First (Sober) Convention – Part Three

(Note: Recommended to read Parts 1 and 2 first, so you get the full effect of my cranky desperation)

“Good morning and welcome to day three of our conference,” said the convention host from the podium while the straggling crowd picked over their breakfast. The room was set for all 500 or so who’d registered for the conference, but less than half the seats were full.  It’s a fair guess that many delegates were sleeping off their celebrations from the previous night.

Morning has come to mean a lot to me since I quit drinking.  I prepare a pot of coffee before bed each night, and waking up to the aroma makes up for the other self-depravation I wrestle with.  I’d already had two cups in my hotel room while getting ready for the breakfast meeting, and now I was enjoying the better quality brew in the dining room.

I was looking forward to the morning speaker, former CBC host and social media guru Tod Maffin.  I’d heard him a few years earlier and knew he was an engaging, interesting lecturer.  This time, he had lots of fresh new ideas and I thoroughly enjoyed his presentation.  So much so in fact, that I headed downstairs afterward for his follow-up seminar, and perched in the front row.

When he asked for questions my hand shot up.  I admit I was star-struck in the way only a Canadian can understand – even a former not-for-profit-radio host leaves us tingling.  Maffin is especially deserving, though, as his style is quick and funny and completely accessible.  I asked a question about licensing, and he replied with a story (and note: I am paraphrasing to the best of my recollection. Apologies to Tod Maffin if I recount your words imperfectly.)

“Great question, by the way,” he started.  (I blushed demurely.  I have so many great questions, Mr. Maffin.  You have no idea.)

“Let me tell you a story about a funny little video I created last night and tried to upload on my Facebook page,” he said. “I had used a piece of music in the background and Facebook recognized it and prompted me to either purchase the rights or change the music.”

(Fascinating – I never thought of that but it makes sense.  Interesting.)

“The music was pretty famous – “Spanish Fly” by Henry Mancini,” he went on.  Then seeing that the crowd was wondering what kind of video someone would make alone in a hotel room and set to the song “Spanish Fly”, he realized he had more explaining to do.

“No, no, it was nothing kinky.  Your conference organizers very kindly left me a nice gift and a bottle of wine in my room.  I don’t usually like to go into this but you need to understand that I am in AA and I have 2 years of sobriety and I really, really want to get to 1000 days so it is very important that I cannot be alone in a hotel room with a bottle of wine.”

Oh. My. God.  Did I ever understand! I was making it through the conference okay but my patience for the never ending flow of booze all around was waning and I was already dreading the evening ahead.  My ears perked up.  I wiggled in my seat. I tried to look calm and politely interested in order to maintain my cover, but inside I was squealing.  Here is someone who is in AA!  Here is someone famous (Canadian-famous, at least) and he is talking about his addiction openly and it is not hurting anyone’s impression of him – only strengthening it.

“So I took that bottle of wine, and I snuck out into the hallway, and I pushed the elevator button.  When the elevator arrived, I set the wine right in the middle of the empty elevator floor and pushed the buttons to send it away.  I pictured how happy it would make someone to find it – what a nice surprise for someone who would be waiting for the elevator and when the doors open there is a bottle of wine for them– and also it solved my problem because I really couldn’t have it around me.  I filmed the whole thing and turned it into a funny video and that’s what I was trying to post online.”

Then he moved on to answer other questions but my mind was reeling.  For the first time ever, I was face to face with another person in recovery.  This was my chance to speak to someone, to say, “I’m like you” or “You’re like me” and not even have to worry what he’d think of me because he didn’t know me from Adam.  Or, well, Eve.

When the session wrapped up, I waited until the room had cleared and tentatively approached Maffin while he packed up his gear.

“I loved your story about the wine bottle and the elevator.  I write an anonymous sobriety blog and I’d love to include it.  Would that be alright with you, or would you rather it not be shared?”

My knees were shaking.  I couldn’t believe I’d just said that.

He smiled broadly and said I was welcome to write about his story and reference his name.  “Are you in a program?” he asked.

“No, but I have 181 days of sobriety,” I said, disbelieving my own courage. It was a relief to say it aloud after a difficult weekend at the convention.

“What?!” he shouted. “Oh, come here and give me a hug!  That’s six months! That’s huge!! Good for you!!!”

He zipped around the table and threw his arms around me.  It was all I could do not to sob, but I did my best to stay very present in an important moment.  Someone who’d been through what I’d been though was listening to me, was hugging me.  Someone was celebrating an achievement I’d been keeping to myself.  Someone who didn’t even know me was happier for me than I understood I deserved. (And not just anyone.  Tod Freaking Maffin!)

