My name is Sammy and I’m an alcoholic. I am also young, mixed race, a felon, poor, queer, a dope fiend and, to top it all off, a year into sobriety (this time), I “came out” as transgender and started medically transitioning.
It has been a struggle to feel like I belong in the AA rooms sometimes. My alcoholic mind is always trying to find ways to set me apart from other people. When I go to regular meetings or roundups, I feel different. No one here is queer, I sometimes think. Everyone is so old. There are no people of color.
Even when I go to Young People’s AA meetings and events, I can feel different. No one here has been to prison, I think. They never lost the things I did. When I go to LGBTQ meetings and events, again I have felt different. No one understands me, I think. I have sat through plenty of meetings in the pain of loneliness and isolation this past year. But thankfully, that pain has been mostly removed today.
I am so grateful for this Fellowship. I’m grateful that I had people in AA who did not let me push myself away. These people honored my identities and experiences, while always reminding me of the similarities I share with all alcoholics.
One man in particular not only saved my life but enriched it in ways I couldn’t imagine were possible. My service sponsor, Dave, who is in his 60s, is white, straight and Catholic. We couldn’t be more different from each other. The two things we share are our alcoholism and our love for this program.
When Dave found out I was transgender, he didn’t even bat an eye. He calmly replied that he had sponsored a young transgender man before. His openness knocked down all of my defenses. Next thing I knew, he was inviting me to speak about my experiences as a transgender alcoholic at a local AA forum. Then we were off to the Pacific Region AA Service Assembly (PRAASA) and the Pacific Northwest Conference (PNC). He took me to one service conference after another.
He introduced me to people, pushing me to participate. I started to connect with people. I made friends. These friends were often very, very different than me. Dave showed me my experiences were valuable, especially when it came to carrying the message to the still-suffering alcoholic. He insisted that no matter what, service would connect me to others.
Thank God for service. If there is one thing that I’ve learned in this program it’s that, as our Big Book says, “when all other measures failed, work with another alcoholic would save the day.”
Time and time again, this has proven true for me. What I have found is that all the things that I believe make me in one way or another “terminally unique” have actually made me uniquely qualified to reach the queers, crackpots and my other fallen fellows. The highlights of my sobriety have been the times I have been available to Twelfth Step my fellow transgender alcoholics. While it’s often heartbreaking and tragic, I have found “happiness, peace, and usefulness, in a way of life that is incredibly more wonderful as time passes.”
Through it all, I have found belonging in a Fellowship I have certainly struggled to find my place in. Coupled with patience and time, I have found other alcoholics who are just like me.
Recently, I was at the Western Area Conference of Young People in AA (WACYPAA). Again, I found myself feeling isolated and alone. Then, during a talk by one of the evening’s main speakers, I got a tap on the shoulder. A friend of mine asked me if I would be willing to talk to a newcomer with less than 24 hours of sobriety. She was young and transgender and feeling very isolated and alone. I said yes and we got to talking.
I shared a story with her about the time I got the opportunity to attend the International Convention in 2015. Thousands and thousands of alcoholics were running around the city of Atlanta and yet there I was feeling stuck in the pit of self-pity. I had just come from the sober LGBTQ dance, and in a moment of lonely desperation, I shouted in my mind to the universe, Why can’t I just meet another transgender alcoholic!
Later on, around 3:00 a.m. at my hotel, I went outside to smoke a cigarette. I struck up a conversation with a woman who was also out for a smoke. I told her about being transgender and that I was struggling and wished I could meet other transgender alcoholics.
What a God moment I experienced when she told me that she was also transgender! We shared a good cry over our discovery of each other, and over the next few days she introduced me to transgender alcoholics from all over the U.S.
I promised this newcomer that if she stuck around long enough for the miracle to happen, like me, she too would no longer be alone.