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A Sober Woman of Dignity

Sister, Middle East

My name is not important. I'm a grateful alcoholic and a Catholic nun. I was born into a family that was very, very VERY religious in external practices (not Catholic, as it happens) and very, very VERY abusive on the inside. In fact, my parents often used religion to justify the physical, sexual and emotional abuse and the neglect. My childhood was pretty much a disaster. By 14 I was a skinny, silent, angry girl. At school I walked down the corridors with my eyes cast down and my shoulder brushing the wall at all times. I both didn't want to "take up space" in the middle of the hall and had a hair-trigger temper.

By 15 I was a daily drunk. I ran away from home for good that year and started living on the streets, supporting myself the way girls and women living on the streets often have to support themselves. It was a very degrading lifestyle; from that time and for the following 13 years I was in and out of jails and mental hospitals. I got and gave beatings. I lied and stole, cheated and prostituted myself.

The day that changed my life was June 14th, 1983. I'd spent the previous night with a man in a cheap hotel room. That morning I woke up and reached down for my vodka bottle. Empty. I shook the guy awake and screamed at him to give me money so I could get to the liquor store.

He went ballistic, started beating me. I was used to being beaten and I fought back. He reached into his briefcase and I thought he was going for a gun; instead he pulled out the hard cover 3rd edition of the Big Book and used it as a club. He *literally* hit me upside the head with the Big Book. I decided this guy was really a psycho and tried to leave. Long story short, he locked me in the room and left, leaving me the Big Book.

I was locked up all day long and I started getting sick. I read the book, but to tell the truth, it didn't strike me as anything but pious, simpering, poorly written nonsense. The man came back in the evening. He made me get in the car - I was already pretty sick - and drove me to a place where on one side of the street was a bar and a pizza joint and on the other side was the county alcohol detox. He pointed to the detox and said, "If you want to live, you'll go in there." I thought he was threatening to kill me, so I went into the detox to hide out. I figured I'd leave in a day or two and he'd be just a bad memory.

A miracle happened there. I became sick and tired of being sick and tired. At one point I said to a staff member "I don't want to get like those women in the dorm." "You *are* like them," he said. It was one of those moments of clarity. I was 28 years old and I'd had my last drink. Thanks to my HP and the tools of AA I've never had another.

I started going to AA meetings in detox and rehab and I went to a meeting the day I got out of rehab. (Actually I got kicked out of rehab and they said I'd never make it. I stayed sober for the first six months on spite alone.) At one of those early meetings I met the lady who became my sponsor and stayed my sponsor for 21 years, until she died. She taught me tons, not only about working the program, but also about being a woman, a sober woman of dignity. In many, many ways, she re-birthed me. I try to pay back that infinite debt of gratitude by living the way she taught me - a spiritual life based on working the 12 steps and using the tools of AA every day of my life.

If I tell about all the miracles - and all the hard work - in AA, this will be even longer than it already is. So having said "what it was like", and given a hint about "what happened", I'd like to tell you about "what it is like now".

It's not all ice cream and roses. I have cancer. I have other physical disabilities and I live in pain. I still have to deal with my difficult personality, but I also know that I have the choice of using healthy spiritual tools to deal with myself instead of blame and resentment. One thing that totally amazes me is that almost everyone who meets me these days likes me. I still am so surprised that I am likeable. Another amazing thing is that I am usually cheerful, without even trying. I am in touch with my feelings and I let them show, appropriately and always taking responsibility for my own stuff and trying to ignore the other guy's stuff. (Not easy, another life-long project.)

Here are a few more things about me: Although I dropped out of 8th grade to run away from home, in sobriety I finished school and went to university and even earned advanced degrees. I am a published writer. I sang blues and played guitar in bars while I was drinking, and I still sing and play - but a different repertoire! I like needlework and I knit, crochet, embroider, tat and make pillow (bobbin) lace. I love cats, but don't have one now. I love everything to do with computers and have taught myself a lot about hardware and software. I have a very strong, vital spiritual life and spend from six to eight hours a day in prayer. (I became a nun after 19 years of sobriety because the pull became just too strong to resist.) I love walking and one of the hardest things about my disabilities is that I've had to give up urban hiking, which was my hobby.

Oh, I guess I should add that I got sober in California (USA) and for the last 20 years or so I've been living abroad in a place where war and terrorism are almost daily events. I don't think I could have coped without what I learned in AA. The not drinking is just the beginning. AA didn't just save my life; it gave a whole new, unimaginably full and joyous one.

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