So I sat down and started making a list of some of the people in my sobriety who have changed my life over the past 11 years.  Yeah…you know who you are!  I’m down with some heavy hitters in these rooms (hee hee!)  and today I want to pay a little praise.  This is my hometown, AA.  It’s where I feel at peace (in the rooms) even when people are saying crazy shit.  It’s where I take my troubles, where I find my solutions.  Many many people have influenced my path, but what I’ve learned here is that it’s always my choice to open to them.

Disclaimer: I have a horrible memory and I’m totally socially awkward at times, so if you don’t see your name on the list and you KNOW it belongs there…send me a line.  I’m already working on the post, 12 years of thanks!

Mary Cleo, the big MCG, not to be confused with MGD–a beer I never really liked, though I wasn’t picky.  Thank you for getting off the bus that night in front of Radford Hall.  You were just doing what you did (this was before MC got her license), showing up places where you said you’d be.  I was sitting inside an 8 o’clock meeting scheming with another newcomer on how to get to MacArthur Park for a little somethin’ somethin’ if you know what I mean.  When I stepped onto Ventura Blvd. @ 9 p.m. with him next to me, there you were to intercept us.

“Where you going?” you asked.

“Coffee.  Late night. You know, the usual,” I said.

He took off in the other direction and I stayed sober that night.  You saved my life in so many countless ways, so many times, that I can’t possibly put them all here.  I adore you!

Kate L., I know a lot of people in the program, but to this day (almost 14 years later!) I don’t know anyone with a better grin or a bigger heart.  You convinced me (without saying a word) that I could still be naughty and have fun in sobriety.  You were a wide open space for my heart when I was lost and alone.  You taught me by example that we can survive the most extreme pain and stare down a bottle of alcohol on a kitchen table (although I can’t say this is a technique I recommend 🙂  What I love about you Kate, and have loved about you, is your humaness.  Knowing you has changed me forever.

Elsie A.,  What can I say?  We’ve laughed, we’ve cried. I still turnover inside every time I hear your voice. How can years go by and two people still be so connected that they can get on the phone and it’s like they were sitting at Sbux together, last Monday night?  If it wasn’t for you, I might never have learned to text.  You were the first woman to teach me about being a mother in sobriety–a beautiful gift I can only pass on, never repay.  I love all things pink please, and girlie, and that smell good…like candles and incense and fluffy pillows and clean sheets. There were times when your home was the safe place I needed.  Big love.

Heather T., When he broke my heart I mumbled around my life for months obsessed, depressed and basically jacked up on drama and self-pity.  You gave me this card that said, “God has a plan and it’s better than yours.” I don’t think I ever told you how much I needed to hear those words that day, and as it turns out, you were right. I met my husband in your swimming pool.  Weird!

JM, thank you for loving me–it’s not always easy.  I’m inspired by you every day.  I never know what you’re gonna do or say next.  You make me laugh, and more important, you teach me how to laugh at myself.  I think your tattoos are hot and we make good-looking, eco-friendly, vegetarian kids who tell their friends things like, “heart disease is a food-born illness and the United States stole Texas from the Native Americans.”  I still get the goosebumps and you are the most courageous person I know.

Toni J., I don’t think anyone has ever believed in me more than you do.  How can I thank you for years of friendship, support, and encouragement?  For laughing with me, always listening, for teaching me to question my own judgments and for always telling me your truth.  You are the single best ambassador of goodwill for this program that I have ever met. You truly live the concepts of service and I learned, in part from you, how to not be so afraid of people.

Anne W., Lovely Anne.  If it had not been for meeting you at B2S when I first came to Austin, I might never have believed that girls from L.A. can survive and thrive in Texas.  You were in this space of transformation when I met you, and I count myself lucky to have continued to see you grow.

Kim M, There’s something so hard to put into words about the gifts you share with me.  It’s the kind of love and advice only a mama can give, and god knows, I need that sometimes.  Thanks for telling me the truth and not letting me get away with stuff.  I know at the core of me that you are always there, walking the path.

Kiely R., Kiely, Kiely, Kiely.  Good lord woman!  Thanks for being a homegirl, a road dog, an accomplice, a guru, a friend…for the endless laughs, tears, challenges, struggles and for deep meaningful insight into Huff Post and the West Wing.  You are transforming right in front of me and it’s inspiring to watch.

Anita P., Thank you for making me feel safe and helping me find breathing room on the planet.

Shawna, for trudging the path with me! It’s so hard when we do it alone.

Gemma, there’s something soft and mellow about you that goes down easy. I love your passion for this thing and your drive to make a difference, and I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say I’m at least a little infatuated by your name, Gemma, like Katy Segal on Sons of Anarchy!  She’s a badass and so are you!

Beth C., How does someone get sober so young and go from being where you were to being a college graduate with a degree in Nuclear Environmental Brain Science–or whatever the hell that is you majored in?  BAM! You remind me that anything is possible!

Bethany, You remind me to make time for things that are important and to care.  I love your passion for animals and the planet and your children.

Bonnie H., you radiate from the heart with goodness and you have, quite possibly, the gentlest spirit I have ever known. You remind me to be soft.

Catherine K., Everyone needs someone who understands the darkness they sometimes feel.  Your personal path and our shared common histories with family have opened up places in me that I didn’t think could be healed.

Erica G., Damn girl! I can’t believe you already have a year.  Thanks for showing me that it’s still working in people’s lives.

Harris S., who has said a gazillion inspirational things that struck that soft space in my heart where recovery lives.

Jennifer V., for reminding me that we can survive anything.

Martha K., your weekly emails remind me to keep AA in the middle of it all.

Vanessa W., you are so important to me.

Maren C., Goodness…I just giggle when I think of you.  I’m in love with your brain.  You are so hyper-creative that it freaks me out and makes me want to go to art school all at the same time. DON’T ANALYZE this Maren! Your hair looks great! We share that kind of brain that grabs onto something and tears it apart like a rabid dog.  I love watching you with your family, your kids, in the thick of it, just doing the deal.  I know you take this thing deadly serious and I heart you.

Nina B., I couldn’t end this list without mentioning you.  There are people who come into our lives for a reason and I can’t imagine where I’d be right now if you hadn’t taught me to tell a different story.  I am so grateful for those 4 words. They have changed everything for me.

I may have to do another list. There are so many people who have inspired and helped me grow up into my sobriety.  But just looking at this list fills me with happiness.  When I got here (to sobriety) I was a kid with almost nothing and no one left. People didn’t want to be around me. It just hurt too much.  I could go on writing forever, filling these pages with people who said things and did things that changed me.  So that’s gratitude, and I’m grateful to every single one of them. But I’m equally grateful that over the last 11 years I have constantly tried to open my heart. Its’ always like that, either opening to life or shutting it out.