Part One: How I Became an Alcoholic

My German Big Book:

My German Big Book:

This week, I told three people (three people I did not intend on telling) about my blog. All three are in high school. All three of them are mature enough to understand the significance of my words. With each conversation, there was an opportunity to address my alcoholism. But I did not do so. I just stated that I had a blog and kept on movin’. In other words, I choked. I had a teachable moment but I did not accept the challenge. I regret my decision. So, for my three ladies, tonight I write for you.

I think, fundamentally, there are two separate questions. 1) How or why did I become an alcoholic? 2) Why do I write about my alcoholism in such a public forum? For the sake of brevity, I think I will address the first question in Friday’s blog and the second question in Monday’s blog.

How or why did I become an alcoholic?

Addiction in any form is a baffling and confusing topic. Many facets of society offer different reasons for how and why addiction starts. Some people feel one acquires alcoholism over time. Drink enough alcohol, and one will surely become an alcoholic. Some believe that alcoholism is a response to a traumatic experience or otherwise physiological unraveling. And still some others believe it is genetic, something that one is born with like brown hair or green eyes. I believe all three of these theories have merit. Ultimately though, Doctors and scientists have proven through MRIs (brain scans) that when an addicted person consumes drugs or alcohol, his brain kicks into overdrive, lights up like a Christmas tree. Clearly there is some kind of biological component to alcoholism.

But addiction does not just exist in the brain; the body physically becomes acclimated to this way of living. When an addicted person tries to stop drinking or using certain drugs, an acutely painful experience called “withdraw” can set in. Most alcoholics and addicts must check into the hospital or rehab in order to “detox” off these substances. To not do so is very dangerous. People can die from quitting abruptly; the change is too shocking to the system. This physical component often leads to a person continuing to abuse substances long after he has wanted to stop.  The necessity to continue drinking or using when one no longer wants, is the great paradox of addiction.

Think of it like this: you’re crazy hungry. You skipped lunch. Now, it’s after school and you are starving to death. Someone hands you your very favorite meal. And you eat and eat and eat. Have you ever eaten so much you felt sick to your stomach? Have you ever ate so much you felt guilty and gross and fat? Okay, alcoholism is like that but a billion times worse because it is alcohol and not chocolate.

Okay, so wait, back to the question. How did I, your lovely and talented Ann, become an alcoholic? I really don’t know. Yes, yes to all of it. What I do know is that I have a distinct memory of a conversation. It was a summer day in Boston. I am walking down the street. The conversation was not about me. It was about someone else, but my friend said, “You are not an alcoholic.” And I remember in my head thinking, “I’ve got you snowed.” Because I knew. I knew I was an alcoholic. I was eighteen years old.

It would take me another twelve years before I walked into the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. We have a book. It is called the “Big Book.” My very favorite line is from page 152. It says, “He cannot picture life without alcohol. Someday he will be unable to imagine life either with alcohol or without it. Then he will know loneliness such as few do. He will be at the jumping-off place. He will wish for the end.”

The line says he (the alcoholic) cannot imagine life without alcohol. But in the next sentence there is a subtle shift. Now the man cannot “imagine life either with alcohol or without it.” A change has occurred in the man.

The passage goes on to say, “Then he will know loneliness such as few do.” I love the simple elegance of those lines because I know exactly that feeling. When one cannot continue the way one is living, and yet cannot stop, life feels impossible. Doing something, repeatedly, that one does not want to do is a humiliating and soul crushing experience. This feeling, this loneliness, I do not wish upon anyone. And yet, I know without a doubt, that emotion saved my life. Without that emotion, I might have never reached out and asked how to make it stop.

The end of my active addiction and the beginning of my recovery was both the worst and the best day of my life. That day was February 28, 2007.

 

To be Continued Monday.

Fear does not get to Win

The Fear Problem

Fear… “This short word somehow touches about every aspect of our lives. It was an evil and corroding thread; the fabric of our existence was shot through with it,” (Big Book 67).

