An Addict's First Meeting
The previous chapter in this three-part series features (My Journey Into Recovery: Part I) my journey to rock bottom. In this chapter, I will share with you my experience of the first few months of recovery, and how I achieved it. Now, nearly five years on, I’m able to also share how we all recover differently.At my rock bottom, I had reached a place of surrender. Physically, I was very sick and suffering alcohol poisoning--I spent three nights on my bathroom floor. Emotionally I was shattered into a million pieces; thoroughly broken. Mentally, I was acutely depressed. I had a breakdown. Some might call it a breakthrough. My apartment looked like a bomb site: 14 bottles of wine, packets of codeine, cigarette ends, strewn around. Blood everywhere.
I might have made it through the acute effects of alcohol poisoning, but what I was left with was a shell of a person. A very bloated one--I had gained 150 pounds by drinking, using and binge-eating. Mentally, I had zero comprehension of who I was, or how I had ended up there. My soul was crushed.
The best description I have heard of the first few weeks of recovery, was like someone turned the volume right up and put the lights on full blast. I felt like I was on a theater stage.
Yet, I was compelled to walk this new path.
I was fortunate to have a family member in AA. They gave me a meetings list, their heartfelt words of encouragement and a message. That message was the one I pass on today: you never need to drink or use again, one-day-at-a-time.
They gave me a meetings list, their heartfelt words of encouragement and a message. That message was the one I pass on today: you never need to drink or use again, one-day-at-a-time.
I summoned enough courage and might to walk those, what felt like monumental steps into my first meeting. I’m told that I exclaimed, ‘I’m new!’ and collapsed into a chair, with a thud. At that moment, I felt utterly defeated.
My first meeting spoke to me with a language that I was finally ready to hear. Yes, it had the message of hope that I need never drink again, no matter what the circumstances, but there was something there that I can’t tangibly describe. Maybe it was grace; it was a light that was so bright I was stunned—like a deer caught in the headlights. Words that were spoken resonated with my soul. I finally heard that I wasn’t alone, first and foremost. Second, I heard people just like me, with stories just like me. Right before my eyes were people weeks, months, years clean and sober-from all walks of life. And they appeared to be genuinely happy! I was astonished.
Despite feeling incredibly uncomfortable -- it was like facing myself in each and every one of them -- I stayed in my seat. I felt compelled to stay. I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me when people shared at me. The honesty with which they spoke was piercing.
Yet I stayed. I did what was suggested. I went to the next meeting and the one after that. And I asked for help.
That was the story of my first few months of recovery: meeting, fellowship coffee, getting a sponsor, talking, writing. Repeat.
I will be forever grateful to AA.
However, in my work with the world-wide recovery community, I am conscious that not everyone finds their recovery in a 12-step fellowship. There are many ways to get addiction help, you must find what works for you, in your life, under your circumstances. The following actions are essential to my recovery, and do not require attendance at meetings.
However, in my work with the world-wide recovery community, I am conscious that not everyone finds their recovery in a 12-step fellowship. There are many ways to recover, you must find what works for you, in your life, under your circumstances.
My two most compelling personal changes, were finding a means of expression, and asking for help.
My voice began with a whisper, and today I project it confidently. I was encouraged to write as a means of marshalling my thoughts and connecting with myself. I cannot recommend this activity enough. Initially, I was so lost and so disconnected, I had no idea what to write; so I began with my plan for the day and how I felt. At the end of the day, I wrote about what I had done that day and any thoughts/revelations. What started as half a page, became a stack of written journals. I still write today, nearly five years on.
Asking for others help was frightening, but I realized the mess I was in and that I needed addiction help. I talked through my issues, and asked for workable suggestions to get me out of the mess I had made. That could be therapy, working with a sponsor, using a CBT-based app. It is fundamental to any program or means of recovery, to work through your issues. Today, I still ask for help every day; that is my truest sign of humility that I cannot recover alone.
Today, I still ask for help every day; that is my truest sign of humility that I cannot recover alone.
In the next (and last) chapter of this series, I will share with you how I took my recovery to the next stage, by living a healthy life in recovery and losing nearly 50 pounds.
Located in Portland, OR, Olivia Pennelle (Liv) is an experienced writer, journalist, and coach. She is the founder of the popular site Liv’s Recovery Kitchen, a site dedicated to helping people flourish in their recovery. Liv is passionate about challenging limiting mentalities and empowering others to direct their own lives, health, and recovery. You can find her articles across the web on podcasts and addiction recovery websites, including The Fix, Recovery.org, Ravishly, and The Recovery Village. Liv was recently featured in VICE.