew me. I thought to myself “Oh god who is this guy who thinks he knows me. Oh god did I sleep with him? Who is this person? He clearly knows who I am and I have no clue who he was. Did I make out with him in the back room at the Eagle?” The questions were endless and unanswerable. He waved at me again and at this point I went into “fake it til you make it” mode and got out of my car and said “Hey, you! How’s it going?” He smiled and said “I’m great, my name is Tim.” And put out his hand. He didn’t know me, he was just friendly. He said “Are you here for the meeting?” I replied that I was and that it was my first meeting. He took me by the hand and said “Come on!” And proceed to introduce me to practically everyone and made me feel like I was an old friend returning home from war.
Before the meeting began he came over to me with a packet of information and a pen. He wrote his phone number on the envelope and said “You can call me any time.” I found this so odd and uncomfortable. Was this guy hitting on me? I was so confused. I didn’t understand. I was soon to find found out.
The meeting began and they introduced the person who was going to speak. He started telling his story and I listened intently. I couldn’t believe what I heard. I kept looking around the room to see if there were cameras any where. Clearly I was being put on. This person was up there telling MY story. How could he express what had happened to me. How could he know my deepest, darkest secrets. Was this some elaborate ruse being put on by my friends and family. Was Ashton Kusher going to pop out of a box and tell me I was being Punk’d? I started to panic. I was ringing my hands and sweating. The speaker finished his story and everyone clapped. Other’s started sharing and relating to his story and that was when I realized as I listened to each person tell their own story that I was not part of some hoax…I was just an alcoholic. I wanted to share at that meeting. I wanted to tell them all that I was was frightened. I raised my hand several times too late becoming anxious that if I couldn’t share I was going to start crying. It was at this moment that I realized what I, in my infinite wisdom, had chosen to wear to my first AA meeting. The brightest, gayest most obnoxiously tight HOT PINK tee shirt with matching HOT PINK wristband for my Apple Watch and matching HOT PINK case for my iPhone. I was mortified. I shut down. I told myself not to embarrass myself any more than I already had and don’t raise my hand.
After the meeting concluded the man sitting next to me introduced himself to me. He had a soft and caring demeanor. He said he name was Joe and asked me how I was doing. I told him the truth, that I was struggling and what I had experienced during the meeting. We talked for a little while longer and he gave me his phone number and told me to call him if I wanted to meet for coffee and chat. He explained that he had been sober for six years and had recently moved to Providence from NYC. I thank him and left the meeting feeling optimistic. I texted him later that night and thanked him for his kindness and asked him if he would meet me the next day for coffee. He agreed and we met at the Seven Stars Bakery and chatted for over an hour. He told me all about his struggles and how AA had helped him. I told him my story and he listened intently. It felt wonderful. He told me about a Sunday night meeting at a church on Benevolent St at 7pm that he was attending and invited me to join him. I agreed.
I went to the meeting and had another almost magical experience which I will hopefully share another time. I spoke at the meeting and it felt wonderful and freeing. After the meeting Joe and I spoke and he offered to my temporary sponsor. I told him that it wasn’t necessary, I wanted him to BE my sponsor. He agreed and my path to sobriety began officially.
The past 35 days have been nothing short of a miracle. My mind is clear and I am able to focus on myself truly for the first time in my life. I have stepped into the past to rebuild my future. Sobriety has given me a gift I have never had in my life. Hope. Thank you all who have stood by my through this time. I owe you all my life.