We talked for 15 minutes or so and I was utterly invigorated by the encounter.  What a gift! It gave me fresh energy to survive the remainder of the convention.

It also helped me understand the power of AA in a new way.  I have not gone to a meeting, and although I respect the program and have learned a great deal from some of the principles and strategies used in AA, I am not sure it is a program I need.  However, I also held an image in my mind of it as being a group of messed up people trading sad stories and now I know otherwise.  There is incredible power in the honesty required to speak from the heart and to listen openly.

I have had many brilliant Twitter exchanges with recovery folks who are both in and out of AA, and their help has been essential to my journey.  They told me I needed to find a group, to have someone to speak to.  I always knew they meant well, but this day gave new understanding of their words.

I got through the day but later into the evening I began to feel my armour slipping just a little.  It was about 11 pm and the delegates were gathered in the soaring lobby of the hotel for cocktails.  There was a lot of schmoozing and buzz.  Everyone was tired from the weekend’s events yet reluctant to leave, as it was the last night to see each other.  I was standing with a group of people who all had a drink in their hands, when one of my competitors approached.  This fellow and I compete very strongly against each other in our local market, and we frequently butt heads at industry committee meetings.  “Oh jeez,” I thought.  “This is just what I freaking need. Here we go. Be nice, now.”  I smiled and shook his hand.

“You don’t have a drink! Here let me get you something,” he offered, digging in his pocket for his drink tickets.  It was almost too much.  After three days of standing tall in the face of all that temptation, I broke.  My chin quivered momentarily and my eyes threatened to water.  I quickly shook it off, but not quickly enough.  He saw. He knew.  Shit.  He’s one of the people I work so hard to never let my guard down around, and he’d just seen everything.

“I can’t,” I said. “I…don’t.” I forced myself to look him in the eye.

He got it, and he responded with unexpected kindness.  “It’s okay,” he said quietly. “I’m still going to go get you something.  How about a Diet Coke? Would that be okay?”

I just nodded. I couldn’t speak.  (As I write about it now, I am having a good snotty cry.  Little gestures.  Little gestures…)

I will always remember that conference with gratitude.  I am glad it wasn’t easy, because I had to learn to cope.  But mostly, I am grateful for the gifts from others along the way – my husband’s support, the openness of a stranger, and the kindness of a friendly foe.

What a way to celebrate six months of sobriety.


  1. I’m so incredibly late to the party, but I’ve been reading your blog from day 1 this evening as I sit on the eve of my 200th day of sobriety, and this story made me tear up. Gestures like these are why I am in AA. Our stories are very much alike. From one functional alcoholic to another, I admire you greatly.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. […] she introduces herself to so she can ask his permission to share his awesome story (about setting a bottle of wine that he could not be in the same hotel room with in an empty elevator) — and he gives her a bear hug in congratulations for her 180 days without drinking. The […]


  3. Thank you! I just wanted to say thank you for this wonderful work you’ve done here on this blog – and in your life – and kept up for 3+ years now! I’m in the “reading phase” pre-quitting, trying to find inspiration and help and understanding. I found your blog in searching for information about quitting and have read all of 2011’s posts so far. Really great stuff!
    I know I need to quit and I know I want to. I can related to where you were in your life – I am functional but fuzzy. I’ve got a good life, a wonderful partner, and a good job – those all make me very thankful. But it’s all dulled around the edges, and I know I could be so much more than I am without the drinking and without waking up every day half-hungover, or worse. I will start on the recovery journey very very soon. Please know that your blog has already been a good first step toward taking control, and a source of comfort and motivation. And it’s helped me understand that quitting is the right thing, and an ongoing daily thing, and that I will be rewarded for it. I’m scared of course, but your experiences are making me less so. Thank you again.


    • Hi KM, don’t lose the momentum you are building. Life is SO much better without feeling constantly ashamed and distracted and sick and weak. I would love for you to find happiness and peace, and to be empowered and free. It is all there for you and I am thrilled to know that my story and yours have intersected here. xo


  4. I love this story. A lot. Thanks for sharing – I actually teared up at your competitor’s kindness, and at your gratitude. This is my first visit to your blog, but it certainly won’t be my last because it feels like a bit of a mirror…and I need that.


  5. Great story and great blog. I just hit 6 months myself.

    What you described is what I appreciate most about AA: the fellowship and human support. You can replicate that online to a point but I think humans do best with face to face interactions. (I’m not a fan of the AA doctrine, however, so I take the program with a healthy dose of Kosher salt.).

