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All Spokes Lead to the Hub

Len C, Puerto Rico

I'm Len C., and I'm an alcoholic who has not had a drink since age thirty-five. Now I am fifty-nine years old and getting healthier every minute, one day at a time. This is quite a miracle, considering I love alcohol, thought it was chic to drink, and couldn't stop drinking. I used it to help me feel better about me, to help me get to know you, and to soar to higher heights of imagined personal security, happiness, and greatness. I also used it to calm my terrified, troubled, and hung-over insides. I became an addicted mess somewhere along the way. I tried to pretend everything was wonderful in my life. I was trying to hide a severely sad emotionally ill guy. I was also very neurotic. I wanted to die. I was terrified in my world of loneliness, despair, and self-loathing. I often felt dead-ended. I wanted all of you to think I was doing great! I was playing pretend for years. I lived with a forced happy smile on my face while I held down real feelings of panic, despair, and doom.

My last night drinking, I was alone and very drunk in my living room. I crawled to God and pleaded, "Take this away. Save me from this!" God did. I went upstairs, went to sleep, and went to work sober the next day. The first day of my new life in sobriety and reality was December 13, 1978. A few days later, a co-worker told me, "You will drink again if you don't come to Alcoholics Anonymous." I went with her to my first meeting. I hated it, but I knew I had to be there. Mary L. was in her twenties and had been sober for three years.

I grew up in a "perfect" little family. Mom, dad, an older sister, and a buff colored cocker spaniel named Taffy. My mom and dad were very attractive and congenial people and quite social in their world of middle-class, aspiring-to-the-American-Dream worker-dreamers. We lived in a neat and beautiful new white house with dark green trim. Our lawn and gardens were well manicured, we had nice manners, we didn't fight (openly or much), and we wore fashionable clothes every day. We were a nice family. I thought of it as "Betty Crocker's" house. Everything was ideal, except I always felt different from the "thems." I was a misfit from the start. I didn't feel unwelcome; I just felt oddly unique and out-of-step. I was different! I am homosexual. Even then, I knew it was not going to be an easy thing to be. I was trapped. The only thing I knew to do was hide my thoughts, actions, and feelings and pretend things were different than they were. Deceit came easily for me when people got critical and started glowering at my existence.

I pretended while growing up. I did my best to deliver to people what I thought they wanted from me. I pretended to be what I thought or what you insisted I must be. I tried to say what I thought you wanted to hear. I delivered. I was never a liar to myself. I was loaded with shame and disgust because I believed your hateful remarks about people like me. I embarrassed easily and took any comment directed toward me very seriously. I knew vindictiveness. I was no stranger to hate or self-pity. I paid attention so I wouldn't fall into any heterosexual traps that would result in some new version of your demoralizing ridicule. I always protected my very fragile (inside) sensibilities. I was/am sensitive to scorn for me or any other minority person. I dislike injustice toward me or others in a magnified way.

My college years brought heavy drinking, first in my fraternity and later in off-campus housing. I went to school near San Francisco. I drank in the bars of San Francisco starting at the age of eighteen. Drinking allowed me to be the real me. The real me also worked while going to school. I worked in a department store and advanced in the executive training program quickly and easily. I became a young retail fashion buyer before finishing school. I went to college and studied fine art. I traveled for work to the "markets," and I drank alcoholicly almost every night. My life was quite a variety of "grown up" experiences. I almost always had plenty of energy and plenty of friends, and the money was earned so I could pay my own way. My parents paid for my tuition, books and lodging. Money was plentiful. I always pushed very hard to be successful and important at life. I needed to be a "someone" fast! I never wanted to look at the old, self-loathing me. I ran from those earlier sickly feelings as hard as I could! I drank more.

I was a department store buyer who loved his work. I moved from San Francisco to a new job and more money at a glamorous and "upscale" store in Arizona. I drank more, too. Often, I would stay out all night in New York when I was there on "buying trips." I would be so shaky and hung-over in the morning that I would call the hotel physician for vitamin B-12 shots and Valiumô. Then it was off to work.

I did well on the job and got promoted. I drank more. After a few years a new store president arrived. I didn't like him, and he didn't like me. He promoted a rival buyer to be my boss. I had never liked her either. I quit the same day. They asked me to "please stay" three times that day. I said no, went home, and then I drank much more.

My home life was filled with parties, drunks, and drugs. I often took diet pills to keep myself in shape and looking good, I thought. I drank more alcohol in order to sleep and sometimes took sleeping pills. Alcohol was not working as well as it had before. I seemed to always need a little more. I was twenty-seven years old.

