Never Say Never
Dodie T, Chilliwack, British Columbia
Someone suggested that I share my story here and at first I thought, “No, I don’t think so. What could I possibly say that might help someone else?” But then I got to thinking about what my sponsor would say if I told her I had declined. She’d say, “Dodie… every day you are sober you have something to share.”
So here I am, hoping to share my experience, strength and hope with you.
My name is Dodie and I am an alcoholic. I have not found it necessary or desirable to take a drink or drug since September 22, 1991.
I was born in Vancouver, British Columbia and have spent most of my life in B.C. I am the only child of an untreated alcoholic and perfectionist mother. I don’t remember much of my father’s drinking as he went to a private hospital when I was six and was prescribed Antibuse; after that, things seemed to get better. If nothing else it was at least quieter. But when I look back on it now, with the knowledge that I have about alcoholism and A.A., I know that my Dad was on a dry drunk for years. You see, he never took those pills voluntarily. My mother had to give them to him every day. He still had all the “isms” and it showed in many aspects of his life--the worst being his anger--I was on the wrong end of it many times.
I was a good kid, did well in school, took music, voice, and participated in sports. My main objective was to get the attention and love of my parents. But it didn’t happen. By the time I was thirteen, I realized that being “good” wasn’t getting me anywhere, and decided being bad might get me more attention. Boy did that work! I started missing school, lying, stealing and drinking alcohol. My life started to go downhill real fast. At fifteen, I was drinking almost every weekend. Right from the start, the more I drank, the more I wanted to drink. I would get drunk and then be afraid to go home, and so would run away. That was the pattern of my drinking for many years.
Looking back, I believe I crossed the line into alcoholism by the age of eighteen. By nineteen, I had quit school, left home, and soon found myself “in the family way.” My mother had a fit, of course, and my father, well… he wanted to deck me, but didn’t. Shortly after that, I was sent off to a home for unwed mothers. God forbid that anyone should find out that I was pregnant! While in this “home” I went to the bar probably two or three nights a week. It still amazes me today that I never got caught! I gave the baby up for adoption and tried once more to live at home with my parents, but it just didn’t work. They interfered with my drinking, so off I went running one more time.
Not long after I hit the road, my Mom met another man and left my Dad. Without the Antibuse she was hand-feeding him every morning, he started drinking again. I saw him once in that time and he was such a mess, it scared me to the bone--though not enough to quit drinking. In less than a year he had gotten so bad he couldn’t take it anymore, and took his own life by hanging himself in the bathroom at our summer home. I was devastated, and the only way I knew how to deal with the pain, was to drink. And drink I did.
I would like to be able to say that I finally saw the light and got a job and settled down; but it just isn’t so. I ended up on Skid Row at age twenty and became a daily drinker. It wasn’t long before I started doing illegal things to buy booze and soon ended up in jail. While I was there, I heard about this program called Al-anon. I asked what it was about and was told it was for family and friends of alcoholics. “Damn,” I thought to myself, “I should go there because my Dad was an alcoholic!” So off I went to my first Al-anon meeting. Well, I was shocked. I thought they were all talking about me! Self-centered? You bet! After the meeting I told someone exactly what I thought. This very kind lady simply looked at me, smiled and said, “Maybe you’re in the wrong program…” Now that really gave me something to think about. When I got out of jail I went to my first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. That was in 1967. I stayed sober for a few months but never did anything else other than abstain from alcohol. Of course, it wasn’t long before I drank again.
Over a period of twenty-five years I have come and gone in A.A. so much I’ve lost count of how many times. I know now it was because I was never willing to do anything other than stay dry. I’d lost so much to alcoholism, that I really was beginning to think I would never get it—would never be able to live a sober life.
The years went on like that. In 1978 I was living with my common law husband and together we had a baby girl named Amy. She meant the world to me. I loved her more than anything I had ever loved before. I controlled my drinking for a while, but just before her second birthday, I went on a terrible drunken spree. Once again, being too scared to go home, I ran. I was drunk for at least two weeks before I got so sick I just couldn’t drink anymore. Finally, not knowing what else to do, I went to detox. I asked to go to treatment and they told me I would have to contact my husband about paying for it. I still remember clearly the absolute terror I felt that night. What would I say to him? Would he pay for this? Or would he just find me and beat the hell out of me? I didn’t know how to face this fear it was so paralyzing, and so I took the coward’s way out: I phoned my best friend, told her where I was, and asked her if she could please tell my husband. That night he came to see me in detox and told me he would support me with anything I wanted because I was finally reaching out for help. He also told me that if I ever drank again, that it would be the end of our marriage.
Once more I went back to AA. I stayed sober for two years, but only spent about the first six months going to meetings. Our Big Book tells us “… the alcoholic at certain times has no effective mental defense against the first drink. Except in a few cases, neither he nor any other human being can provide such a defense. His defense must come from a Higher Power” (p. 43).
And so it was with me. Without doing any suggested program of recovery, I had no Higher Power in my life, and I drank again with full knowledge of what was to happen. Yes, I lost it all. My daughter will be twenty-five this year and I have not seen her for over twenty years. This was the beginning of the end for me, but it took nine more years for me to finally surrender!
By 1991, I was not only an alcoholic, I was also addicted to cocaine. I was living on the street, eating in soup kitchens, and looked like a refugee from some third world country. I did whatever was necessary to keep me from going insane from thinking about my crazy, horrible life; to do that, I needed to stay high. During that time, I went places no woman should ever have to go, did things that no lady should ever have to do. I felt nothing but shame, guilt, remorse, and utter hopelessness and the only way to rid myself of those feelings was to drink and use.
One morning I woke up and thought to myself, “I can’t do this anymore, or I am going to die.” Here, then, was my moment of clarity. One more time I went to detox, then to a recovery house. I went back to treatment where they made us do the Steps. It was while living there that I did my very first Steps Four and Five. The feelings I had after my Fifth Step, I just can’t describe—but I can say there was a total freedom the likes of which I’d never felt before. It was at that moment in my recovery that I found a Higher Power that loves me and teaches me how to stay “in the now.”
It hasn’t all been easy since that spiritual awakening. I hit an emotional bottom at five years and damn near drank. Thank God for the people that showed me the way out of that quagmire. And two years ago I had to have an angiogram that triggered my Hepatitis C forcing me to quit my job. I haven’t worked since. Last winter, I spent six months on Interferon, something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I was too sick to go to meetings but my A.A. friends kept in touch by phone and email. Today I am supposedly in remission: Thank you, God.
I have learned how to live life on life’s terms and today I am sober and reasonably sane. I attend some four meetings a week now and love to come to the online meetings here at The e-AA Group. I have the privilege of sponsoring women where I live, and boy that sure helps me! I am involved with my home group and love doing service. I will never be able to repay what has been so lovingly and freely given to me.
All I ever wanted in life was to be accepted and loved for who I am. In A.A., I have found this unconditional love and acceptance. And from receiving this gift I, too, have learned to love and accept others unconditionally.
In closing, I would like to share something I’ve always related to ever since I read it in my first year of sobriety. It’s a good reminder for me of when I was a practicing alcoholic--and also when I finally quit drinking for good with A.A.’s help. From the story “A.A. Taught Him to Handle Sobriety,” found on pages 560 and 561 of our text, Alcoholics Anonymous:
“I lived in a dream world. A.A. led me gently from this fantasizing to embrace reality with open arms. And I found it beautiful! For, at last, I was at peace with myself. And with others. And with God.”
May God bless you as we trudge the Road to happy destiny.
Your friend in recovery.