by Mary Huber
When I moved into this place, I never imagined it would feel so warm and safe. To be honest, the first few weeks, it scared me. It never looked clean enough. The walls were too white. It was deathly quiet. Four months later, this tiny room has been transformed. I know that this is the sort of thing God does and has nothing to do with my new furniture or the Christmas tree my mom gave me.It’s 34 degrees outside. I can hear the sound of ice falling on the skylight of my 300 square foot garage apartment. A sponsee came over this morning at 9AM, and I listened to her 5th Step on my grandmother’s antique couch that has cigarette burns in it from years ago. In a week, she will celebrate 90 days of sobriety. It has been a gift to walk with her these past three months. She is cute and clever and too smart sometimes for her own good.
I lived in the Benchmark apartments for a year. I was among the very first residents. I can remember unpacking all of the boxes of Tupperware and dishes and putting together the new vacuum. Mostly, I remember doing these things with my friends. It was so fresh and exciting, and I took pictures and sent them to my mom. I think about my year in sober living as one of the very best times in my life. I was surrounded by love and friends. There was so much laughter around those stairwells, smoking cigarettes late at night. My community felt so large and close.
I was not always grateful. There were times I was convinced I needed to go. I can remember calling my sponsor in frustration, declaring without a doubt that this time it was certainly God’s will for me to move out. A lot of potential doors opened for me and were promptly slammed shut. As I saw people around me get places or move home, I would become discontent and jealous. Sometimes, I thought there was something wrong with me that I hadn’t moved on. I can remember having a lot of turmoil inside about it. At some point, I could not live in that turmoil, and I had to let it go. I trusted that God had a plan for me. He had managed to do everything for me that I could never do for myself.
When I started this process in recovery, I had said that I was willing to go to any lengths to stay sober. And I absolutely meant that. Four months at Benchmark? Not a problem. A year in sober living? Of course. I am so grateful that I finally surrendered all of it – that at last I came to a place where I was content to let things play out as they would.
When I could do that, things played out – almost so perfect it makes me laugh. When God saw fit that it was my time to leave the Benchmark apartments, a place was there. My mom was coming into town for a concert and came to visit me. We had been talking about the next step forward. I got on Craigslist and happened to find this little garage apartment in Tarrytown. We went to look at it together, and we loved it. It was cute and small, and the price was right. The owner didn’t run a background check or ask that I make three times the rent. She took a check from my mother and told me I could move in. There was no struggle or fight. When I moved my things in on September 1, there was furniture set up for me and towels in the bathroom. I didn’t need to do anything. I’m not even really sure how something like that happens. But it did. Because God is good.
Recovery is built on transitions. We get to learn to do things we have never done before. I never stayed anywhere a year. I never kept a job more than a few months. I never answered the phone when people called. I never showed up when I said I would be there. There are so many things I have not done. But the really amazing thing is that today I get to do these things with God. And they are so different that way.
I had a lot of ideas about what it looked like to live alone. I can remember being in apartments and wanting to tear down the walls. I felt swallowed and trapped. I would get in my car and drive. Everything I owned had holes in it. Everything smelled like cigarettes and dope. I couldn’t take care of anything. I will admit I was scared that it would come to look this way again. I cried a lot. I went back to the Benchmark apartments a lot. I got overwhelmed and called my sponsor and wrote a lot of fear inventory.
I had quit my job two weeks before I moved and started my first day of class at the University of Texas. My life looked so different, and I felt so lost. What I have to say at this point is how absolutely limited my world looks when I am in fear. I could not even fathom the picture of what my life would become. In my selfish mind with my selfish wants and the insane things I think I need, I always create a life that is small and futile. My experience shows me that.
What God creates is remarkable.
I can remember applying for school at night in the apartments – writing my college essays and building a resume. I was working at Pei Wei. I went to five meetings a week. I met with my sponsor and started sponsoring other women. I went to recovery events with my friends. My life was in the rooms.
I had conceded a long time ago that I did not know how to do college. I have been in and out of school for a decade. A degree was something I knew I could not obtain on my own power. We have to fail at something enough times to know that. So, I left that one to God. I sent in that application, and I went to work at MHD as a customer service manager. A few months later, I got an acceptance letter, and I gave my notice to my boss. When I left work, they threw me a party with cake and ice cream. I can never remember leaving a job like that. The last job that I had in my addiction I was escorted out of the building after being caught by a seven-year-old girl shooting dope in the bathroom.
Going back to school has been a huge blessing. I don’t even know where to begin really. For someone that knows the ins and outs of starting out in college, this has been a totally new experience. I was so terrified at first that I wouldn’t be able to do it, that my recovery would suffer, that I would be too scared to put myself out there and meet people and open up. It was like being a small child again in a big room. But I took everything I learned in the rooms of AA into those classrooms. I showed up ten minutes early. I talked to people. I put things in my calendar and kept appointments. I asked questions. I opened my mouth, even when I was scared to. Before every interview I gave, I asked God to speak through me. Yesterday morning I went to my last class of my first semester. I can say that I have never gotten more out of an experience in my entire life. I feel like every moment I have on that campus is a spiritual experience. And I know, with all of my heart, that this is where God wants me to be. Ten years ago, I entered my first college institution as a journalism major. Now, ten years later, I do work in the field of journalism. God has brought a dream to life.
My world has grown bigger, beyond recovery. I work and study and spend time with my family. A lot of my life is outside of AA. But my heart is in the rooms. That is the place where I found God, and that discovery has made all other things possible. My primary purpose is still to be of service to others, especially those suffering from the disease of addiction. This is what it is still all about for me. The presence of God that entered this room three hours ago when I held my sponsee’s hands and prayed with her – that is what makes this room feel like home. I want to thank her for being willing to share that vital step with me. I have nothing without her. I have nothing without the women I am lucky enough to call my friends. I have nothing without the rooms of AA. Without these, I lose sight of God. And I never want to live that way again.