I went to a psychiatrist to find out why I was so nervous and neurotic. I spilled my guts for him. He told me that "all spokes will lead to the hub." He told me the same thing, every Friday afternoon, over and over again. I never did figure out what the "hub" was. I drank more.

I moved back to Northern California with a job at a smaller and family owned department store. I concluded that my prestige had been greatly reduced. My roommate from Arizona came for a visit. He brought a "pretend" girlfriend and his parents with him. The parents went to sleep after dinner. The girlfriend, my friend, and I went drinking at my favorite local bar. My friend smoked some dope that night in addition to drinking. Late in the night he slipped on ice plant on the twenty-five-foot cliff in front of my beachfront house. He died two days later from blood clots on the brain. I drank much more. I couldn't stand the pain.

I moved to Los Angeles. I loved my new job in L.A. I was finally in the atmosphere that gave me believable self-importance. I was finally away from my very "wronged" and "tragic" past. I was a resident buyer in the California Market. We represented many department and specialty stores nationally and internationally. I lived in a classy area of the city. I had wonderful success and fun at this remarkable new job. I drank more. Didn't everyone?

I drank for years, more and more, until the night in my living room when I pleaded with my God, "Please don't let me drink anymore!" I couldn't pretend I was "fine" anymore. I wanted to kill myself. I was not in danger of losing my job, just my life! I was still trying very hard to make my life "work" right up to what would have been my end.

I went to A.A. and hated it. I thought it was a place filled with the strangest weird people. I thought I was not lacking in good character as I'd never had a drunken driving arrest. I thought I was a honorable kind of guy. I had always paid my taxes and had always been gainfully employed. But I heard them say, "Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path." That was it for me. I didn't want to fail. Rarely became my word of hope. I wanted to live. Sobriety was my only choice! Rare exceptions would be the "thems" and not me! I didn't know how not to drink. I would stay at A.A.!

Sometimes I was bored, dazed, and ungrateful, but I stayed. I didn't drink. Many sober A.A. members tried to be warm and helpful. I kept my mouth shut. I thought disdainful thoughts. I had nothing much good to say about them, A.A., or me. I was afraid of what they might have expected of me! I didn't know what A.A. wanted from me! I got sponsors. I worked the Twelve Steps. I didn't drink! I started healing. I felt so good. I had never felt so good. After a year, I got a great new, bigger, and better job. I traveled internationally as a product development specialist and president of an import company. I made more money! I fell in and out of love. I became a happier person, a devoted loved one, an excellent son, a better uncle, a neater human being. I kept getting more blessed even though I was becoming the real me (imagine the surprise)! I did not drink. I did service work in A.A. I started to help others. My fear and anger began to fade away.

My sober life has taken me to a place where I can view reality without pretending it is something else. I am now able to face truth, about me and about you! I can view things more objectively and make a decision about what I find. Prejudice and hysteria now (mostly) step aside. I feel centered and comfortable (mostly) and emotionally sturdy. Today, I am able to say "live and let live" (mostly). I don't drink anymore, and I thank God for that.

My dearest friend and partner was murdered several years ago. I was able to experience normal feelings of grief. I didn't drink. I lost my financial security in sobriety and then lost my fear of the financial insecurity that I didn't even know I had! I didn't drink. There was an "earthshaking" time when I thought I was falling through the cracks of my own sober life. I had an eye-opening emotional shakeup around the fifteenth anniversary of my sobriety. It erupted because of my old fear of betrayal on sexual issues. I got betrayed, but I didn't drink. I didn't foster paranoia, and I didn't take revenge. I have been betrayed financially while sober, too. I have lost a chain of stores that I once owned. I've experienced emotional growth in A.A. I have not drank. I have not held onto things that are out of my control. I have accepted my circumstances whenever they have changed. I find that I can rather easily adapt to major change.

I became more mature and healthy after working the Twelve Steps anew. I got "outside help" from a psychologist. She presented very interesting new views on "letting go." I didn't drink. I always remain sober, and I always grow and become happier, more joyous and free. I have trust that my God will continue to Grace me with sobriety. God always carries me on to the next part of my sober life, the part, it seems, where I always need to go.

I believe the "Promises" of Alcoholics Anonymous work for everyone, for every kind of person, and certainly for a person like me. I didn't drink today.

Thanks for letting me share.

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