A Story of Recovery:
Moving Towards Recovery
Tuesday nights were once a terrible night for reaching my fellows by phone. I was living in my Alaska hometown where there were no FA meetings, but I had built up a close group of fellows in California. They, and my sponsor, were all in an AWOL together on Tuesday nights. So, not only were they not available Tuesday nights, but to make matters worse, they would talk about having dinner with each other before that AWOL. I felt a little left out, and a lot of envy. I wanted a fellowship around me too. I had a low-grade dread of Tuesday nights!
My sponsor picked up on it. She encouraged me to visit, to spend time in California, around people who were really committed to FA recovery. So, I came to visit. I loved being in California where I wore a skirt and flip-flops, and could ride a bike if I wanted to. One night, I had dinner with four FA members. The woman who hosted didn’t have a kitchen table so we ate around the coffee table. The intimacy I experienced there touched something deep inside of me. I longed for this bit of true fellowship that I knew my Tuesday night AWOL friends got to experience all the time.
Back in Alaska, I jokingly said to my sponsor, “After that trip, I would actually consider moving to California!” I was sure she was going to caution me against a ‘geographical’ and to grow where I was planted. She totally caught me off guard when she said, “Great! Start planning.”
Well, that planning phase took a couple of years. About halfway, I decided to make the move to California at the end of the coming summer. But, after downsizing my life to move, I realized those changes had caused me to fall in love with my new life in Alaska and I didn’t want to move after all. So, for the following few months, I enjoyed my newfound joy at home. But then the luster began to dull and I started having the same stirrings to be a part of the FA fellowship I’d had on that visit to California.
So, six months after I had made the decision to stay in Alaska, I realized that what was now holding me back from moving to California was simply fear. Of course, it wasn’t totally unfounded fear. It makes practical sense to have sound plans and I had no idea what town I would live in, or where I’d work. But much of the fear was of being found out. Like what would all those ‘put-together’ girls think when they saw my grocery store eye shadow held together with a rubber-band? When I told my sponsor about the fear, she said, “Stella, it’s time to throw caution to the wind.” Again I was shocked! So I took a walk that day and talked to God. I felt a real peace about moving that I had not felt for the two years prior when I first got the inkling of moving to California.
The next day was a Tuesday. I happened to be talking to one of my friends who was in the Tuesday AWOL and I asked her which step they were on. She said “We’re still in the beginning of the AWOL. It hasn’t closed yet.” I asked her if anyone could be in the AWOL? She said yes. Still not feeling like I really belonged and that somehow I was different and thus wouldn’t qualify, I said, “ Could I be in the AWOL?” Again she said yes. My phone AWOL had just finished a few weeks prior and I realized, miracle of all miracles, I would have an opportunity, if I moved right away, to be in the same AWOL that my sponsor was in and a number of my close fellows.
There had been so many stages for me to go through in those two years in preparing for a move. Just asking for help sorting through my belongings was a huge ordeal and step of growth for me. But I was ready. I gave four weeks notice at my work and a month later I was on an airplane with two suitcases, two boxes of belongings and a place to stay for two nights. I had no idea what I was going to do after that. However, I felt safe and in the middle of God’s will. God had worked out all the details. As a result of downsizing my life during those six months, I had accumulated a fairly large amount of savings. There’s so much I could say about those early days in California but basically day after day, things fell into place. People offered me their homes to stay in. One fellow I didn’t even really know came up to me at a meeting and gave me the keys to her car and her apartment. She was going out of town, and said I could stay there if I wanted to. I even won a car when a friend bought a raffle ticket and put my name on it. Probably the most amazing thing about the move was that once I made the decision to do it, I did not have even one ounce of doubt about it nor have I had since. People would say, “Oh that must have taken so much courage.” I would reply, “No, the real courage was facing all those thousands of fears along the way, like asking for help or being rigorously honest with my sponsor.” I have felt 100% in the middle of God’s will. I’ve been able to do service and make mistakes and grow from those experiences. I’ve gotten closer with fellows and I have had the courage to hear their feedback about me. That has been probably the most vulnerable, and yet rewarding, experience of all.
I’ve learned so much simply from being a part of a fellowship on a day-to-day, in-person way. By letting people see me on all three levels –physical, mental and spiritual –I’ve grown. For example, just by being in a carpool to an AWOL or meeting, I’ve learned everything from how to serenely coordinate logistics to how to quit interrupting others and be more socially appropriate.
Another example is, one morning I was in the bathroom after an FA meeting. A fellow brought a pair of jeans into the ladies room and put them on. She said she was going to go ask her sponsor how the jeans looked on her. I was amazed at her willingness to be so vulnerable and ask such a personal question. These are the kinds of things that my fellows taught me, without even trying to teach me. It was just a part of being in a fellowship.
Being able to do service for meetings where there are a lot of people who are more experienced has also helped me grow in so many ways. When I was a meeting secretary, I usually got speakers at the last minute. As time went on I got more organized and learned to plan ahead. And then at one point I learned by others’ example the benefit of calling people in advance to remind them they were going to be speaking. Then I improved and got the meeting binder more organized and came up with a system for keeping track of those who had spoken and who was going to be speaking. Finally, by the time I was meeting secretary two or three times, I was not only calling people ahead of time but I was also calling or texting them afterwards to thank them for qualifying at the meeting.
Likewise, when I was the CD person for a meeting I found it took me at least six weeks until I could do the position consistently without making mistakes. The first day I think I left the CDs at home. Then the next week I brought them in my car but forgot them when we switched cars at the carpool. Then the next week I got them in my car and into the new car at the carpool but then left them in the car when I went up to the meeting and I had to go back for them. Another week I had them at the meeting but forgot to put them on the literature table until someone brought it to my attention. It was a real breakthrough for me when I remembered every step along the way. It also gave me more appreciation for the simple acts of service it takes to keep an FA meeting going.
It’s still sometimes hard to let others get to know me. I especially feel nervous about getting up and sharing at my meetings. But I raise my hand consistently because I know I need to face my fear in spite of my flushed face and the cold nervous underarm sweat I have after I sit back down. Pride is taking a big hit since taking a more active role in recovery. I’m learning to do what I heard someone say at a meeting: get in the middle of the fold because this disease will try to pick off those on the edges.