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From the April 2017 magazine.

A Room for My Heart

A woman finds a new home group after moving to a new town

For so many years, I was excruciatingly unaware of, I ignored or was simply incapable of embracing the invitations I constantly recieved from God. Invititations to do the next right thing. Invitations to change the destructive path on which I traveled. I only know this now as I review my life in the rear view mirror.

After an intense AA relationship of 15 months, Bryan and I were ready to take it to the next level and move in together. We both own homes, so we looked to circumstance to make the choice for us and the decision was made that I would be the one to move. 

Although only two towns over in rural southern Rhode Island, I found myself quickly engaging in a new and different recovery community. I had belonged to the same home group for over eight years, We Want To Live Group in Kingston, and found myself having to find a new group.

It was a difficult decision leaving that group as my heart was planted there. I learned a lot sitting in the chair right in front of the podium. I heard hundreds of speakers share their experience, strength and hope while seated in that chair. I held every group level position there—several more than once and grew up in AA in that very room.

As difficult as it was, it only made sense that I would try to find a home group that would be closer to my new home. The obvious choice was the Westerly Friday Night Group. This had been Bryan's group for many years. It's the only speaker stand-up group in that town and I was raised that a speaker group is a very important part of meaningful, contented sobriety.

I know many of the amazing women that attend that group. It's an active and very healthy and well-attended group. It made sense. The problem was that I work on Friday nights in a family-owned resturant that is open on weekends for eight and a half months out of the year. The only time I can actually attend a Friday night group is over the winter. For the remainder of the year, my participation in that group would be limited to attending commitments. Part of me balked at that idea thinking that if I can't get there for most of the year, I wouldn't be a very good group member. The other part of me argued that it would be OK as long as I was active with the group by going on commitments year around.

Afterall, many group members don't ever go on commitments. At least I would be doing that. But I still had a nagging idea and my ego persisted in reminding me that I might be seen as engaging in half measures by not being able to attend regularly. The voices in my head told me over and over that others would judge my attendance and think of me as less than a perfect group member. These ideas haunted me and my disease told me I would never truly feel a part of there. Could I really with good conscience choose a home group that I knew I couldn't attend for over eight months of the year?

These questions plagued me for months. I tried to attend a new Step meeting regularly and considered making that my new home group but it just didn't feel right. To me, my home group needed to be a speaker meeting. Spring and summer came and went and I was no closer to a decision. Anniversary time was approaching and I had never been without a home group at which to acknowledge the passing of another year without a drink. Last year, one son gave me my card and the other gave me my 8-year cake on Thanksgiving Day! Not much is better than that. This year, not only do I not have a home group but it couldn't possibly fall on Thanksgiving unless I could find another Thursday night group!

I felt disconnected. I felt like I was missing something very significant. My anniversary came and went with no formal acknowledgement. I had decided around this time to join the Westerly Friday Night Group and deciding to act as if. Act as if my heart belonged there, hoping that eventually it would feel like it really did. Thanksgiving weekend came and I missed spending the holiday evening in the hall where I had spent the last eight years. The next night we went to the that Friday Night meeting. Still no connection. Sure lots of friendly conversation and familiar faces, but still something missing. My heart just wasn't in it. I can't explain it anymore than that.

The restaurant closed for the season a couple of weeks later and my ability to consistently attend the Friday Night meeting became a reality. Just before that very first Friday that would begin my regular attendance, a schedule change in our respective men's and women's groups on Tuesday nights occured that afforded Bryan and I the opportunity to plug in an extra meeting that doesn't generally fit in our schedule.

It is hosted in a small basement room of the same church at which the Friday Night meeting is held in the large fellowship hall upstairs. As we approached the building, I noticed a sign on the door indicating that a labyrinth was available for guests to enjoy that very evening in another part of the church. I told Bryan I thought that was interesting and casually mentioned that maybe we should check it out after the meeting. We then proceeded downstairs and enjoyed a very comfortably ordinary AA meeting. I sensed nothing unusual.

After the meeting as we were leaving, Bryan asked if I wanted to check out the labyrinth and I said sure. Part of our AA recovery includes hosting couples meditation gatherings and finding other ways to work our 11th step so I thought, why not? I was actually excited by the prospect of stumbling upon an opportunity to experience such a thing and loved to acknowledge God providing the unexpected opportunity, so up the stairs we went.

As we approached the fellowship hall, I could feel a sense of calm come over me and a feeling of anticipation at the same time. We saw that shoes were to be removed so we removed our shoes and proceeded in.

The room had been completely transformed. The lights were dim, beautiful soft music was playing, candles adorned the periphery of the room, the entire room had been completely cleared of contents and a huge fabric labyrinth was laid  out on the floor. I was mesmorized. Several people were making their way around the labyrinth. I must have looked somewhat lost as an older woman approached and gave me simple instructions.

She pointed to where to begin and whispered the suggestion that when I got to the center, to take a moment there to reflect or simply to listen. So I began to walk. I wasn't sure at which pace to go. I wasn't sure if I should step and pause and then step again as if walking down the aisle or step steadily. I just didn't know. Turns out it didn't matter a bit. In the following moments, as I awkwardly took each step around the labyrinth, not knowing what I was doing, I felt the overwhelming presence of God. As I stared into the candles that adorned the room, the message I heard was simple. I was being invited, no it was more than that. God was imploring me to to stop hesitating. To bring my heart into that room. How clear it was. This is the room in which I feel and find God. 

This is the room where I find my AA recovery and therefore God and therefore my life as I know it today as a result of attendance and participation in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. This room is no different than the other one  that had held my heart for the previous eight years. It is no different than thousands of other rooms that offer the same comfort and hope that is sought by countless others seeking our fellowship. Why hadn't I been able to recognize that before? Tears came then and I knew in a deeper way than I ever could've arrived at on my own, that this was in fact my new home. This room had everything in it that I need. It contained God. It contained AA. And in that moment it even contained the man I love. I almost had to laugh out loud at God's clarity.

I believe now with in hind sight, that God had been trying to lead me here in many ways prior to that evening but he had a stubborn alcoholic who is still full of self-will to deal with. He chose to spell it out in an unmistakable way by bringing my physical body into that very room and revealing himself there in a way that I was not capable of seeing prior to that. I needed the reminder that God is present in that room (and all of the others) and that I need only allow myself to remember that and set aside prejudice and preconceived ideas and unwillingness to change in order to witness that. I really felt kind of silly and incredibly grateful that God didn't give up on me. That I was finally willing to hear what he had been trying to tell me all along.

I am happy to say that a few weeks have gone by and I now longer harbor any reservations. I have allowed my heart to settle in there. I have taken on a group-level job which is affording me the opportunity to genuinely feel a part of. I will do my best to be a member in good standing there in whatever ways I can and am confident that my group members will understand when my work prevents me from attending. More importantly, I know that I have stepped aside once again, gotten out of my own way and been bathed in God's grace yet again.

Whenever I accept an invitation from my Higher Power, I am led to greater understanding and growth than I ever could've imagined.

—Lisa S.

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