When I arrived at PDX airport around 2AM, the first thing I did, obviously, was make a b-line for the designated smoking section outside the baggage claim.
As I stood there, sucking down my sweet, sweet nicotine, it hit me. I’m home.
It’s a strange feeling to have just been in the house where you grew up, surrounded by your loving family, all the familiar comforts of youth, all the streets that have been etched in your brain forever, only to return to a city, thousands of miles away, and feel like you’re really home. But, that’s what Portland has become to me. And, despite all the hardship I’ve been through in this city, I feel like I’ve become who I’m supposed to be here. It has defined me in a way that my 25 years in New York City never could.
My cab dropped me off at my apartment, where my little tabby was waiting eagerly for me. My Christmas tree, still in the corner, waiting to be plugged in. My coffee pot, just waiting for me to turn it on.
Instead of going to bed, I decided to stay up, shower, and head to the daily 6AM AA meeting that then transitions into my 7AM AA meeting. Where my other family waited for me.
In the parking lot outside of the meeting room, I smoked my cigarette. Taking in the Oregon tree tops, the quiet hum of the early morning traffic. The air, milder than New York’s, but, still cool enough to wake me up. The warm feeling inside the meeting room, seats filled with the familiar faces of my AA family, who, I really, really missed.
It struck me, that the comforting feeling of returning to my meeting, it was a lot like returning to the pub. After traveling in the past, my first stop upon arriving back home was always the bar. Yes, for a drink, but also to see those familiar faces that I hadn’t seen in a while. The stories and dramas that I’d missed. It was a part of coming home. Catching up on all the little details. And, getting back to my AA meeting felt that way. Seeing all my friends and acquaintances, listening intently to their shares, finding out who’d relapsed over the holiday. And, then, there were those folks who didn’t know I’d gone home for Christmas who were relieved to see me, who were happy and proud I was still sober.
So, this is home. This city. This apartment. This kitty cat. This program of Alcoholics Anonymous. This space I’ve created. I’ve built.
They say that home is where the heart is, but, if I’ve learned anything in my life, it’s that your heart can be in many, many places at any given moment. Today, for me, home means a place where I am my authentic self. Where I’m happy to be, always. It’s where I want to be.
And, I’m returning home this time with a sense of hope and renewal.
It’s knowing: This, is where I belong, always.