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Grapevine : August 2011
looked young, healthy and strong. I wanted to chain smoke. Later, we sat in her bedroom talking. There were papers on the floor. "I'm doing my Fourth Step," she explained. She picked up a page at random and started reading to me about how her mother belittled her and how her own part included complying with her mother's wishes in exchange for money and gifts. She had written about fear, resentment and shame. She had dug deep. Ev- ery part of me felt the truth, that I needed to do this very thing as well. The truth whispered in my mind: I did not drink for taste or pleasure. I drank to blur memories and obscure regrets, to muffle fear and silence the voices of doubt and despair. She brought me to my first meeting a few days later and I have been sober ever since. The common bond of AA gave us unlimited ways to share our thoughts on things that really mattered: sobriety, a Higher Power, righting our wrongs, seeing our character defects. We talked on the phone for hours until we both fell asleep, receivers still in our hands. She heard my Fifth Step. We watched each other emerge from the encasement of alcoholism. We dust- ed off our true selves and stepped out into the open air and light. Most of all, we celebrated our freedom and the first real measure of self esteem that either of us had ever known. A friend in AA speaks a language of healing and hope that other friends do not know. With any good friend I can share laughter, concerns and even sorrows. Only my AA friends know and understand the insidious destructive thinking that lies dor- mant in me, ready to awaken when- ever I am prepared to feed it with a deteriorating spiritual condition. Her first slip began before I even noticed it. Our conversations gradu- ally began to unfold like a whirlpool, beginning with the program, Steps, newcomers and meetings and grad- ually spiraling toward the center, which consisted entirely of fears, re- sentment and insecurity. I found my- self taking the role of sponsor, trying to steer her to the program's prin- ciples to solve her dilemmas. I began to feel like a life coach, parent, and, finally, a voice of reason. By then she was gone, off and running on booze, pills, drugs and men to rescue her. Two barflies turn sober within months of each other, become sisters in AA, truly bonded through the Fellowship. One relapses, the other doesn't. Why? There were no real answers. 14 August 2011