There lives, deep within my chest, a small black tarball of fear. I can feel it. It exists, not where my heart is, but where a child thinks her heart is. Smack in the middle of my chest. Right behind my breastbone. If I think on it, it grows. I can feel it blossoming right now, as I type this, winding like a slow vine throughout my body and into my fingertips. It says, “Don’t write about me. Don’t acknowledge me, because then I become real. I become real and they will know… They will know you are years sober and still I live within you. You have not conquered me.”

I remember walking into the rooms, dazed, reeking of vodka (really, they should stop telling burgeoning alcoholics that vodka doesn’t smell). I just wanted to stop drinking. Maybe not even stop entirely forever. Just stop for the moment. Stop blowing up my life. Stop getting into trouble. I sat there lost and disturbed as people spoke of how fear had invaded their daily lives.

And I thought, “Poor people,” cause I knew what it meant to be brave. I was seven feet tall and in total control of my life. I remember my sponsor telling me to list my fears on my first fourth step. I wrote something like 1. Drinking. 2. Cockroaches. And there the list abruptly ended. I had zero conception or understanding that I drank largely out of fear. I mean, I read it in the Big Book and my sponsor told me it was true. The rooms told me it was true. But I had no idea how to internalize that information. I didn’t understand that I drank out of a fear of facing reality. Fear of what others thought of me. And fear of what I thought of myself.

Fear is insidious and cunning. It fights dirty. It comes at once, full force, slamming into my body. Then again, waiting until I am lying in bed late at night, it subtly and mischievously burrows into my soul. Fear will tell me I am not good enough or pretty enough. It will tell me my life a foolish, quixotic endeavor doomed to end in a fiery ball of disappointment and failure. It will tell me I will drink again, so why not drink right now.

But then, I remember that fear is not real. I may feel it. It may exist, oozing out from the pit in my chest to momentarily hijack my thoughts, but it no longer gets to dictate my actions. That’s what recovery has given me: steps and people, a higher power, and the knowledge of second thought. It has given me time and perspective and understanding. Recovery may not have cured the neurosis, but it has given me a fighting chance. No, fear does not get to win, not today.

 

Alcohol. Drugs. Sex. Envy. Anger. Work. Emotions. Laughter. Love.

I had originally started this journal post by writing that I love talking to “Normies,” but that is a lie. Normies drive me crazy. Every once and awhile, though, the planets align in such a way that the most irritating of conversations actually allows me to walk away with a renewed sense of appreciation for my alcoholism. Yesterday was one of those days.

I won’t rehash the whole conversation, but here is how it ended. Her- “I always say it’s all about moderation. Moderation is the key”

In my mind, I imagine the response I am confident every alcoholic or extreme person thinks when someone suggests moderation as the answer, “You have zero idea what you are talking about. Clearly you have never struggled with addiction, or you would not have the audacity to speak such a ridiculous and near sighted idea.”

A few minutes later, I was driving home on the freeway (I do my best thinking on I-10), and a new emotion happened upon me. I realized I felt a little pity for my moderate friend. What is moderation? It sounds like no fun at all.

When I got home, I typed “moderate” in my online web browser. This is the definition that appeared:

Definition: Average in amount, intensity, quality, or degree.

Synonyms: Average, modest, medium, ordinary, common.

“Average in intensity” really spoke to me. Nothing about alcoholism is average in intensity. That would negate the entire point. But is it not just with alcohol that I lack moderation. I have zero conception of what it must feel like moderate anything.

                 Alcohol.

                               Drugs.

                                                Sex.

                                                               Envy.

                                                                           Anger.

                                                                                           Work.

                                                                                                          Emotions.

                                                                                                                          Laughter.

                                                                                                                                          Love.

But there is another side to extreme living. There is no doubt in my mind that when I have leave this planet, I will have lived an intensely felt life, a life that was thoroughly fun, undoubtedly interesting, and dramatically depressing.

