Thank You Ladies
March 2020 | Puzzled

Thank You Ladies

Bringing meetings to women at a local jail has given new meaning to her sobriety

I was never a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. If I made them, they were general and half-hearted. But in January of 2016 I was coming off a hard year and I decided I needed to make some positive steps. 

At that time, I had more than two years of sobriety, a part-time job and three young children. I did not want to commit to sponsorship, but the idea of service appealed to me greatly. So I set off to investigate service opportunities in the program and was put in touch with the woman who headed the AA women’s corrections program at the county jail. She had an open spot on the rotation.

I went through the orientation process and took my first meeting to the jail a few months later (we worked in pairs). I was nervous the first time I went in, not knowing what to expect. It was intimidating until I was actually in the meeting place and could share my experience, strength and hope just like I would at any other AA meeting. 

I soon grew more and more comfortable with each meeting. The women in the jail might seem different at first, but they were the same as me—alcoholics. The meetings “inside” were a lot like my AA meetings outside. When we shared with one another we looked for our similarities, not our differences.

Then one day after having attended about five of these meetings, I held my first one alone (and it wasn’t by choice, let me tell you). I showed up at the room where I typically met my AA partner for the meeting. I waited and waited until it became clear she wasn’t going to show. So with mounting anxiety, I gathered the AA materials and decided on the meeting format. A few minutes before the hour, I took the bin with the Big Books and started toward the room where the meeting is held. During my walk, I said to myself, You’ve got this…breathe…it’ll be fine.

I arrived at the room and arranged the chairs in a nice circle, doing my calm deep breathing all the while. The first pod came, and it was sizable (bigger than my last group). Then the second pod came, making for quite a large group of women. I began following the chair format I had on a printout in my lap. I had enlisted a couple of the women to read “How It Works” and the statement on anonymity. 

As they were reading, my breathing regulated and I was able to glance around at all these women sitting there. They were alcoholics, just like me. Some were young, some older, some had bright colors streaked in their hair. Some had tattoos. Some had a hard look on their face, and some looked like my mother or one of my aunts. Some looked just like me. 
We then read from the Big Book (a selection I had chosen) and then I opened up the floor for everyone to share. An eager, youngish woman began and talked about not making it to her 8-year-old daughter’s art show because she got drunk that afternoon. She said this disease made her do crazy things. Her mind told her that missing her daughter’s program was a good idea. She ended her share with the powerful image of her daughter sitting, waiting all alone at the bottom of the school steps with her art certificate. 

As I sat there listening, I recalled a similar example of my own insanity. At the pinnacle of my alcoholism, I was picking my two daughters up from their school. My toddler son, Gavin, was in his car seat in the van. I had been feeling extremely anxious that particular day and wanted nothing more than a drink. Gavin was obviously coming down with a stomach flu, as he had vomited about an hour beforehand. But my insanity told me he was fine, and I really needed to go to the store to get my vodka. This made good sense in my mind. 

After the girls got in the car, I headed for the grocery store. I told them Mom needed to pick up “a few things.” Right before we pulled into a parking space in the lot, Gavin threw up everywhere, all over everything. My daughters were upset as I tried my best to inadequately clean the mess and told them it was no big deal. 

“What do you need so bad from the store anyway, Mom?” Alicia asked. I don’t remember what I told her, but I opened the door and immediately made a dash inside the store to get my vodka. 

Insanity. I knew it then, but I didn’t care because sobriety was not my goal; masking my feelings in that moment was.

This woman in jail who had missed her daughter’s art show was the same as me. We were both powerless over alcohol. And the only difference between these women and me was that I hadn’t gotten caught for any illegal behaviors yet.

There was a little bit of crosstalk and heated discussion because one woman stated that the program was a simple one. This upset another woman who exclaimed, “It’s not simple. If it were simple, I wouldn’t be having such a hard time.” 

That’s when I jumped in and shared that the basic principles of AA were indeed simple: going to meetings, getting a sponsor, following the Steps. I said that if we put the same effort into sobriety as we did our drinking, we had a very good chance of staying sober. Simple concepts…but not always easy ones to carry out.

The buzzer sounded and I realized we had actually gone over our allowed hour. As the women moved toward the door, a few of them turned around to thank me. 

“No, thank you, ladies,” I told them. “Thank you.”

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