One of the really great things about Arizona is that in just a few hours you can go from this:
That’s what we did this weekend. We spent the last two days up near Payson, Arizona attending the annual Payson Round-up. It’s a huge camping trip that is organized by a local Payson homegroup every year for the last twenty-something years. This is the first time that we have gone, and we had a great time. Recovering alcoholics and addicts are my favorite people to hang out with, and there were plenty! It was a true blessing to see so many people whose lives have been changed by the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. Just awesome!
It was so nice to get away from home, even for a short trip. I had an extremely busy week at work because we had classes that started on Monday. Start weeks are the busiest for me, and I was tired and burned out from working four 10-hour days so that I could take Friday off. Our four-hour road trip started on Friday morning. I love road trips! Especially when I get to travel with my husband, Austin. We have the best time, laughing and being silly, searching the iPod and the radio for songs to sing along to, telling each other stories from our pasts, and just being tuned into each other. I will never turn down a road trip with my Honey.
This trip wasn’t a spur of the moment, let’s get out of the heat and see some trees, decision. We’ve been planning on it for a few months now, because earlier in the year, I was asked to be one of the speakers at the round-up by one of the Payson homegroup members who attends my homegroup when he’s in Tucson. At these kinds of AA events, there are usually a few members chosen to stand up and share their experience, strength and hope with the other attendees. At this event, there were four AA speakers and one from Al-Anon. I really don’t know how I got thrown into that handful, but I did, and I was really honored to be asked.
I have told my story, briefly, a few times at meetings. But when w arrived on Friday, the organizers told us that they were expecting 350 people on Saturday! I was speaking at 10:00 Saturday morning, and I was slated to speak for an hour! And just so you know, I am one of the 75% of people who fear public speaking more than death. I didn’t know what I gotten myself into. Standing in front of that many people, baring my soul, was something that I never thought I would volunteer for, no matter how passionate I am about recovery. Writing this blog allows me to hide behind a computer screen, without worry about judgment or dealing with people face-to-face. Speaking at regular meetings (which, if I’m honest, I don’t do as often as I would like) isn’t as scary because I know the other members. But on Friday night, as the nerves set in, I knew that I was in for something that was way out of my comfort zone. I had trouble getting to sleep that night, which is something that very rarely ever happens to me. I prayed, as I tried to go to sleep, that God would give me the strength that I needed for the next day, and that He would somehow give me the right words to reach those that needed to hear.
Saturday morning I woke up early and sat outside in the cool mountain air to write in my journal. I felt surprisingly peaceful and ready for the day. My fear and nervousness wasn’t gone, but I had faith that things would go well. We got to the campsite and spent some time drinking coffee and visiting with some of the folks there, the meeting before the meeting, as it’s called. Then, as the chairman if the event read the AA preamble and everyone started finding their seats, I felt a few pangs of anxiety. What if I didn’t make sense? What if I lost my place in my notes? What if I talked too fast and finished too early? What if everyone thinks I’m too new in sobriety to offer experience, strength and hope? My thoughts were all over the place, but focused on me screwing up. The gentleman that invited me to speak walked up to the mike…oh my gosh, I’ve never used a microphone…and introduced me to the group. I walked up…
“Good morning, my name is Jami, and I’m an alcoholic….”
I confessed right at the beginning that I was nervous, that I was feeling a little bit pukey, and that I probably should’ve gone pee before getting up there. That got a laugh, and I felt better. I started to speak and I was ok, no one was booing, and everyone seemed to be engaged in what I had to say. And you know what? I made sense, I didn’t even look at my notes after the first couple of minutes, I spoke for nearly an hour, and I had so many people come up after to thank me and tell me that they identified with my story. I was able to tell my story, completely and honestly, and I received so many kind words after. I felt so blessed.
It was an amazing weekend of conquering my fears, trusting God, and carrying the message to other alcoholics. I can’t imagine anything better. 🙂
P.S. My story was recorded, so as soon as I get the recording, I will post it here.