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Rated: ASR · Essay · Personal · #2267760
It's my second chance at a first class life.
A journey of self-discovery, acceptance, repentance and forgiveness. Since my arrest for driving under the influence two years ago this is the direction my life has taken. To be sure, reading the post I wrote just two days afterwards and seeing where I'm at now, I seem to be world's apart, almost like two completely different people.

My first night in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous came the day after my arrest. I was thirty-eight years old when I walked into the rooms. Scared, afraid, ashamed, humiliated, thinking nobody would understand; what I've come to know as the all-to-familliar feeling of a newcomer.

I'd sit in the very back corner closest to the door, so that as the meeting ended I could make my escape without getting caught by anyone. I didn't know who the people were, specifically what anyone looked like. I would know them only by their shoes as they walked past. I wouldn't past anyone's belt line. "If I don't make eye contact with them, they won't even know I'm here", I reasoned with myself.

Still, I had to go through ten meetings in ten days in order to go back to work. I had to write a report on every meeting; who was chairing, what the topic pertained to, what I got out of it. I would email my report to the counselor my job had set me up with. At first it was all bullshit. I just wanted to get back to a paycheck. Apparently, however, God had other plans.

As the tenth and last day came, I made my way to the hall. I sat in my usual corner seat closest to the door. This night, there was something different in the air. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but the feeling wasn't the same as the previous few days. As the meeting commenced, I at first didn't so much as hear what was being said as I did actually look at the people who were sharing. Many of them were, at least seemingly, happy. They told of their stories in snippets, unashamed and unabashed. But they seemed happy. How?

Some would begin with their sobriety date, others would mention it as they gave their five minute testimony. 2 years, 11 years, 20 years, 7 years.

"How is this possible? How is it possible they could have THAT much sobriety?"

Then, as they each and every one spoke, I began to hear things that would catch my attention. A word here, a phrase there; little tidbits that kept me captivated about their journey and seeing a bit of me in them. I didn't even notice that one of the elders of the group had walked right by my and out the door just before the end of the meeting.

The night came to close and up I went, out the door. This time I wouldn't make a clean getaway unnoticed.

"Where ya headed in such a hurry?"

"Home," I responded to the gravelly voice coming from the shadows.

"Whats your name", came the next question.

As I gave my answer and he replied in kind, there commenced what I would come to know as a "front porch meeting"; these were the informal meetings that take place before and after the set-time meeting. While I was still too ashamed to say much about why I was there, getting to know this person I became a little more at ease with him. I decided as I left the hall I would keep going back. One of the recurring themes I kept hearing was how those who've had convictions for alcohol were forced to go to Alcoholics Anonymous so it would only make sense that I stay, if only for the reason that, upon standing before the judge, I could throw myself at the mercy of the court. Explain how I've been in recovery since the night after the arrest and am working on being a better me. ANYTHING to try to lesson my sentence.

So it went that meeting after meeting, night after night, were more words spoken about the hopelessness to happiness, broken to fixed, destroyed families to euphoric marriages. While I would still rarely look up during the meeting, I began to talk more freely with the man with the gravelly voice before and after. I came to know him as M. His wife, B, would join us, allowing me to be yet that much more comfortable.

I couldn't help but to stay guarded, however. I never spoke of the events that brought me into the hall except to say, "I think I have a problem".

I had by now become comfortable enough to get my desire chip at the end of the meeting. Before I knew it, I had made one month without a drink. As I went to get the Thirty-day chip, everyone in the room clapped and cheered me on. I felt good about myself, I felt I had accomplished something good.

Unfortunately, two events happened in quick succession at this point. The first being my job had decided to lay off the entire mechanical department, putting us on permanent furlough. Essentially we would never work for them again, and I was now without a job. The second was Covid. As the beginnings of this superbug began to strike the country, our hall shut down. Now, I was left to my own.

Standing outside on my carport, I remember looking up at the sky, crying. I remember screaming to a God, a higher power, some mystical force that I wasn't sure existed for any help he could muster. I couldn't do this on my own. "Don't leave me now if you are there"! I put my cigarette out and walked back in the house, making a beeline for the bedroom. Crawling into bed I couldn't help but feel this strange feeling come over me. I pondered that feeling until I lost myself to the world of dreams.

The next morning I hoped for some sort of positive. I began to send out applications to any company I could think of that would hire someone in my situation. Google became my friend in short order. I also came across a friend I had worked with at the old job who had gone to work for his uncle at a full-service railroad contract shop. He knew my predicament, but said he would talk to his uncle and see about an open position I could fill.

Checking my bank account later that day, I was down to my last $35 dollars. The following night found me once again on my carport staring up at the sky. This time I didn't have tears in my eyes. This time, I asked for his help, for his protection through this dark period in my life. I asked that His will be done. And so began with I learned to be the Phenomenon of God.

