Our managing editor, Rev. Dr. Cynthia Cavalcanti, is back this month with a post to celebrate her 29th sobriety birthday!
In gratitude, harmony and support,
A Wonderful Person with an Alcohol Addiction
Today is my sobriety birthday! On June 29, 1988, I enjoyed an early, three-martini lunch just before checking into a treatment center for a 30-day inpatient program.
To be clear, I did not enter treatment for alcoholism, as I was not one of those awful people with a drinking problem. I knew people like that, and I certainly was not one of them.
At the time, I had been abstinent in OA for a year. After months and months of abstaining from starving and bingeing and purging, I was an emotional wreck. I was working a strong program, but I needed serious help, so I opted for treatment.
According to the rules, I would not be allowed to consume alcohol during the 30-day stint, even though I was not one of those aforementioned awful people with a drinking problem.
The program was not just for eating disorders. There were anorexics and bulimics, compulsive overeaters, alcoholics, and drug addicts of every description. We hailed from all over the country and all walks of life, but within a few short days, I felt like part of a big family.
Apart from individual therapy and meals (eating disorders dined separately and under close supervision), our time was spent together. Educational sessions, group therapy, meditation, physical activity, and daily 12-step meetings were collective experiences.
Soon I felt equally at home whether I was in an OA meeting or Cocaine Anonymous. I came to identify deeply with people whose stories could not have been more different from mine, as their pain was all too familiar.
I did well, and when it came time to leave, I wanted to stay forever. When I was offered a 16-week outpatient follow-up program, I jumped at the chance.
Then I read the fine print. Once again, I would have to agree not to drink alcohol––this time, for 16 weeks!
I was furious. Actually, if I’m honest, I went into a bit of a rage.
One of the therapists suggested I look more closely at my relationship with alcohol. I scoffed at her, but I was willing to do whatever was required to stay on track with my new way of living.
Another commitment I was required to make was to attend 90 meeting in 90 days. Since I was already accustomed to attending all kinds of 12-step groups, finding a meeting each day was easy. Ironically, most of those meetings were AA.
One summer afternoon, I drove into the parking lot of a church where an AA meeting was held. It was hotter than the hinges of hell. The temperature was around 100 degrees and the humidity about 97 percent. When I discovered the meeting took place outside in a courtyard, I almost left.
Fortunately, something compelled me to stay. During that meeting in the unbearable heat, something magical happened. I cannot remember who was speaking at the time or what he or she said, but I vividly recall a gentle breeze flowing into the courtyard. I closed my eyes and breathed deeply, almost as if to capture the breeze and hold on to it.
In that moment, my life suddenly made sense. In that moment, I realized I was, indeed, an alcoholic. In that moment, I was born anew.
Once I came to understand that alcohol was my primary addiction, the true healing began.
That being said, it turns out I was right about one thing: I was not one of those awful people with a drinking problem. I am one of countless wonderful people with an alcohol addiction. Healing my judgment about “them” and embracing the truth of myself was liberating. And each new day in sobriety is more liberating than the last.
The spiritual journey that is AA has given me life. My health and my happiness would never have been possible without the program. It hasn’t always been easy, but I have never looked back.