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Stealth Camping with Hundreds of My Closest Friends
Written by Zinnia Abbott

An excerpt from a recently published book by a Mainer who is a friend of Bill W’s.

Zinnia, a lonely, retired nurse, is on a solo adventure. Road trip! Curiosity leads her to national parks, the world’s largest golf tee, colorful characters, and friendly AA meetings in all 48 contiguous US states. With humor and insight, she describes stealth camping in her minivan and learning about her country and herself. Ride along with her!

Excerpt:

“I think you should do it.” That’s what my AA sponsor says. We are having breakfast at Bernie’s Diner, as usual. “You’re energized just talking about it.”

I’m telling her about my daydream to take a road trip across the country. She asks, “What is stealth camping?”

“That means nobody knows you’re camping out in your vehicle, so you don’t have to pay anything for lodging, or a campsite. Just park somewhere legal overnight.”

My sponsor, Faith, knows me very well. She’s been my sponsor for a couple of decades. She has seen me at my most miserable, and she has seen me at my most enthusiastic. Enthusiastic is what she’s seeing now. I revere her. She’s a great listener and usually doesn’t give me advice unless I ask, or unless she thinks it’s important. I feel safe enough to tell her anything and she doesn’t even flinch. She’s practical and level-headed. I value her opinion. She’s my touchstone.

I had done stuff like this before. Camping and traveling cross-country with my family as a kid, bicycle tripping, hitchhiking in the seventies and roughing it (don’t tell my parents), traveling, and traveling alone. Though this time I won’t be alone, I will find AA meetings.

This kind of a trip is easy to imagine. Having a van to sleep in seems to me like luxurious accommodations.

And the timing. After I quit work, I’ll have no job, no kids at home, no commitments. I’ll have money from my Social Security check and income from my rental apartments. I have health and energy, and I just love the idea. I think, “Now is my chance.”

So, when I hear Faith’s reaction, that’s when I decide to go ahead and do it. That is the moment the daydream becomes a plan.

Fast Forward: a Scene from a New Day on the Road Trip

Noisy night in the parking lot. I’m up early. Tearful. Feeling lonely, unloved, unlovable. Shamed by being a victim of yesterday’s road rage and frustrated by lack of sleep. Time to move on.

In Zanesville, Ohio, I hit the AA meeting guide app and find that a meeting starts in three minutes, a half mile away at the Indiana Street Recovery Center, which is on Moxahala Avenue. They’re just saying the opening Serenity Prayer as I slide in and locate a seat in the packed room. These are some of the things I hear:

“If you believe you can, or if you believe you can’t, you’re right.”

“If you’re willing to drink yourself to death, that means your life is unmanageable.”

“Recovery is progressive.”

Often, I hear that alcoholism, or addiction, is progressive, in that it gets worse and worse if not put into remission. I know that recovery is also progressive, in that it gets better and better.

Rita, a woman my age with real short hair, invites me out to breakfast with her and two men who were at the meeting. I order a cup of decaf. We have a lively discussion about what it was like before AA and how much better it is now. Rita says, “I’m having some medical problems. Sobriety doesn’t guarantee that you’ll never have problems. But it’s way better if I don’t drink over it, and I have you people to support me.”

I say, “My first AA sponsor used to say, ‘If you have a problem and you drink over it, then you have two problems.’”

Clearly, after hanging out with people who get me, I feel much better. That’s one of the gifts of AA for me. I say to Rita, “I’m so glad you invited me. I feel fortified.”

>> Get Zinnia’s book here on Amazon 

Zinnia Abbott

Zinnia Abbott