**submitted by Anonymous
A note from Robin: Today's contributor is posting anonymously, to respect the wishes of the recovery group to which she belongs. As always, we welcome her story as her story, not as a recommendation for any one approach or perspective. We invite all voices of addiction and recovery, and if you have a story we hope you'll consider sharing with us as well.
When I was near the end of my drinking career, I was utterly alone. I had just gotten married a few months earlier, but in my disease, I couldn't see him, my family, my job, myself. When I awoke in the morning, I managed to get myself to work and home again, but as soon as I walked in the door, I grabbed a pack of cigarettes, my first drink of the evening, and a book or my telephone, and then I hit the back porch -- my haven.
I lived in my own little world then and I know that, but for Alcoholics Anonymous, I would either still be in that dark place, minus the husband and job, most likely. I would not have my child. I might even be dead. My family could barely tolerate me. My husband didn't know what do to with me. I had no friends.
Why am I sharing this?
Over the past few months, I have been interacting with more and more women online who struggle with alcoholism. Some of them are in Alcoholics Anonymous. Others prefer to go it alone by either moderating or abstaining altogether. Some have told their friends and loved ones, but others have not yet worked up the courage to tell anyone of the demon that is haunting them on a daily basis. A common theme that I have noticed is a sense of isolation shared by so many of them. Some of these women feel that they can't talk to their families, but they are afraid of going to Alcoholics Anonymous.
I won't know anyone!
I'm afraid I will know someone there!
It's a common debate that many alcoholics have with themselves and others before finally walking through the doors of Alcoholics Anonymous. I did.
Some of these women have chosen to reach out to other women online, making their online groups a life line.
I see it happening, and I am afraid for them.
I am afraid that they place too much reliance on a group of unknown strangers who have lives elsewhere, husbands elsewhere, children elsewhere, deadlines and commitments elsewhere. I am seeing it now, as voices start to ask where everyone is, why is everyone so quiet.
I am afraid for the newcomers who wonder where everyone has gone. Who can they talk to? Is anyone there?
For the newcomer, that sense of isolation is the scariest feeling in the world. That is the fear that leads one to think that no one is watching, no one is listening, no one cares, everyone is too busy having their easy time of sobriety to pay attention to the still-struggling alcoholic who is reaching out over the internet.
I know I haven't been that active in my online group . . . I work. I have a career. I have meetings to attend (three a week). I have a mommy group in which I am active. I attend church. I still love reading a book, but I also love writing, and I do it often, for pleasure and for work.
I'm still there, though.
The thing, for me, though, is that the online group is recreational for me. It is an opportunity for me to interact with other women who struggle with alcoholism, but it is not the place I go to maintain my sobriety. I am there to socialize.
The idea that I would want to socialize with other women would have been completely foreign to me a few years ago. Women were to be mistrusted, envied, watched, guarded against. I had nothing in common with other women.
That is where I was when I entered Alcoholics Anonymous, but that is not what I found, and that is the reason I wanted to write this post today.
I want to share with you the sponsoring system to which my sponsor introduced me.
I work the steps with my sponsor. She works the steps with her sponsor. There are more than ten other women who are also working the steps with my sponsor. She has nearly 20 years of sobriety and she is very active in the program. She also takes her responsibility to carry the message to the still-struggling alcoholic very, very seriously. When I call her, she might not be able to answer the phone, and she won't call me back if I don't specifically ask her to, but when I do need her to call me back, she will do it at the first chance she gets.
The burden of making that contact is on me.
I am responsible for my sobriety. I am responsible for making the effort to reach out to her, to share with her what is going on with me, to attend meetings, to work the steps.
I have responsibilities for my own well-being, and I accept those responsibilities.
In return, once a month, my sponsor hosts all of her sponsees (and their sponsees) for a group meeting at her home. It gives us the chance to know each other, to share our experience, strength, and hope with a group of women who are all working the same program. Some of them are mothers. Some aren't. Some of them are highly educated. Some aren't. We are from all different walks of life, different socio-economic backgrounds, different races, different, different, different. But we have a common bond -- this woman who started this network of women.
The result is that there are about 20 women in my local area that I can call when I want a girl's night out. We go to meetings together. We have become friends, instead of just a bunch of drunks trying to stay sober. One of those women even hosted my baby shower, when I learned that I was pregnant in sobriety!
The system that my sponsor has is unique, in a way. At least, I am not familiar with other sponsors who host group meetings like she does. It has made all the difference in the world in my program, though!
That's what I wanted to share. I know that the online connections can be so valuable. I know, because I am there, too, but it's not enough.
I'm sorry if that offends anyone, but it's not. It's important to get out. It's important to interact with other people who share a common bond. It's important to take proactive measures to ensure our own sobriety, rather than waiting for others to respond to a message through an email. It's important, and it is available.
Maybe I am hoping that there are those who will read this, who will understand the value I place on that sponsorship circle my own sponsor has created. Maybe there are women out there who will consider doing the same for women in their own cities or towns. Maybe there are women who could really benefit from getting out of the house, meeting women from whom they don't have to hide this horrible secret. Maybe there are women out there who feel lonely, isolated, and afraid, with no women to whom they can turn, or who would care if they did.
Alcohol isolates us, but it doesn't have to be that way.
To the alcoholic who is out there, afraid to reach out, to go to a meeting, to have the face-to-face contact with others, to overcome that fear of being recognized, I just want to say, simply: You don't have to do it alone, and you might just get more than you ever dreamed of through reaching out in your own community, beyond your sobriety. You might just find a group of people whom you proudly call "friend," and mean it.
Thanks for letting me share.