This past week I traveled to Vermont with my family. Vermont is a place I’ve been going to since I was a baby. I have family there and we have a very special house there called Irish Hill Farm – my grandma’s farm to be exact and before her, it belonged to her mother and so on. The house is a symbol of my childhood and reminds me so much of my grandma. Her spirit will live on there forever and her ashes were scattered in the backyard up on the mountain.
I had a great time seeing my nephews, cousins, aunts and uncles, and of course my parents and sister were there. Vermont is a relaxing place with beautiful lush outdoor areas and tourist places like the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream factory and the Cabot Cheese store (very exciting). We had plans to all of these Vermont things, especially because my nephews and brother-in-law were new to it all. The last time I visited Vermont was in December of 2012. I was home from Cancun for Christmas and I had Fer with me. It was our first trip to the states together and his first Christmas with my family. It was back when I was still drinking heavily. We went out in downtown Burlington one night with my cousins while we were in Vermont and of course, I got good and drunk. My hangover the following day was vicious. Head pounding, heart racing, overcome by nausea. Of course, the day after the outing we had planned on going to the Ben and Jerry’s factory, taking the tour, and visiting the Cabot cheese store, in addition to seeing my aunt. I ended up in the bathroom of Ben and Jerry’s puking my brains out, on the wall, on the floor, barely making it into the toilet. It was humiliating. I barely remember the tour, what ice cream they gave out that idea, or if Fer was able to enjoy it. I wasn’t able to get out of the car at my aunt’s house and go in and visit with her because I was so sick and miserable. I had to nap in the afternoon and even missed a few hours at our family party. That was just a few weeks after I had my abortion and five months before I got sober.
I was eager to go back to Vermont last week, to be there sober, to make amends to Ben and Jerry’s and to experience everything with a clear mind. I didn’t go up to the staff and apologize for vomiting all over their public restroom, but I went there sober, visited the bathroom, did a little meditation and made peace with it all. I even took a photo of the bathroom and posted it on my Facebook page. I toured the factory and got to eat Stephen Colbert’s new flavor AmeriCone Dream. It was lovely. I felt closure leaving there knowing I will never be sick like I was on that day in 2012, ever again. I had made my amends to Ben and Jerry’s and felt like I could finally move on from that drunken trip in 2012.
The very next day I decided to take a trip to Bill Wilson’s house. I had seen online a few months back that the house where he was born in and a landmark called “The Wilson House” was located in Dorset, Vermont. I thought to myself, why not take a ride there? Dorset is a beautiful, sleepy little town in Southern Vermont. It’s just how you would imagine it – serene, spiritual, and full of history. I didn’t realize that Bill W’s house is registered on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s located a mile away from where Bill Wilson and his wife Lois are buried. The house was made into a hotel back in 1852 and has been preserved as such. Today it’s a bed and breakfast, as well as a meeting house, and a museum. There are 12 guest rooms and a small apartment where you can actually go and stay overnight.
When I walked in I was hit with a wave of calm. As I moved through all the different rooms of the house, sat on the couches, and flipped through the pages of the many books, I felt gratitude and I felt like I belonged. It definitely felt like being in the mothership of AA. In the back of the house is the meeting house where 12 step meetings are offered every day. Unfortunately, there were none offered at the time I was there. The clubhouse even had vanity license plates hanging up from all over the U.S. with AA catch phrases like “I luv AA” and “Bill W” and “ODAAT.”
I had a great time just taking in the quiet serenity of the house. I even poured myself a cup of coffee and sat in the rocking chairs on the porch. I also walked down the street to the Griffith Library. The small house that is now a library was the house where Bill grew up with his sister and his grandparents. The library is home to countless books, pamphlets, photographs and other archives related to the history of Alcoholics Anonymous. It was awesome to see the different editions of the Big Book and how the literature has changed throughout the years. There were also news clippings of AA in the news and other books unrelated to AA, but written about sobriety.
I didn’t spend long there, but a little over an hour was enough. Being where the founder of AA was born and grew up was educational, but what I enjoyed most was sharing coffee and couches with the thousands of souls who had entered the Wilson House before me. I could feel their energy, their gratitude, and their inspiration for sobriety while I was there.
Vermont has always been a magical place to me, but I never really understood just how magical it is until this most recent trip. Visiting places while sober is like seeing them for the first time all over again. I’m lucky to have had this opportunity and even more lucky to be sober.