A Walk to Remember

by Kimmie O.

I remember walking in to my first AA meeting. I was already a few months sober. I held out as long as I possibly could during my months of treatment from attending one of those meetings. I went through detox and successfully finished outpatient therapy. Although discussed in great length during treatment, I saw no need to join those people. At my last group session, I was told by my counselor, “Kimmie, it’s time.”

“What?! Time? Time for what?” I thought. I didn’t want to hear those words. I didn’t want to leave my little recovery group. I just wanted to stay where I was. And at this time, I was in the comfort of my own home attending what is now considered a pretty remarkable concept in substance abuse treatment: online, intensive outpatient therapy. And the first four months of my sobriety, I developed the ideology that I could remain completely anonymous in my disease. “I’ve been doing just fine without AA,” I thought. “I most certainly do not need it now.”

I was clean for six months and doing very well (even had a neat sober app show my 183 days of clean time to prove it). I had my textbooks on addiction, my pamphlet from recovery, and my journal from outpatient therapy. I was golden, “What’s a big book anyway?”

I found every way to convince myself that attending AA was pointless. It’s full of crazy people. It’s nothing but a bunch of old fuddy-duds yammering away about fishing tales. It probably smells like cigarettes in a cloudy room full of raspy, middle-aged women. Or the worst of them all, it’s really a place for preying men to pick up vulnerable chicks. No sir. There was no 90-in-90 for me. I was perfectly fine without AA.

It’s amazing how easily I allowed fear to set it. I could not imagine attending a meeting in my town. Surely, people would see me and know that I was an alcoholic. I found comfort behind my computer screen instead. So, I did what any level-headed alcoholic would do; I hid.

It wasn’t until a friend of mine in long-term recovery convinced me to set foot into a coffee-guzzling, AA Big Book-doting, long stairwell into a church room that I had the courage to attend my first AA meeting. I decided to finally attend AA because I did not want to continue the stigma of alcoholism. There’s more to life than just stopping the drinking. That’s only one aspect of recovery. I became willing to the idea that recovery was a way of life, not just an act of abstinence. I also realized this is where the big book comes into play. AA is simply a group of people who have one thing in common, their desire to quit drinking. And the big book is an instructional manual of sorts to help me along this journey.

So I gave in and went to my first AA meeting with my friend. The club was in the most northern part of Minnesota you could be in without crossing into Canada, in a small town called Baudette.

Even with the support from my friend, I was scared and intimidated, “They’re all going to stare at me,” I thought. But no one did. Instead, they smiled and shared stories of how they overcame their own struggles.

“Surely, they’ll judge me,” I thought. But they did not. Rather, they opened up, showed their vulnerabilities and imperfections to others.

“I don’t belong here with these people,” I argued to myself. But, for the first time in my life, I felt more at home than anywhere else.

For the first time, I wasn’t judged. For the first time, I wasn’t shamed. And for the first time, I felt the presence of a new family that promised to welcome me back with open arms without any reservations.

And return, I did.

Three years ago, I fell in love with these rooms and the people who frequent them. I now frequent the Uptown House during my many visits into the cities.

Whether I’m in town for a few hours or a few weeks, I always find my way home. This home. The Uptown House.

In all their perfect imperfections, they are my kind of people. They are my family now. And I wouldn’t trade any of them.

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