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Four Years at the Mount

Junior year

A Wednesday to Remember

Nicole Jones
Class of 2014

(10/2012) The beginning of fall is always a busy time of year for me. It seems like every birthday and anniversary of my family and friends falls in September or October. While it can be enjoyable seeing or hearing from everyone, it can be hectic running around and making sure Iíve sent a card to all the right people.

One of my favorite and most personal events is in mid-September: the anniversary of my fatherís sobriety. When I was younger, Wednesday nights were always spent attending my churchís youth group, but one night a year my mom, brother, and I did something different. One night a year, we visited the church where my father attends Alcoholics Anonymous.

Itís always cool by the time we get there at 8pm. When we pull into the dark parking lot, the churchís black windows make the place feel deserted and eerie. As we approach the church, I begin to hear voices up ahead, and rounding the corner, my nose is assaulted by a cloud of cigarette smoke. The source of the voices is of course the AA members milling about the courtyard and catching up with one another. Some conversations are probably more serious than others, but I never know, because as soon as they see my family approaching, everyone turns to greet us. Other family members and friends are mixed into the welcome committee, but even the new members and the perfect strangers come to congratulate us. I donít think I really understood why when I was younger, but I definitely know why now.

They were congratulating us on having made it another year with a sober, successful, kind, and selfless father and husband. I never grasped the depth of their congratulations until several years ago. I think the revelation was brought on through my college experiences. I have met so many different people at the Mount, all coming from different backgrounds and all having had different experiences with alcohol in their family lives. I think seeing what my life could have been had my father not decided to get help has really made me realize just how fortunate I am, and now this one Wednesday a year, I never leave church with dry eyes.

After making our way through the crowd of well-wishers, my mom, brother, and I slip inside the churchís basement where the meetings are held. The air is usually just a little bit musty with a hint of coffee and cigarette smoke. In the center of the tiled room stand four tables positioned in the shape of a large rectangle with folding chairs lining the outside. We donít sit in these chairs, but save them for the regular attendees. Instead, we take our place on the single church pew that is pushed up against the wall just to the left of the door we entered through. Itís an unpleasant, well-worn scrap of wood with poor back support and no cushion designed purely for the purpose of keeping its customers awake.

Within ten minutes, the crowd that was outside has filtered into the church and taken their seats. The meeting begins with some announcements and the traditional reading of the 12 steps. Itís then my fatherís turn to talk, and everyone always pays attention. Each year the message is a little different. He pulls a passage from one of the AA books, and often shares a snippet of his experiences as an alcoholic. While I appreciate the lessons he shares from the text, itís always his personal experiences that move me. I donít even recognize the main character in his stories; it surely isnít the man I grew up with. He makes himself out as a villain. Belligerent. Selfish. Drunk. While I wonít share these stories for the sake of his privacy, the ones I can remember will always stick with me. To me, his stories are representations of what my father used to be like, what my life could have been, and how fortunate I am that none of that came to fruition. They are the representation of who my father really is: someone who can admit that he needs help, that he is wrong, and that his family was ultimately more important to him than his addiction. They are a beacon of hope that prove people really can change and that the other men and women in that room could change too if they really wanted to.

Once he is done speaking, other members share their opinions on the topic or relate their personal stories. So many of those stories involve my father: the people who he has sponsored, the ones heís picked up and taken to meetings when their licenses had been revoked for alcohol related reasons and the people who have helped him along his journey to sobriety.

When I was younger, I never understood why my father didnít go to church with us, but through visiting these meetings, I now understand perfectly. This was his church and second family. This was where he was called to be and whether he realizes it or not, he is a leader in his group. Through the testimonies of the other members, I can hear how much they respect, appreciate and love him.

During these testimonies, my father always makes sure to offer my mom a chance to talk. She always declines. Not because she doesnít love him or isnít proud of him, but because she is too nervous to speak in front of all those strangers and because she is too busy crying to form any coherent words. I never understood why she cried before, but now I know itís for the same reason that everyone congratulates us.

After more testimonies and a group prayer, the meeting ends, and to celebrate, everyone enjoys some ice cream cake. Itís not long after my plate is clean when my family says goodbye to everyone and my mother ushers me and my brother out the door.

Some of the details of these memories have changed throughout the years. My brother is now in graduate studies in Georgia and no longer attends the meetings with me and my mother. That hard pew has since been replaced with a cushioned pew that is slightly more bearable to sit on. The basic story is always the same, though, and it has only become more enjoyable as the years have passed and my understanding has grown.

While this is all very personal, I know my father would be okay with my sharing this with you. He is not afraid to confront his demons and is willing to share his story to anyone who he believes it will help. I didnít tell him I was writing this, because I wanted him to be surprised. I have shared with you the words that I was never able to say, that my mom was never able to say at these meetings because we lacked the courage to do so. So Dad, when you read this, know that I love you and am so proud of you. I am the luckiest girl alive to have you as my father.

Read other articles by Nicole Jones