I think that’s true of all alcoholics. Because we aspire with our whole body, we drink to forget the disappointments. Because we dream with all our imagination, we envy with all out might. Because we love with our whole being, we hurt to the same degree when that love is discounted. Maybe it is just me, but if you asked me to trade all that for an average or ordinary life, well… I think I’ll just decline.

 

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Life is not Something to be Endured

“When a man or a woman has a spiritual awakening, the most important meaning of it is that he has now become able to do, feel, and believe that which he could not do before on his unaided strength and resources alone. He has been granted a gift which amounts to a new state of consciousness and being. He has been set on a path which tell him he is really going somewhere, that life is not a dead end, not something to be endured or mastered. In a very real sense he has been transformed, because he has laid hold of a source of strength which, in one way or another, he has hitherto denied himself. He finds himself in possession of a degree of honesty, tolerance, unselfishness, peace of mind, and love of which he had thought himself quite incapable” (Twelve and Twelve 106-107).

 

I’ve been thinking about this passage on and off for a couple of weeks. The sentence that keeps reverberating is, “Life is not a dead end, not something to be endured or mastered,” but I felt the whole paragraph is so strong that it deserved to be reproduced.

I have really struggled with the idea that life is something to be endured. Not just recently; I’ve struggled with it my entire life. I remember being a kid and just yearning, begging for independence. I needed power and control over my own existence so badly I could taste it. By the time I became eighteen though, it was too late. I had become too used to self-medication and escapism; I could no longer exist in reality. My daytime life, my working life, my social life, all became something to endure in order to perpetuate the false. When I finally awoke from this nightmare twelve years later, I had to endure the crazy that was early sobriety. I was upset at a lot of people and things. I wanted to blame others, but you told me the fault lay squarely in my own house. I was broke, scared, lost. Over time, things got better. I went back to school, got a job, and did my best to become an adult. I endured my new found responsibility.

But then something happened. It was in October of last year. I was in the midst of a horrible job. Every morning, I woke up with a sense of dread and oppression at the next days, weeks, years. One Friday evening, my boyfriend stopped by to pick me up for an unexpected date. I had been sleeping off another horrendous week and hadn’t received his texts. I didn’t want to go out. I wanted to feel sorry for myself. He had a whole night planned. He convinced me. I relented.

What we did wasn’t important, nor might I add, all that extraordinary. But I do remember the emotions. I remember being happy, really happy, and laughing, really laughing, for the first time in weeks. I remember driving down the freeway, looking up at the night sky and thinking life is short and beautiful to not be appreciated. And I remember thinking I no longer wanted to live a life of dirt and disease, sadness and heartache. I wanted beauty and art and culture and literature. I wanted to live a life of joy and stars and laughter.

I couldn’t have articulated it then, but I had reached a whole new kind of bottom in sobriety.

It took some time for me to sort out the unhappiness that was my life, but over the course of the year I got a new job, a new apartment, and a new roommate. And I began following a new path, not the path of a career, but a path of the creative. I started to write again.

Some days, it is still hard to not get caught up in enduring life. I worry about money and housing and health. But the reality is, right now at this very moment, my life couldn’t be more beautiful. I am looking out the window at the last of the summer storms. I am in full anticipation of October and Halloween. I cannot wait for the first burst of cold weather when I can turn off the air conditioner and open all the windows in the house. It reminds me, though, of where I was, not just physically but emotionally, last October.

What if I never realized I had the power to change my life? What if I never realize that I could be happy? I still don’t know today why I thought the only way to live life was to endure it. I’m not sure if it is a quirk in my psychology or a byproduct of my alcoholism. I do know though, that it doesn’t have to continue that way. I have a friend who says, “I’ve been drunk and I’ve been sober. Sober’s better.” So might I add, is happy.

 

A little Nina Simone to help you smile.

Willing to go to Any Length

Here in Houston, as I assume in most cities, “How it Works” is read at the beginning of meetings. Over time, a particular line from this passage has wormed its way into my inner thoughts. “If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it…”(Big Book 58). While I have vague recollections of being asked the corollary question, “Are you willing to go to any length?” early in my sobriety, I have not had the question posed to me in a very long time. A little more than a year ago, I started asking it of myself.

