I admitted that a year ago when I woke up hung over at 4:30 AM and Googled “AA [my city]” instead of going back to bed in hopes another couple hours of sleep would help. They wouldn’t. For the first time, I knew, really and truly knew, that the only thing that would help was not drinking anymore, ever. Not exercising moderation better. I had tried and failed at that. My only hope was sobriety. It had saved my father, and it could save me.
I had just had a cancer scare. The day I got the wonderful news that the biopsy was negative, I learned a man I knew was dying of liver cancer. He was around my age, a good-looking, smart, successful professional whom no one would have guessed was that bad. I felt a cold lump of fear: that could be me.
So I went to a crack of dawn meeting, walked into that room with so many more men than women, some of them kind of rough looking, and forced myself to share. I was afraid that if I didn’t share, I would walk out of there without having talked to anyone, made any kind of connection, and might never come back. Might go home determined not to drink but by mid-afternoon would be heading to the grocery story to replace the wine I had poured down the sink that morning.
Sharing that morning was one of the hardest things I ever did. I am not afraid to speak in front of crowds. On the contrary; I love public speaking. But this was different. This wasn’t me in a smart suit and high heels clicking away at a PowerPoint. This was me hung over, clutching my coffee cup as though it was some kind of security blanket and being totally honest and vulnerable in front of these strangers, many of whom looked so different from me, and told stories of hitting a much lower and scarier bottom than I had with alcohol, but whom I could sense were kindred spirits.
I said those words: “I’m [my name], and I’m an alcoholic.” “Hi, [my name],” they all chorused warmly, because that’s what people do at AA. And I told them how scared I was, scared enough to come here and ask for help – their help, God’s help, whoever’s help – because I didn’t know what else to do.
After the meeting, several kind women came up to talk to me. One of them had written her phone number on an AA flyer, with a note that addressed me by name. When I looked at my name in her neat printing, spelled correctly, my breathing slowed. I couldn’t speak for a moment, kept looking at it, not quite able to fathom what I saw. I know it doesn’t sound like a big deal. So she spelled my name right. So what? This is what: in some-odd decades on this earth, no one – not a single human being – has ever spelled my name correctly without my spelling it for them. And sometimes, even when I do spell it for them, they don’t write what I say. I’ve sat there and watched them spell it wrong, even as I’m spelling it aloud for them.
But that woman at the AA meeting spelled it right. On her own. I asked her why she had spelled it that way, and she said, “It’s funny. When I was starting to write it, I lifted up the pen and paused, not sure how to spell it. So I asked God.”
That may sound corny and ridiculous, but it didn’t feel that way to me at the time. It felt like the sign we always ask God for but never get, a sign that I was doing the right thing and I was going to be okay. That is what people in AA call a “God shot” and I would normally call a coincidence. But that wasn’t a normal day. That was the day I admitted my drinking was out of control and I needed help. That day, a ray of hope penetrated the spiritual darkness that had engulfed me since my divorce, and I called it a God shot, too.