    My blog is at if you want to check it out.

    Cheers, Dick, the Sober Lawyer


  6. This post was great. I just discovered your blog, and I can relate as I haven’t told anyone that I don’t want to drink anymore. My husband is supportive but confused, he just doesn’t get it. I always had enough self-control around him but I am just tired of obsessing about it! I tried AA but was turned off by the hard press of 90 meetings in 90 days, and just constantly talking about alcohol. I know it helps so many people, but I just didn’t feel like it was right for me. So I’m going it alone…Thanks.


    • How are you doing? Can I suggest you look into ? I just ordered some material from SMART and I am very impressed with the program’s newsletter, podcasts, etc. It is hard at first but it does get easier and easier, especially for those of us who are lucky enough to have a supportive spouse! Keep in touch, okay? I am rooting for you!!


  7. i love this whole post! i couldn’t do it without AA but i know for some folks other ways seem to be the thing. good luck with your journey!


  8. Congratulations on your six months of sobriety! That truly is a big deal. I am enjoying your blog and I look forward to watching your journey. I’m sober as well — have been for a while — It’s brought me many adventures and wonderful friends.


  9. I just love your blog…and your superb, elegant writing. I have 44 days of sobriety under my belt now, but I still haven’t shared it with friends. I told two of my sisters that I was not drinking and taking positive steps, but I didn’t use the term “alcoholic” in this conversation; nevertheless, it allowed us to have a candid, albeit painful discussion about the role of alcohol in our family. I have started attending a women’s AA meeting and believe that it will lead to some nice connections. I think your honesty and moment of exposed vulnerability to your foe allowed for the outer layer to be stripped and the inner connection, even if it was a fleeting one, gives us hope in humanity. Very touching. christine


  10. WOW!
    great ending to the story, loved it.

    And, yes, right there the power of one drunk talking to another….the need for those kinds of moments, for that identification, is what got me to go to an AA meting, and that same power (which I call my higher power, as I am not a “god” person) is what keeps me there.

    And I’d like to share with you one of my favorite little mantras for I use when I am really feeling low and need to remember how to get out of myself….
    “First the gesture, then the grace”….

    little gestures, little gestures…


  11. Great anecdote – is amazing how ashamed we are of ourselves still – even as we build a pride-worthy-tally of sober days!
    I am at 170 days sober today and although I am yet to have a revelation like you, no doubt it will at some point. It is such a release to be able to share my thoughts and progress through the medium of blogging, as I too have not found a fit with the AA meeting schedule. For me, the blog and some regular research and reading is all I have relied upon this far.
    Keep going, I will be around, great to read your story…


  12. I really enjoyed your account of this event. The encounter with the speaker is what Carl Jung describes as “synchronicity” or meaningful chance occurances. Synchronicity happens to me all the time when i am on the right path. It is indeed my higher power in action. This little encounter brought a tear of gratitude to me knowing that your higher power was operating for you, especially in such a difficult time.

    One thing I picked up on in your piece is you are still very concerned with how people perceive your not drinking. For me, I turn it over to my higher power and accept that no matter anyone’s response I will be just fine clean and sober. I know i worry about it much more than any one else, and when I say no thank you, it ends almost any further prodding. I think ending this obsession with others perception of me was one of the most critical steps i have taken in my sobriety. Its really about control and needing to control others perception. Control is a place this alcoholic need not be. I am not in the results business anymore, my higher power is.

    Congrats on 180 days. That is huge! You are doing wonderful!


    • BOB!!! Thank you for your comment – I’ve missed hearing from you. You are right – I am always sensitive to what others think and the good news (I think) is that I am starting to more often feel that not drinking is something to be proud of, not ashamed or embarrassed. Either way, I am always remembering what you commented earlier, which is that alcoholics need to beware of their expectation of others — worry what people think and also thinking they might be impressed – both of those things are expectations, right? So, as you say, worry only about the spiritual relationship and perceptions. Seriously, great to hear from you. Thanks for following my ups and downs. Take good care.


  13. So.Freakin.Proud. !!! I know I have said this before but you are an amazing inspiration. Thank you for sharing the scary and the wonderful. You are a great storyteller. Congrats on 181 days!


  14. Congratulations, dear girl, on your milestone. The part about the speaker in recovery really tied it all together. I love that stuff. You just never know where we’re going to pop up.

    Please keep on keepin’ on. More will be revealed.


  15. Awesome , just awesome. Again back to coincidences! Hearing that speaker, kind person offering to get you a diet coke…..getting what you needed when you needed it. So cool! What a huge accomplishment. !! HOORAY!!


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