Am I willing to go to any length? I think back to Bill’s now famous trip to Akron, Ohio. His business meeting had not gone as planned. At one end of the hotel hallway was a bar, the other a payphone. He picks up the phone and starts flipping through the phonebook, calling strangers, clergymen, at random to find a drunk to talk to. Can you imagine what this sounded like? “Hello. My name is Bill. I am an alcoholic visiting from New York. Do you know of any other alcoholics that I might be able to speak to?” What do you think the people on the other line thought? I surmise they probably thought he was drunk right there on the phone. It sounds like a drunk idea, talking to another alcoholic. I wonder how many numbers he had to dial before he got ahold of Henrietta Seiberling. I have thought more than once that the phone calls in and of themselves were probably enough to keep him sober. How many times does a man have to proclaim his own fallibility to a stranger before he realizes a drink is probably not a good idea? He could have stopped right there. Then where would we all be?

I think of the men going into Townes Hospital. I think of the famous picture “Man on the Bed” by Robert M. I test myself some days. Am I now or was I ever willing to go to Ben Taub, walk up to the ER nurse, and politely inquire as to whether there were any alcoholics with whom I could have a conversation. Whenever I contemplate such actions, and whether or not I would be willing to follow in those same steps, I get a little uncomfortable and squirmy.

Cause the truth is, I ignore phone calls. And Last Sunday, when the leader of a meeting asked for potential sponsors to raise their hand to the new man, I kept my hands folded in my lap. On Tuesday, on my way to my usual 10 PM lead, I complained to myself the entire drive there. I went to some length, sure. According to Google Maps, I went precisely 9.9 miles. But is that any length?

I am so lucky that I live in a place and time where AA is so readily available. I don’t have to call up ministers at random and ask for alcoholics. I don’t have to walk into Ben Taub to find an alcoholic because the Parc and the Right Step and any number of rehabs have nightly meetings. But I should probably pick up a phone if one calls me, right? So what does any length look like today? 90 in 90? Written daily tenth step? I don’t know.

So, I throw down the gauntlet. I ask you. What’s the most extraordinary action you have taken in the past month to support your own sobriety? What does any length look like today? Leave your comment anonymously here or post it on Facebook. Maybe you will inspire the rest of us.

 

 

I’m the Earth in my Own Life

It’s is pretty common in AA to hear that newcomers should make a list of all the things they want out of their first year. The bearers of this advice often follow it by adding that whatever is on said list will surely be gotten and surpassed. Whenever I hear that advice, though, I wonder if it is wise. I’m not sure. I’m not passing judgment. I really do not know. There seems to be something so contrary to asking an alcoholic to dream, to make lists, to plan for the future. It feels like setting one up for resentment. On the other hand, the books tell me that my imagination will be fired at last, and truthfully, lately it does feel like my imagination is on fire. I want to do more, dream more, aspire more.

So, here is my question: Are only people in their first year allowed to make lists or can anyone do it?

I was so tempted by the idea of the list, I figured it was worth the inevitable resentment when none of it came true. But an interesting thing happened as I started to write it… The list changed. What should have been Number One on the list success and financial security, but it wasn’t. It was my sobriety.

  1. Sobriety. So, I know sobriety has to be Number One on the list. It might be a formality. It feels like a formality. I roll my eyes as I write it. “Of course she would put sobriety Number One. What a goody two-shoes. We all know that if this were a real list, a million dollars and a book contact would be at Number One.” Okay, you make a point. But this is a real list, not a fantastical monkey paw list. Furthermore, I fear the moment I take my sobriety for granted. The moment I begin to believe my own mind and the crazy it produces, I am in severe trouble.

 

So, then I thought, well, success would be Number Two, except it wasn’t again. Number Two was to be a better person.

