I was three weeks sober when I traveled to Colorado to visit my family for Thanksgiving. I was excited, but scared. I was going back to a town filled with old drinking buddies and favorite watering holes.
I drove over with my dad, whose company helped keep me out of my head. We talked about my drinking a bit, but mostly we talked about life as we watched the mountains go by. Every once in a while I would pull out my big book and read a few pages.
We pulled up to my aunt’s house and went inside. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends greeted us with laughter and hugs. After a hug and high five, my uncle said, “Beer’s in the fridge, Pat.” I went to the kitchen, grabbed a glass from the cupboard, and poured myself some water. I was off to a good start!
While sipping my water, I heard someone say, “Just get a couple drinks in Karen, and she’ll sing karaoke all night!” I didn’t know who Karen was, but I know what “a couple drinks” does to me – and it usually doesn’t end with boisterous karaoke.
I got more anxious as the day went on. I went outside and called my “temporary” sponsor. He shared some stories and encouragement. I made it through the rest of the day, and went to bed sober. Another success!
On Thanksgiving morning, I showered and joined my family for breakfast. My uncle handed me a small bottle of vodka for my orange juice. I read the label, and passed it to my cousin. He looked at me funny, but didn’t say anything.
We talked and played board games for the next few hours. Several people had a beer or glass of wine here and there. I clung to my glass of water, refilling it every 10 minutes.
I started feeling anxious again. I couldn’t put my finger on why, other than that I was three weeks sober and trying to make it through one more day. I told my dad I needed to go to a meeting. He objected, saying, “It’s Thanksgiving! You should spend time with your family.” I looked at him and didn’t say anything. He handed me the keys to his car.
I had written down the addresses and times of a few meetings before I left SLC, so I knew exactly where to go. I parked and went inside. About a dozen people talked quietly, waiting for the meeting to begin. The chairperson welcomed us, and asked someone to read How It Works. I felt a bit calmer.
We went around the room, reading a paragraph or two from the big book. I told the group I was visiting from Salt Lake City. They gave me a sheet of paper with phone numbers I could call if I needed.
I went back to my aunt’s house feeling much freer. I had needed to talk with people who understood my problem, and the AA group was there for me. I had used the tools I learned in AA – I called my sponsor, went to a meeting, and read the big book. I prayed, giving thanks for the opportunity to be with my family, and asking for strength to make it through one more day sober.
My dad and I headed back to Salt Lake City the day after Thanksgiving. I had managed to stay sober for the entire trip. We talked about life as we watched the mountains go by. I knew that this is the life that I want for myself.
—by Patrick M