There and Back Again

Last night at 10:15pm, my actors and I landed at SFO. We had spent six nights in Atlanta, GA, performing three shows as part of Sobriety Celebrations' Celebration of Recovery Festival at The Rialto Center for the Arts.

Performing during the week of international recovery conference was magical.

It was joyful. It was stressful. It was a service and it was a gift.

I can never fully express my gratitude to my amazing cast of actors, my stage manager Angelo B. for their hard work. They were up at 3am on Monday morning, to make it on the airport shuttle by 4am, to check-in with their baggage and over 18 pieces of cargo at 5am, to spend two hours in the airport, five hours on the plane. And with barely two hours to unpack and rest, they were at The Rialto to run lines and sound check before a 9am call the next morning for a dress rehearsal. 

Touring theater is hard work. 

Heck, for those of us who struggle with depression and anxiety, going to a conference can feel like work! Navigating three square miles packed with 65,000 other drunks is hard work! Finding a place to have dinner is a rat race. I don't take with people who say that if you are really working the program, you won't experience depression or anxiety. Bill W. struggled with his "dark night of the soul" and faced countless accusations about his spiritual program. He must not have been practicing the spiritual principles of the program in which he was considered a founder.

That said, let me admit that I've been in the best spiritual condition or working a program of recovery.

I made it to one archivist panel (and I was late) and the old-timer meeting on Saturday night. That meeting was the first 12-step meeting I've been to in over a month. The old-timer meeting was incredible and I loved the sober countdown. I loved sitting in a stadium of 65,000 other alcoholics and saying the Serenity Prayer. I love sitting in the Bay Area section and seeing the joy and tears of wonder on the faces of my fellows and friends.

I truly believe that what my actors and I brought to Atlanta became a meaningful addition to those who attended. I believe that the time we took away from our own sightseeing and conference attendance to put on this play really mattered to other people. One kind gentleman told us if he had to turn around and drive home to Louisiana, it would have been worth it. 

Like all good things in life, the creative rewards of putting on a play, like the spiritual rewards of attending a conference, don't necessarily come easily. And now I am home, and there is an aspect of picking up the pieces of my life and my program, and that is scary. 

I would love to throw myself into planning another tour. Maybe get down to really working on the Third Legacy play, after all Detroit is coming up in five years. I can feel emotions churning towards the surface that have been suppressed by months of prep and planning for Atlanta. I'm afraid of what will happen when the post-partum blues meet the post-conference crash. 

I've written and directed plays about recovery. I know my fair share about our history. I'm articulate when I try to carry the message during meetings or with sponsees. None of this makes me immune to drinking thoughts or poor behavior. 

I've been dishonest, selfish, full of fear and self-seeking, all leading up to this conference.I haven't talked to my sponsor and my prayers have been intermittent.

And on Saturday, after the old-timers meeting, I really wanted to drink.

Someone said something that I thought was unkind after the meeting. An actor who is just another sick alcoholic like me offered me a few words of criticism and reproach. He did it right as the old-timer meeting was ending. That spiritual high I felt burst like a bubble. I headed back to the dorms we were staying in, crying in the rain. The bars on Peachtree offered the perfect revenge. How poetic it would be to relapse during the Conference. How bad he would feel! After all, the play was over. I had fulfilled my responsibilities to the cast and crew and producers. 

There I was walking down a street filled with thousands of recovered alcoholics, any of them happy to be taken aside and offer comfort to a suffering fellow. But I didn't talk to any of them. I walked in the rain stewing. But I did pray and I did make a phone call to one of my actors. And I made it back to the dorms sober. And then I cried for a little while with my roommates. And I felt better.

I'm very grateful that I went to Conference.

I'm very grateful to have performed in Atlanta.

And I'm humbled that I stayed sober even though I really, really wanted to drink that one night.

I don't know what's ahead. Maybe instead of thinking about making it to Detroit in 2020, I'll focus on making it to a meeting tomorrow.