  1. Be a better person. This, of course, holds hands with Number One. I have to grow spiritually to remain sober. The Big Book tells me that. It goes beyond that though. I legitimately want to be a better person. I like to think of myself as a cynic. I question most everything. I’m judgmental and competitive and a little mean. I don’t like Pollyannas. I want to be brazen and bold, not sweet or kind. But in my heart, when I am lying in bed late at night, I think about what it must feel like to have patience and love and tolerance in one’s heart instead of dripping black goo. So, Number Two is to figure out how to simultaneously be a badass and nice.

 

  1. I want my family to be well.

And then I had this weird memory from my very early sobriety. I haven’t shared it in a long time. I was sitting outside chain-smoking with my friend Baughbee who also had maybe thirty or sixty days. He was a little bit older, gray around the temples, but somehow we had formed a fast and true friendship. One day, we got started on the conversation of how Galileo realized the sun did not go around the moon. I have no memory of how it started, just that it happened.

What I do remember doing was turning to Bobby and in one enormous breath exclaiming,

“What if I am Earth? What if I am not the center of my own universe? What if all this time, I thought I was the center, but I am not. What if I am really just Earth orbiting three revolutions away? And what if the Sun is actually God or AA or a higher power. And that is the true center of my life? In my own life. In my own life, what if I am not the most important thing in my life? What then? What then…? And I think it was Copernicus.”

There was a long silence. Baughbee looked over at me. I think he thought I was crazy. But now, seven years later, it turns out I was right. I am not the most important thing in my own life. AA is, sobriety is the sun. It is from this warmth that all the other things spring forth. And then there is spirituality. And the health of my family. I am Earth afterall. And so, what then? What, nothing. It’s just fine. I am sitting here in the calm of the early morning on Labor Day weekend. Bob is asleep. The puppies are asleep. And life is good. I don’t need everything to revolve around me. I just need it to revolve, to keep going. And if the top three things on my list continue to be taken care of when I turn eight, well, that would be nice too.

Happy Labor Day.

And yes, it was Copernicus.

 

Cause if you ain’t Drunk now, it’s Gonna be all right

My life is just this side of unmanageable. I really and truly do not understand how other people keep all their parts moving with seemingly effortless ease while my life is usually held together by a concoction of spit and duct tape. But my life wasn’t always this together. In my early sobriety, I was a real mess.

The most memorably unmanageable part of my early sobriety was not the fact that I was homeless or that I was unemployed and unemployable, but that the stickers on my car were totally and completely expired. Not just kinda expired. Not just the police pull me over just in case I didn’t realize that the sticker three feet away from my face had somehow missed my keen observational skills. If I remember correctly, both my registration and my inspection sticker were like three years expired. And for the life of me, I had no idea how to fix them. My license was expired. I had no money, no insurance, no idea how to get money or insurance. The inspection and license required insurance, the insurance required a license (or so I thought). And who knew what a registration required. The license required me to go to the DPS, the registration to the courthouse. And none of that seemed the least bit doable.

One evening as I was heading home from a friend’s house, I got pulled over. The police officer didn’t, to my surprise, arrest me. Instead he gave me a handful of tickets with an accompaniment of frowny police countenance and a threat. Shaken, I turned my car around and drove straight back to my friend’s house. The next morning, I fortified myself against the world and once again began the drive home. This time I was smart enough to turn left out of the housing development instead of right. One minute after I got on the Sam Houston Tollway, I saw lights in my rear view mirror. Man, oh man. In my head, I’d like to think I kept it together for thirty seconds, but it might not have been that long. The officer just looked at me with an even frownier countenance than the previous officer because this wasn’t just regular police, this was sheriff police.

As a way of introduction I stammered, “Sir, I just got all these tickets last night, and really, I’m just trying to get home and park my car.”

Sheriff looked at the tickets for a minute and said, “These are dated last month.”

I looked at the tickets and then looked at Sheriff and back at the tickets and said, “I assure you, it was last night.”

And Sheriff said, “But they’re dated last month.”

For a second, I swear, I thought I might be on Candid Camera. I’m a pretty fast thinker, but I did not know if insisting that the other patrolman was wrong about the date was the right way to go or not.

An awkward paused stretched out. Sheriff said, “Tell me, why are your stickers so out date.”

