Alcohol, my most reliable companion, turned on me about a decade ago. I did everything I could to keep my friend. I tried to stop drinking socially because I was getting drunk after the 1st drink. I narrowed my beverages of choice -- which used to be anything in any amount -- to white wine and vodka. I drank alone so “people wouldn’t know;” but that required a number of maneuvers to get time away from family. Finally, visions of my alcoholic father, drug addicted mother, (there is a long lineage) crept into my dreams then into my conscious thinking.
I went to several AA meetings around town. Really, I passed through, ducking anyone who approached. After 2 years, I ran into a group on Wisconsin Ave., talking, laughing and looking healthy – like normal people having a good time. I saw the sign on the gate for the Westside Club and dared to ask what kind of club it was. I didn’t want to say I was new, but the stairs were right there so I said to myself “I’ll just take a look around.” That was April. So, a day at a time, I am walking up to 9 years.
Those were some hard 24 steps (12 & 12 to be exact)! I saw the snack bar and went to get information. There was a meeting starting – an HP coincidence? There were things about the place that made taking that first big step towards sobriety easier for me. Seats in the back helped me feel comfortable; being able to switch groups so I wouldn’t be recognized was also what I needed before I was ready to be visible. Having staff and volunteers behind the snack bar counter meant I always had someone to ask where things were (the bathroom, for example). I could discretely get literature. People were welcoming – as they were in other groups – but having casual space to stand, have coffee and talk made it easier for me to let down my guard. I love plants so I gave myself little job to help me feel more like I belonged. I haven’t had a drink since I walked up those steps.
I gave money in the 1st year not knowing I was becoming a member, just because I was so grateful. I found out I was a member when I got a newsletter and since then I have learned about the Club versus the various, independent meetings; what the meeting donations paid for and what it couldn’t cover.
The Club is a place that offers meetings at all times of the day. It is also a place to hang around sober people, make new friends. The Club helped me by offering so many opportunities to build a sober social life. The Club is open and offers extra meeting times on holidays. It hosts festive holiday meals. There are picnics from spring to fall. There is the annual Talent Show, biannual Art Show and the enormously popular New Year’s Eve dance. There are anniversary celebrations every Saturday – and now on Sunday. Members and nonmembers volunteer to make these happen but it is The Club that makes it financially possible. I came on the days the city was snowed in and the door was open, stairs clear of snow. Our fabulous Manager stayed with a friend then in a hotel, paid for by the Westside Club House Committee, to make sure I would have a place to come to. The Club, for me, represents a place that says ‘there is life after alcohol.’
So, that is why I became a member. I know the many costs of keeping the Club as a place for anyone who wants a sober life. I think of membership as both a benefit to me as well as a service to others (members and non-members). I pay my dues to ensure the 12-n-12 staircase and front door is open to anyone who passes by like I did and says to themselves “Well here it is, why not try?”
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