When I first entered New Life House I really didn’t want any part of it. I had my own beliefs on how i was going to stay sober. Alcoholics Anonymous was a foreign concept to me, and the thought of spending such a long time away from my home-town in San Diego seemed impossible. Fortunately for me, I had nowhere else to go. If I wanted to sleep with a roof over my head, I had to stay in sober living. Luckily, down the line I met some pretty amazing role models, and a community built up around me that I never could have expected.
It was easy at that point to start to believe that I was going to learn everything I would ever need to stay sober while I was in sober living. That isn’t true. I absolutely needed New Life House to be able to stay sober. But, it was really just the roots for a huge tree to grow. In early sobriety I went through a lot of emotional struggles, and I had the mind of a bratty 12 year old. I was told that when young adults start drinking and using, they stop maturing. When I started to get more time sober I started to feel my brain becoming accustomed to thinking again, and my emotions came back in full force. That is where the house came in to the rescue. No matter what struggle I was going through, I always had the management team to talk me through it, and all of my brothers in the house to lean on. In any situation, I knew that I was cared for and that I was in that “bubble” of protection.
Then I graduated. That bubble I mentioned changed, and I was released into the world (albeit with a lot of support). I had learned a lot about myself, and I had become a much different person then I was when I came in. But, I missed a huge part of the learning curve that some of the other house members caught on to early. I missed out on integrating myself into Alcoholics Anonymous.
While a lot of the other house members were meeting people in AA, and trying to build relationships early on, I was just focusing my attention on the house itself. I did my steps with my sponsor, and I put effort into that. But, building a community in Alcoholics Anonymous was something I wasn’t totally willing to do. I was stubborn in the sense that I chose to view AA as wierd, so I used every excuse in the book to shrug off the meetings and the community. However, one day a man with 20 years of sobriety was talking to me at a meeting and told me… “You can believe anything you want about AA. It could be wierd, stupid, or even a waste of time to you… But as long as your feet walked you there and your physically at the meeting, you did the right thing.” After more explanation, what he was saying is that no matter what my conception was on AA, as long as I show up and try, then I should have a fighting chance of staying sober. So, that’s what I did. I suppose that through osmosis I was able to soak in the message of AA and find a collection of meetings that suited my taste. Now it’s at the point where if I miss one of the meetings in my regimen, I feel like I’m missing out on something great. If I would have chosen to get into action sooner, my introduction into life after sober living would have been much less rocky.
That man who talked me into “just showing up” and being open minded wound up being a huge influence on me in sobriety. He has pretty much everything I could ever want – the house, the wife, the kids, the money. But more than that, he is happy with life on life’s terms. He had a comfortability with the world around him, and I definitely wanted that. I had learned so much by being around solid members of New Life House, that I realized you become what you surround yourself with. Since as a graduate I can’t be around the house 24/7 like before, it was time to branch out and solidify my roots in AA. I started going to a book study hosted by the guy with 20 years sobriety, and met some great people there (some of them are even graduates of New Life as well.) Every time I went home after one of those meetings I felt great. Eventually he started going to hospitals and institutions with me to lead meetings there as well. It was at that time I was able to see the meaning of experience, strength, and hope. Seeing the way we effected the lives of a bunch of other young adults was a very powerful feeling that i wouldn’t give up for anything.
The most important thing I have learned so far in sobriety is to not judge things right off the bat. Because of the false conceptions I had about AA, I wound up depriving myself of a great experience for a long time. As soon as I was able to cast aside the preconceived ideas I had, I opened myself up to a lot of new possibilities. Between favorite meetings, hospitals and institutions, book studies, and a community, I have a pretty solid life in AA. As much as I enjoy it, I would say the best part of all of it is being able to take my sponsee to these things and share the experiences with him. Entering into recovery at New Life House was a godsend, and I wouldn’t be who I am today without it. But, it was only training wheels until I truly started life on my own. By integrating what I learned in sober living with the principals of AA, I have decided on the life I want in sobriety.