Ten Years Sober, One Day at a Time
Lucky Dave L, Puerto Rico
I'm an alcoholic my name is Dave. By the grace of God and this wonderful program of Alcoholics Anonymous I haven't had a drink today, and for that I'm grateful.
I walked into my first A.A. meeting on June 6, 1993, at the Saddleback Valley Fellowship Center in El Toro, California (better known as the El Toro Club). It was the 5:30 P.M. meeting on a Sunday. I had been sent there as part of the SB38 program after my second drunk driving arrest. To get my license back I had to attend meetings.
When I walked in I thought to myself, what am I doing here? I don't belong here. I'm not an alcoholic.
I started drinking when I was 11 years old and at 32 I’d been drinking daily the last 12 years. I drank to get drunk, but everybody did that, or so I thought.
Let me back up a little. I was in the Marine Corps, and after I returned from Okinawa in 1986 I was assigned to work in the Substance Abuse Control Office at the base in El Toro, California. Great place to put an alcoholic to work. I was sent to a seminar in Washington, DC, for people who worked in that field. As part of the seminar we had to attend an A.A. meeting so we could see what it was like. I remember that meeting very well, It was in a hospital, down in the basement, the room was filled with smoke, and there were a bunch of "old guys" sitting around reading from a book. I thought what of bunch of losers. I thought, well, these guys belong here. Looks like they've been through the ringer. They looked awful. (Later on when I got sober, I realized that they were probably in the detox unit at the hospital and that they probably had to attend A.A. meetings.)
So how could I be an alcoholic? I still had my car. I had my job. I had food on the table. I had an apartment, and I paid most of my bills. An alcoholic was that bum you see on the street who had lost everything and smelled horrible and looked horrible.
The one thing I liked about the meeting was the lady leading it. She was dressed for summer in shorts and a skimpy blouse. I thought, maybe the meetings won’t be that bad.
I continued to go to my weekly meeting to fulfill the court requirements. One day someone told me that I didn't have to go. I could sign my own court card. I stopped attending the meetings. At another meeting there were only two people, and the secretary offered to sign my court card and told me that I didn't have to stick around. He told me that he knew I didn't want to be there and that I was thirsty and I wanted to drink. He also said that he would be there waiting when I came back. I said to myself, I'm never coming back once I get done with the mandatory meetings.
I not sure what happened, but something that I heard in those few meetings I attended stayed with me. As they say, A.A. ruined my drinking. I would sit in a bar after meetings and say to myself, maybe those A.A.s are right. Maybe I do have a problem. It is the first drink that gets me drunk. My life is getting worse. All of those things ran through my mind.
On April 17 1994, I had that moment of clarity. I was sitting at home and I had finished off a couple of bottles of wine with dinner. I had been trying some of the methods talked about in Alcoholics Anonymous, chapter 3. After all, wine isn't really alcohol is it? It happened to be the anniversary of my second DUI, and I was reflecting on what had happened in that year. I had gotten my third DUI. I had been in jail. I had had all sorts of financial problems. I was still drinking and driving. I said to myself, it won’t be long before I get that next DUI, and then I’m really going to be screwed. So I decided that I did have a problem and that the next day I would go back to A.A., this time because I wanted to.
I walked into that noon meeting at the El Toro Club and I raised my hand and said, “My name is Dave, and I think I might be an alcoholic.” It still was tough for me to say that word alcoholic. Right after the meeting a few guys came up to me and gave me a copy of the Big Book. They recommended that I read a few specific pages. They also gave me the 20 questions and told me that only I could decide if I was an alcoholic. They said that if I read the pages they suggested and looked at myself honestly and identified with something there, and also if I answered the questions honestly, I would know if I was an alcoholic. I did as suggested, and I definitely knew I was an alcoholic.
The next day I went back to the meeting and raised my hand again and said that I was Dave and that I definitely was an alcoholic. I believe that they were happier to hear that than I was. In another meeting later on, I heard someone say that they were there on a “Get Well” card from the judge, I liked that, and I started using it in my shares at meetings. I am very grateful to that judge.
I haven't had a drink since deciding I am definitely an alcoholic. As I am writing this it has been 3,653 days, 12 hours, without a drink. My tenth year in sobriety. I didn't think I could make it ten days or even ten hours for that matter. But I did make it, one day at a time.
I can't say that it all has been easy. I had my rough times in A.A., including almost drinking again at around three years sober. But that was mainly because it wasn't until then that I honestly worked the Steps. I had to get into enough pain in sobriety to get motivated to do them.
At around five years of sobriety I had an episode that really scared me. It was only by the grace of God that somehow I called my sponsor and he sent me some help. After three days in the psychiatric ward I was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic. I also lost my job, lost my car, my landlord was kicking me out, and I had no money. It was a little bit more that I could handle, and I went into a deep depression, so deep that I tried suicide three times. I had nowhere else to go so I moved back home to Puerto Rico. The depression continued for fifteen months. I isolated, not even leaving my house. I also had forgotten about God.
It wasn't until I got tired of feeling that way and I told God that if He wouldn’t let me die (I wanted to die, and I was angry at Him because He wouldn't let me), then He should give me a signal and let me know what to do because I couldn't take it any longer. The next day I woke up feeling a little better and I got my signal, a call from a friend (non-A.A.) in California. That was all I needed. I went to the Veterans Administration hospital and got help for my depression and schizophrenia.
Today I am doing great. I still am on medications and in treatment with a psychiatrist. I know that I am one of those who need medication. I have tried to go without them, and it doesn't work for me. I jump into negativity right away, and then those awful thoughts start running through my head. But what helps me the most is A.A.
Today I get to celebrate my A.A. anniversary by being of service. In my Area General Service I serve as a district committee member. I am also chairperson for the Twelfth Step Committee for all of Puerto Rico. I can't think of a better place to be. I love service work. It is what has helped me the most with my sobriety. It gives me quality sobriety, and it gives me the serenity I seek.
Thanks to God, A.A., and a great sponsor for getting me through my ten years one day at a time. Today I am a truly grateful alcoholic. Thank God for using that judge to give me my Get Well card.
Lucky Dave L., Puerto Rico