This one I could answer, and I quickly stumbled over my words in a gush of new tears, “I just got sober and I am trying to get my life back together and I don’t have the money or know how to get the even get the stickers…” I trailed off and sat there staring at my hands against the steering wheel.

Sheriff took a long, hard look at me, “You drunk now?”

“What? No, sir!” (Though looking back, I have to admit, it was a fair question.)

“Cause if you ain’t drunk now, it’s gonna be all right.”

Sheriff said, he’d keep an eye out for my car, and if I ever drove the tollway again with my stickers expired, he’d pull me right back over. And then he let me go.

I finally did get out from under. I got the job, the money, the insurance, and yes, I went to the courthouse and the DPS. It took a while, but it got done.

But sometimes when life gets especially life-y, when things don’t go my way, or when I’m driving down the tollway, I think of good, old Sheriff and how he spoke my truth. “Cause if I ain’t drunk now, it’s gonna be all right.”

 

 

The Elimination of our Drinking is but a Beginning

I have been thinking about the line form the Big Book, “We feel the elimination of our drinking is but a beginning,” (19). I often hear in meetings that if you do not remember your last drunk, then you haven’t had it. I don’t really understand that. I presume it means that usually something so terrible happened the last time you drank, that it would be hard to forget. But that’s not my case. I don’t remember my last drunk. My guess is that it was like the hundreds that came before it.

Sometime towards the end of February 2007, I awoke one morning with the flu. At least, I think it was the flu. To this day, I still struggle to put all the pieces together. Over the next few days, the flu continued get worse. I was nauseous and had a shivering fever, but it went much deeper than that. I hurt down to my bones. I went in and out of sleep and had terrible nightmares mixed with paranoia. At some point, I knew this was no longer (if it ever was) the flu, but rather the DT’s. It is not my last drunk I remember so well, but my sobering up. The fear of experiencing that level of pain again has kept me sober through some of my most desperate white-knuckle times.

By the time I made it to AA, all I wanted was to not drink. I was not worried about anything else. I was so tired and so beat up. I don’t even know if I really thought I could be sober. I just knew I couldn’t drink that day.

I remember a particular meeting from early on. It was one I attended fairly often. A girl about my age started to share about how difficult it was growing up in public. I sat there for the rest of the hour trying to figure out who she was. She didn’t look rich or famous. Nor did I recognize her as any of the kid stars from my childhood TV watching. When the meeting let out, I rejected the idea of asking her how she was famous and just walked out. I figured maybe it was one of those TV shows that I never watched, “Eight is Enough” or “The Waltons.”

Thank goodness I kept coming back. Yes, elimination of our drinking is but a beginning. The funny thing though is I am still at the beginning. If you would have asked me at thirty days if I were acting rightly, I would have looked you straight in the eye and told you emphatically, “Yes.” That would have been the truth too, as much truth as I had at thirty days. At seven years, I’m doing the best I can with seven years. I continually stumble my way through the process of “growing up in public.” I make what feels like a ton of mistakes. I am, at any given time, impetuous and demanding, self-pitying and foot-stompingly immature. I don’t always think my actions through to the consequences. I am often too quick to answer and too slow to think. I want everybody to read my writing every day and then tell three friends about it! Hands on hips and a sharp nod for emphasis.

But as I wrote last week, “AA does not make too hard terms with us.” Whenever I fail at maturity, AA is there. Sure, they may not pass me the Kleenex box, but they do not deride me either. Last night’s meeting topic was the spiritual axiom. I realize part of the way through that I had been nursing a resentment about one thing while totally misdirecting my anger towards another thing entirely. So when my turn came, I shared about it. Speaking my truth allowed me to realized the solution to my, let’s face it, high-end problem. It helped me put things in perspective. AA allows me the forum to learn. I think that’s why meeting makers sometimes do make it. I need to hear other people sort through the problem of living life sober. Even with a few years, I still cannot heal my mind with my mind. I need other people to infiltrate my crazy and show me a better way. Everyday I stay sober, I think, man, I’m still at the beginning, for the I closer I come to perfection, the further away it feels. But really, isn’t that a good thing?

