An Unorthodox Thirty-Three

“ Addiction is just a way of trying to get at something else. Something bigger. Call it transcendence if you want, but it’s a rat in a maze.” – – Unknown

On January 11th of this year I turned thirty-three years sober. On February 13th it will be twenty-one years without a cigarette. I don’t know what may be next, but it’s sure not coffee. I turn sixty-five years old on January 31st, so I’ve effectively been sober for more years I’ve been in the world than not. Or as I replied to a person who said to me the other day “Wow – thirty-three years without a drink!,” “Yeah and I’ve even been sober some of that time.”

Like most, my years of sobriety have had their ups and downs. I absolutely pounded AA meetings at first, probably hitting an average of two a day for my first six months in the program. After a major wave of emotion thawed out, and getting myself into a triangle relationship at the AA club I was going to (that’s a whole other essay), I found myself hurting and at a loss with how to deal with it. I stayed away from the club to avoid the triangle situation, and drifted for about a year. I got into running. A lot. When I got sober I weighed two hundred and twenty pounds. At one and a half years of sobriety I weighed one hundred and thirty-five as a result of result of constantly running twelve to fifteen miles daily. I finally collapsed into depression and got myself into therapy, which led to attending Adult Children Of Alcoholics meetings.

From year two of sobriety (1991) through about year fourteen (1995) I don’t think I went to a single AA meeting. None. Nada. I certainly don’t say this to advocate for going it alone. I did continue to go to ACA meeting until they all dwindled to about nothingness in the spring of 1991. I tried Al-Anon and I just couldn’t get into it. Also in the “in-between” years, I became a Third Degree Reiki (I’m not real keen on the term “reiki master”) and also an initiate in the medicine buddha healing system. I meditated my brains out for years, and although a lifetime dysthymic, managed to maintain a pretty nice sense of contentment. If I had the years to do over again, honestly, I’d probably do the same. I have little regret, and very much value everything I learned in the healing systems and also in therapy. The one thing I wish could change? Loneliness.

I finally meandered back into Al-Anon in 2005. It eventually led to sporadic attendance for some years at AA, interacting only intermittently with sponsors or sponsees. It was not until last summer that I began regular AA attendance again. I sorely miss my live Al-Anon home group that Covid is having its way with. I think as a result of little interaction with people in AA or otherwise for years, my relationship skills are a bit stunted. Also I quickly remembered the happiness that the fellowship can bring me. Though I’ve attended Al-Anon for years, I know only one slogan that is constantly with me: participation is the key to harmony. Indeed.

Though still continue to engage often in what some might view as isolation, I’m pretty comfortable in my own skin. There are solitary activities that I do like running, playing my guitar and reading that I’d rather not turn into group activities. (Ever invite anybody over to read silently?) Still, the warmth of the fellowship always seems to call me back whether it be after days away, weeks, or even years. As I said earlier, I sure don’t advocate doing recovery my way. I also know I haven’t had a drop of alcohol in the last thirty-three years. There is indeed a difference between not drinking and being sober, but the big 33 is still something to celebrate.



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