The following day April 10th of 2020, my friend's uncle called me in for an interview. I would start work on April 13th. The hours were grueling; 6 and seven days a week, 12-16 hours a day inspecting and estimating railcars. The checks, though smaller than what I was used to, were large enough that I began to pay off past debts in fairly short order. First were the payday loans I had relied on since being laid off. Next came old debts from the time of my marriage five years before. After that were debts going all the way back to the first credit card I received, some twenty years earlier. By the end of that year, for the first time in my life, I was completely debt free.

I also began to buy stocks during the recession at the start of Covid; American Airlines, Honeywell, Marathon Oil and ExxonMobil Mobil, Ford and General Motors, dozens of companies, all snapping up for dirt cheap. "I'm going to do this right"!

September came and I began to wonder if my hall had opened yet. One night after work I decided to drive by. Thank God, the lights were on. I pulled into the parking lot and made my way inside.
Many of the shoes I had come to know, as well as the three or four familiar faces I knew, were all there. As I walked in I was greeted with open arms, as though the room had known me as a long-seen family member getting in touch for a holiday. I finally began to look people in the eye. I began to talk more, open up little by little. I soon found myself sharing, and crying, in the meeting to little judgment or condemnation. I was being accepted.

I remember the first time I was called on to share during the meeting, I had by now come to view my life and the events in it differently. I was able to see those things as they actually were and how they happened and NOT by how my mind justified them for so long. This brought on two new issues; the first was realizing just what kind of person I really was, and how I'd ever come to reconcile that knowledge.

October 9th found me getting my nine month chip. Then came my ten month chip. This was also where I began working with my sponsor on a fervent level of desperosity. It was interesting that I later came to find out the wife of the person I asked to be my sponsor was my bartender for the 10 years I had been in Texas.

Month after month, chip after chip, step after step, so it went. As we moved through the program, sometimes at a lightning pace, other times slower than a snail's, so too had the program begun to work through my life. For the first time I was able to buy the car I wanted, and not the one I was told I had to buy. I was more open and personable to people both inside and outside the program. I found myself praying to my higher power more frequently; doing so I found the things that used to bother me so much didn't do so now. I began branching out to another group in my area where I found entirely new stories of strength and hope and, in a twist of fate I surely never saw coming, the first girlfriend I've had sober and since my marriage seven years ago. It's in large part through her, as well as others in the two groups I became active in that I was able to lean on for support as my court case drew near.

The biggest event in my sobriety so far happend on August 25th, 2021. I got a call from my lawyer the day before my court appearance. She told me they were charging me with the maximum they could levy. Upon learning this I was able to lean on the support of my sponsor amd the people in my group, ready to accept the consequences of my actions.

The next morning I found myself in conference at the court house with my lawyer. I had my 18 month sobriety chip and months worth of signatures from the hall with me, planning to show the judge what my life had become since that night a year and a half ago. She reiterated I would not be walking out of court that day. I had gone to silent meditation, praying to my God that His will be done, over and over again.

As my docket was called, we went into the room filled only with the prosecutor, judge, balif and stenographer. We took our respected position.

The judge began doing what he must have memorized years ago, reading over the case, asking the questions on if I understood the charge and penalties and if I was of sound mind. I should note here that I had no idea who this judge was, either in a court room or out. I had never been arrested, never had dealings with the law good or bad. I was just another name on a docket.

I still have trouble wrapping my mind around what happened next- the judge began a twenty minute tirade on how horrible it is that the justice system takes so long to bring cases to the courts, how decent people who simply had a hiccup in life get caught up in this system, seemingly having to put their lives and livelihoods on hold through it all. He then looked squarely in my eyes and what came next left me in awe.

"Son, I want to apologize for the prosecutor as she's new in her position and is only trying to make a name for herself, as anyone who cares about their jobs try to do.

"It's not very often that people who come before me take the second chance they've been given in their lives and choose to run with it, putting forth the effort to build themselves into a better person. Most, before even making their first appearance, will be arrested several times over and often for the same things.

"You are taking charge of your life, doing what you need to do to make it better. You have taken the steps needed to find your footing in this crazy thing called life and for that I commend you. Because of this, I'm dropping all penalties to the bare minimum. All fines will only be for court and probation costs, and the only two classes you will be required to take as condition of your probation will be Safe Driving and Victims Impact.

"You keep doing what you're doing and I promise you'll make your way in life and be a story for someone else to hopefully make it through problems they face."

I want to reiterate I did not know this judge. My lawyer didn't care about my time in AA, but here I was, being praised to this judge for what I've been doing. God, my God, the God of my understanding, doing for me what I could not do for myself.

February 9th, 2022 I celebrated two years sober in my home group, and will be dual celebrating with my second group at the end of February also. I have found in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous a fellowship, a kinship, an acceptance like I've never known. I continue to lean on those in the rooms, both old and new, to help me navigate the troubled waters of my past in order to apply the lessons to my present to make a better future. I continue to surround my self in the glory of my Higher Power because of all the events he has gotten me through.

It's often said that AA will make your life different if you work the steps and put in the effort. For me, I say AA will make your life better than it's ever been if you work the steps and put forth the effort.

I have been given a second chance at a first class life, and if only for today, I am making the most of it.
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