 

Hide Less. Seek More.

***This Friday’s post was not written by me, but by a very dear friend of mine who wishes to remain anonymous. I hope you will take a minute and leave a comment either below or on Facebook to encourage her to keep writing, as you have so generously encouraged me. Thank you. ***

Hide Less. Seek More.

By: Anonymous

My mouth feels like cotton, my glasses are lopsided on my face, and my body aches.  I squint in the dark to look up and see wood. I roll slightly to my left and feel rough carpet on my cheek. That is when I realize I have fallen asleep under my desk at work…again. I lost count of the times I have done this recently. I call my mom right before I do. She lovely tells me that I should not sleep at work. I hang up the phone, shut my door, turn off the lights; and crawl. I crawl into a small space, the space where your feet rest under a desk. My u-shaped cherry wood desk hugs me like a warm blanket. My eyes shut as I black-out into a sleep.

I have always relished in the relief and safety of a quiet, dark, small; space. I became disappointed when someone found me when I played the game hide-and-seek as a child. I was suddenly jolted out of my peaceful space with a loud voice screaming, “I found you!” I continued to hide in many variations of emotionally, physically, and spiritually destruction well into my adulthood. Drinking was the best hide-and-seek game for me. I would hide my feelings and emotions with each sip of a drink I took. On a good night, I “found” an attractive, young, confident, social butterfly. On a bad night, I “found” myself at 2:00am chugging the last of my double-fisted drinks before walking out of the bar.

The bad nights were more frequent, I couldn’t get drunk enough to find that attractive, young, confident, social butterfly again. Years after chasing that person, I got sober through the rooms of AA. The phrases I heard in my first meeting, “There is nothing that a drink won’t make worse” and “It will change and get different” stuck with me for the next several years. My sponsors always encouraged me to accept service commitments when I was asked to tell my story or chair a meeting. When asked, I was always to say yes. They explained the importance of that side of the triangle, the service side that keeps us in the middle. When I asked what was so great about being in the middle, they said, “Because when your ass falls off, someone will be there to catch it.”

As I crawl from under the desk, I fix my glasses, turn on the lights, and get on the internet. My ass fell off so long ago I can’t even tell you when it did. I have decided my black-out sleeps are not enough to escape my sober pain. Blackness is oozing from my rotting soul into my throat and out of my pores. I have decided I’m going to drink. Like a good alcoholic, I look for a place where I can go out with a bang. No sir, I’m not going to be one of those people who go out on a sip of beer and then come back in the next day. What a waste of a relapse. I find a very expensive out of town hotel with a swim-up bar. I am excited about the prospect of swimming up to a bar. That giddy feeling sweeps over me the same feeling I used to get years ago on a Friday night. My mouse hovers over the calendar to book the room for this Saturday. My stomach drops, I know deep in my heart this is the time I should pick up the phone and call someone. I don’t. I cry. I cry for the lost sober person I desperately want to find. I cry for the sober people I cut out of my life. I cry for the drunken butterfly.

At that moment, my phone rings. I answer irritated that someone is interrupting my drinking plans but curious enough to pick up the phone from this person in the middle of a work day. The person calling wanted to know if I could tell my story this Saturday. A yes came out of my mouth without thinking. Because I had been practicing it for a while with service commitments, it was second nature even in my darkness. I stayed sober for the next 48 hours, asking for the Spirit I had turned my back on to come back into my life and remove my obsession to drink. Just for today, I was not going to drink. Or book the hotel room.

