“Pulling a geographic? Come to Jackson Hole! Great public transportation, decent jobs, and a beautiful environment to be miserable in.”
It can be a scary thing to go back to the place you hit your “bottom.” It can also be extremely rewarding with unexpected miracles and blessings. I hit my bottom in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and I highly recommend it as a destination location as far as bottoms go. I don’t think that’s a “thing” but perhaps some travel site can advertise that: “Pulling a geographic? Come to Jackson Hole! Great public transportation, decent jobs, and a beautiful environment to be miserable in.”
I’m not trying to make light of it. It’s awful hitting a bottom but if I had to choose between Jackson and somewhere else, I’d probably choose Jackson. Not that I was miserable – at first. Geographics are great at first. The despair takes a nap. New places, new faces – no problems. I picked up some hobbies, some new friends and a couple guys. One of the guys was a ski instructor at the resort. He was maybe 10 or 20 years older than me which was fine because I was also “dating” someone 10 to 20 years younger than me. Age is just a construct, anyhow, and more is better and pass the bottle.
We hit the slopes in the morning and then took a break for lunch at the Four Seasons where I ordered a glass of wine, of course. He paused, considered for a moment and then ordered one for himself. After lunch, we went back to skiing which is kind of amazing for an alcoholic but after a few hours, we celebrated a terrific day by returning to the Four Seasons for “Apres Ski” and had a few more glasses. That was the last I saw of him.
Nine months later, I moved back to New York and ended up in “the rooms.” Then, when I was about a year sober, I had to go back to Jackson for some work. I was scared because I had drunk so much and that was how I did Jackson. That’s how Jackson worked. Could I do it differently? Most of my friendships were based around drinking and so were most of my activities. Why go river rafting, if you’re not going to party? It was all about the beer, the booze, the alcohol.
My sponsor and fellows in the program told me that it would be okay to go back and that what I would do is go to meetings, make phone calls, and take it one day at a time. So that’s what I did. There was a daily meeting in town square and, though nervous, I showed up and said I’m visiting. There were a lot of other people visiting, as well as locals, and it was a very welcoming environment. After the meeting, someone tapped my shoulder. It was the ski instructor. I was happy to see him, not because I was attracted to him or wanted to be with him, but because it was nice to see someone who had been out there with me now in the rooms taking the same journey. He told me he had been sober for a while and it was on our date at the Four Seasons that he’d slipped. He stayed out for a few months and came back about the same time that I started coming to meetings. It felt like such a blessing to run into him there. I was so glad he was healthy and sober. So glad that I was, as well, and that we didn’t get lost down that tragic highway.
Another hidden blessing was that one of my coworkers was also trying to get sober. He didn’t have the gift of desperation, as they say, he had the gift of a DWI and a court mandating him to go. He was super talented and super likeable and had the common alcoholic tendency to turn into a total asshole and then go MIA when he drank which would be really bad for the project we were working on together. Selfishly, I needed him to stay sober. He was on the fence as to whether he was an alcoholic or not, but we went to a meeting together and when we had to go to Salt Lake City for work, I brought him to a meeting there too. He stayed sober through the job and guess what? So. Did. I. If I hadn’t been so focused on his sobriety, would I have stayed sober? Would I have searched out a meeting just for myself? Can’t say for sure. But what I can say is that he was another unexpected angel on that trip and from what I understand, he’s still sober.
Seeing Jackson through newly sober eyes was like putting on a “new pair of glasses” as Chuck C. says in his book by the same name. When I was there before, it was all about me, me, me. What can I get? I need that! And what’s in it for me? For instance, whenever I went to the brew pub, I was not present with the people I was with; my focus was on drinking and looking for guys and male attention. It was all about trying to fill that “God-shaped hole.” But sober, I was a worker among workers drinking my Arnold Palmer, enjoying my colleagues’ company, enjoying the moment and enjoying just BEING SOBER. That was the biggest gift of all.
It’s eight years later and I’m still sober and, as I write this, I realize that I miss that time in my life. I miss the humility and gratitude of early sobriety. I’m back to thinking a lot about myself and my plans. And what I can get. And I’m feeling kinda not awesome. I’ve also heard that around eight years is when people go out again, or slip. They get busy and stop going to meetings. I can definitely be too busy. Busy with I want, I want, I want. I think I get high on trying to make things happen. It’s my ego. But I know that when I have the gift of surrender and humility, IT FEELS SO GOOD. But I can’t seem to will the surrender. I can just be willing, and show up to meetings, do service, and deepen my understanding of my higher power regardless of how I feel. And as I reach out to the newcomer, I am re-acquainted with the early blessings, the blessings they give me and the ones I get to share in return. And for that I am grateful.