When I arrived for my 28 day stay in rehab and introduced myself with a brief autobiographical sketch, I was heralded by the other patients as somebody who surely had the “spirituality stuff” down pat. This seemed a reasonable assumption. After all, I possessed two graduate degrees in theology and had just completed 10 years as the ordained minister of a mainline Protestant congregation.
“I feel like a baby bird,” I said during a meeting when I was newly sober. I felt shaky and unsure of myself and like I didn’t know how to do anything as a sober person. I was happy to no longer be a slave to my addiction, but I also had no idea who I was anymore, or how to function in the world as “Sober Julie.” It had taken me a long time to attain sobriety, but once I’d managed to string a few sober days together, I kept going. Throughout the process, I recall feeling uncomfortable in my own skin, all the time. One day in a women’s group I was attending, someone asked, “So, we’re just supposed to learn how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable?” and the answer was “Yes.” With that in mind, I set out to do just that, and eventually I started to feel less and less discomfort. So what did I do exactly? Well, the first thing was coming to believe that I deserved a good life in sobriety, even at the times when all I wanted was to run away and escape from reality. I decided to fake it ‘til I made it.
Before we even decide on what we call ourselves (‘Agnostic’, ‘Secular’, ‘WAAFT’, ‘No-Prayer’, etc.), we should also agree upon what exactly makes an AA group or meeting ‘one of ours’... And yes, we should agree on a name too.
It was the overcast evening of November 3, 1972. I ran screaming out onto 11th Street at the corner of Waverley Place in Greenwich Village from the basement office of Dr. Wolf, my wife’s therapist. I was wild-eyed. Most distraught. Raging. Heartbroken. In a panic.
I opened the door and walked into the room, the first to arrive. Across from me, displayed on the wall were the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. As I read that first step, it got my attention. It was the perfect description of my situation and my life at that moment, and honestly just reading the words filled me with a sense of relief. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.