It is Saturday night. I take a shower, something that I have not been doing daily. I go to paint my face with make-up to hide my darkness, but it takes too much energy and I leave barefaced. There are a lot of people in the room and I am not feeling sober even though I physically have not taken a drink. I feel like a fraud, all these people in this room and I’m going to talk about how great sobriety has been the past several years and how wonderful my life is, even though I am dying on the inside. The lights go down, the spotlight comes on, and I feel safe in the quiet, dark, large; space. I am not alone and I can tell my truth. “Hi, I am an alcoholic and today I am grateful to be here. Thank you to the person who asked me to tell my story, I was booking a hotel with a swim up bar and had decided to drink when she called and saved my life. Only an alcoholic would think about a swim-up bar in January.” The crowd laughed and I knew I was home and ready to begin my honest journey up toward the light, away from the darkness.

 

About the author: The author remains sober to this day without sleeping under the desk at work. Through a heap load of spiritual, emotional, and physical crawling over the next 18 months; the author is walking again hand in hand with the Spirit, one day at a time.

 

 

 

Me Agnostic

I was recently told this: “I know they have agnostic and atheist meetings, but if you ain’t talking about God, you ain’t in an AA meeting. You’re in something else.”

The force of the comment literally made me take a step back. The purveyor of such words was a woman with more years of sobriety than I have existence on this planet. She didn’t know me from Adam. I’m sure she meant no real offense, and yet… I was rendered speechless. Out of nothing more than pure respect, I muttered something along the lines of “You may be right,” and extricated myself right out of the conversation. But inwardly, I feel confused and uncomfortable.

Have you ever a conversation that when it was over, you wish you could rewind to say what you should have said to begin with? So here it goes…

Excuse me, ma’am. I don’t believe in God. I haven’t since I was about nineteen. A series of rational circumstances led me to this decision. I did not make it impetuously. I neither evaded nor ignored the question of God existence but indeed thought long and hard about it. Nor am I angry with God. (Contrary to what Bill writes in “We Agnostics,” those who truly do not believe in God cannot be angry with him. For one to be angry with God, then one would necessarily have to first admit that God exists as a thing to be angry with.) I simply do not believe in an almighty creator of heaven and earth or a cosmic watchmaker or any sort of divine entity that watches over me in any significant way. I do not have faith.

I know people find God in the program, but I am not one of those people. And yet, here I sit with a few days under my belt, proof that belief in any higher power is good enough. The Big Book says, “We found that God does not make too hard terms with those who seek him. To us, the Realm of Spirit is broad, roomy, all inclusive; never exclusive or forbidding to those who earnestly seek. It is open, we believe, to all men” (Page 46).

I honestly feel that if AAs are going to walk in the footprints of God, then they also should not make too hard terms. You should not degrade my beliefs just because they do not align with yours. How I read those last sentences is, “To us, Alcoholics Anonymous is broad, roomy, all inclusive; never exclusive or forbidding to those who earnestly seek recovery. It is open, we believe, to all men.”

And ma’am, with all due respect to your very many, hard fought years, I show you this, a letter from Bill, published in the Grapevine…

“We still make no contact at depth with those suffering the dilemma of no faith. Certainly none are more sensitive to spiritual cocksureness, pride and aggression than they are. I am sure this is something we too often forget. In AA’s first years I all but ruined the whole undertaking with this sort of unconscious arrogance. God as I understood him had to be for everybody. Sometimes my aggression was subtle and sometimes it was crude. But either way it was damaging- perhaps fatally so- to numbers of nonbelievers… Boasting of my faith, I had forgotten my ideals,” (The Best of Bill From the Grapevine, 1962).

I am not sure if these lines were Bill’s way of making amends for some of the things he wrote in his early sobriety, but I like to think so. I remember early on a guy telling me that if I didn’t believe in God, it was okay, because I would by my first birthday. I more recently had a friend of many years look me in the eyes and correct my nonbelief. It’s really gutsy to tell another person what they believe in.

So, please. Please do not tell me what you think I need to, should, could, possibly, maybe, believe in. Do not tell me to put my cigarettes under my bed so I am forced to get on my knees and pray, just for a couple of weeks or so. And please, do not tell me if I attend an agnostic or atheist meeting that I am not in AA. Because I’m pretty sure I am. I earned my seat just as surely as you have earned yours. I would never dare tell you what I think you should believe in. All I ask is for the same consideration.