It may sound dramatic, but for a drug addict like me, it’s really not dramatic at all.
I met her at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting nearly three years ago. Normally, when it comes to sobriety and the program of AA, there is an element of anonymity; hence the word “anonymous” being prominently featured in the program’s title. But Polly has written of her own sobriety on many occasions so now I will write a little about mine.
She celebrated 10 years in January of this year. In June, I celebrated two.
I will never forget seeing her at that meeting; I immediately thought she was awesome. She shared about being a musician, going to the gym, being a writer and just generally about what her life was like with years of successful sobriety under her belt.
After the meeting a mutual acquaintance introduced us to each other… Primarily because he knew we were both interested in music. Polly is an incredibly talented, award-winning vocalist and bass player, and was with a band called Too Slim and the Taildraggers at the time. I actually have absolutely no musical talent whatsoever, but was involved in the Seattle music scene back then, so apparently this individual thought we’d have something in common.
I LOVED HER.
We stayed after the meeting and talked for a while, and then I raced home and told my boyfriend and our roommate about the amazing bass player I had just met at my AA meeting, and how she’d been sober for a really long time and was really, REALLY awesome.
To my complete and utter dismay, they knew who she was! My boyfriend Dan has been in the music scene his entire adult life, and has been to countless shows. He and our roommate at the time, whose name is also Dan, had seen Polly perform before. I remember being so ridiculously irritated with both of them. I wanted her to be all mine, not somebody that they knew first.
But I quickly got over it by Googling her and watching videos of her singing songs like Born Under a Bad Sign. I didn’t even know I was a blues fan. I texted her at least six times that first night to tell her how much I loved that song. Not that I’d ever heard it before, but I most definitely loved it. I still do.
Time went on, my life got worse and worse, and I continued to get loaded. Polly would pick me up and take me to meetings anyway. That’s just how she was. How she still is.
Finally, I went back to rehab for the fourth time in my life. I checked in on July 1, 2012 and I decided when I was in there that I would eventually ask Polly to be my sponsor.
Sponsorship is a critical component of Alcoholics Anonymous, particularly for those who are new in sobriety. While I wasn’t completely new, as I had managed to string some years of sobriety together before, starting over is starting over. It doesn’t matter if you once had 30 years… When you are new you are just new. There are no shortcuts just because you’ve had sobriety in the past.
New sobriety is hideously uncomfortable, and it’s important to have a good sponsor to help you get through it.
They tell you to pick somebody who has what you want, and so that’s what I did. I was petrified and mortified and terrified at the possibility that she would say no… Because I knew she had a really busy schedule. But she didn’t say no; she said yes.
About five months later we were talking about her work. From her description, I thought it sounded amazing and was fishing for additional information about what it was like. Suddenly, I thought perhaps I could be a journalist. I’d always wanted to be a writer, ever since I was a young girl.
Polly asked me if I’d ever written anything before. For any type of a publication.
We’re nothing if not honest in AA. I told her no, I hadn’t.
Most people would have ended the conversation at that point. But Polly didn’t. She told me that the next time she had a real simple story; she’d give me a shot at writing it. There would be no deadline and no pressure. If it worked, that would be great and if it didn’t, that would be okay, too.
It turns out there is no such thing as a simple story.
A part of me was reasonably sure that she would never bother to give me the story; I figured if she did, I’d better darn well get some practice in. So I wrote two fake news stories. One of them even took real research. It was about one of those giant pig statues that are scattered all around downtown Seattle.
Again, for most people, if the conversation hadn’t ended right when I said I’d never written anything, it would have definitely ended at this point. It’s not like I was going to harass her about giving me a story.
But she really called me, a week or two later, and asked me to write about Dr. Max’s dinosaur statue on Main Street in Monroe. I believe that story ran in early December of 2012, and I’ve been writing for the Monroe Monitor ever since. I love being a journalist. I can’t even describe in words how much I love this job. I’m slow, I don’t have perfect grammar and I’m extremely thin-skinned when it comes to criticism from the public… But I never ever want to do anything else.
I’ve become an enormous fan of the Sky Valley and all the people in it. The second I get on U.S. 2 and start driving towards those mountains I feel like I’ve truly left my past behind me.
And I LOVE Dr. Max’s dinosaur. I look at that dinosaur every time I drive by and give him a little internal salute.
I’m a writer now, and Polly is the one who gave me the opportunity. She has given me the strength to stay sober, even when I haven’t wanted to.
She has given me hope.
Polly is the LEAST judgmental person I’ve ever met. And by that I mean she doesn’t judge anybody, anytime, ever. It’s remarkable and I don’t know how she does it. I’m a reasonably nice person and I feel that it’s important to be kind to everyone. But even inadvertently… I judge.
There have been numerous occasions where I’ve gone to Polly with some new fact that I’d learned or some story I’d uncovered and have often ended my narrative with, “But why would they….” or “Well isn’t that a little…”
Polly’s response has always been instantaneous and unwaveringly positive. She doesn’t have to think about not being judgmental… It just comes completely naturally; it’s part of who she is.
Every day I strive to be more like that.
She has never gotten angry or upset with me when I’ve made a mistake, misspelled a name, mangled some numerical figure or otherwise incurred the wrath of our readers.
Her talent, intelligence, creativity and kindness are limitless. She has the best analogies for everything and is infinitely patient. Her passion for the things she cares about knows no bounds. There could be no better sponsor, friend, mentor… She is all of those things to me, and no other person could even remotely fill her shoes.
I don’t know how on earth the newspaper will do it.
All my life, I’ve been a failure. I’ve systematically failed at every single thing I set out to do, except for being a drug addict. That was the one thing I was reasonably good at.
When Polly came into my life, I finally got a tiny glimmer of hope that maybe there was something else I could be good at. That maybe I could actually help people, that maybe I could actually have a purpose, that maybe I could contribute to society rather than always taking and stealing and wrecking and breaking.
That maybe now I could be good at being a writer.
She took that tiny spark of hope and breathed fire onto it.