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He suspected he was an alcoholic

Rick, Baltimore, MD

My name is Rick and I'm a real alcoholic. I became a member of Alcoholics Anonymous on May 12, 1995, and have been sober ever since.

 

I did not want to be in these rooms. I didn't want to have to depend on others. I still had reservations. I thought MAYBE there were other ways I could control it. In fact, about a month before, I bought and read a book called "How To Quit Drinking Without A.A." I think it worked for 3 days. I would try again for a few days and then slip up.

 

By the last week I was drinking every day, and KNEW that MY way wasn't working. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I didn't hate what I'd become. I hated what I HADN'T become. I was 30 years old and going nowhere fast. I couldn't see any other way out. Thatís when I surrendered. The meeting I ended up at on that date became my first home group. The guy who spoke at that meeting became my first sponsor. Interestingly enough, I admitted I was an alcoholic 3 years earlier. One night, after a really GOOD drunk, I accidentally crashed into 2 parked cars. My getaway was unsuccessful because the wheels were no longer fully attached to my vehicle. I was hoping to slip away quietly without anyone noticing. Unfortunately, the sound of 2 parked cars being crashed into is kind of loud. Especially at 2 AM in the morning! I think I woke them up. The owners were kind enough to call the police, who in turn, were kind enough to escort me to the police station. I even got chained to my very own wall!

 

The produce stand where I was working at the time did not offer benefits like paid time off or anything. I didnít have a car to drive to work, so my money quickly ran out. I thought this would be a good time to stop drinking. 3 days later, I was on my bedroom floor, scraping up every quarter, nickel and dime I could find to buy a pint of rum. I couldnít drink without smoking at the time. By the time I finished scraping up whatever I could find, the discount liquor stores were closed, so I had to go to a bar, and buy name brand liquor and name brand cigarettes at full price.

 

It was the winter of í92 I believe, and there was snow up past my knees. The walk would have taken an hour in normal weather. I prided myself in my sudden decision to begin an outdoor exercise program. (I was serious!) It was 10 PM at night. By the time I got there, all I could afford was a half a pint of booze and a pack of cigarettes. The booze was gone within a half hour. I had at least another hour to walk. I honestly donít remember how or even IF I got any sleep that night. I began to suspect that maybe I WAS an alcoholic.

 

I decided to try out a couple of A.A. meetings. At the first meeting someone gave me a copy of the 20 questions. I stopped off at the liquor store for rum and smokes. As I answered the 20 questions over a few drinks, I attempted to be minimally honest. I didnít get a 100 on it. As far as I was concerned, I didnít put my familyís welfare at risk. (I didnít have a family. I was too busy drinking!) I didnít have any blackouts (at least none that I could remember!) And I didnít drink in the morning. So I probably wasnít that bad after all!

 

But after I scored myself with only 17 out of 20, I looked down at the bottom where it said:

 

* If you have answered YES to any one of the questions, there is a definite warning that you may be alcoholic.

 

* If you have answered YES to any two, the chances are that you are an alcoholic.

 

* If you have answered YES to three or more, you are definitely an alcoholic.

 

So it was true. I was an alcoholic! It was actually kind of a relief to know this. I went to a couple more meetings. Even got me a Big Book. I found it difficult to read. I could read Carl Jung drunk, and tell you all about it the next day, but I could NOT understand this relatively simple text. Itís hard to concentrate when it interferes with my drinking! It wasnít telling me anything I wanted to hear. Neither did A.A. So I drank for another 3 years.

 

I shared that I preferred to buy my stuff generic. Since most of my finances went toward cigarettes and booze, I wanted to get the best deal I could. To buy generic rum, you had to buy it by the fifth or half gallon. I thought, ďGee, what a great way to save money!Ē But for some reason, I couldnít stop after the amount of shots necessary to equal a pint.

 

I kept drinking for the same reason some people climb mountains. Because it was there! The more I drank, the thirstier I got. For me, drinking was SUPPOSED to quench my thirst. Instead, it only made me thirstier. I thought that drinking would calm the cravings. Instead the cravings just got worse.

 

The few times I tried to control my drinking were unsuccessful for this very reason. The few times I tried to quit altogether were just as bad. I understand EXACTLY what Dr. Silkworth meant when he said,

 

ďMen and women drink essentially because they like the effect produced by alcohol. The sensation is so elusive that, while they admit it is injurious, they cannot after a time differentiate the true from the false. To them, their alcoholic life seems the only normal one. They are restless, irritable and discontented, unless they can again experience the sense of ease and comfort which comes at once by taking a few drinks -- drinks which they see others taking with impunity. After they have succumbed to the desire again, as so many do, and the phenomenon of craving develops, they pass through the well-known stages of a spree, emerging remorseful, with a firm resolution not to drink again.Ē

 

After a couple of days of abstinence, I would forget all the problems alcohol caused me. Iíd start romancing the drink in my head, thinking ďIíll only have one or two. This time Iíll control it. This time it will be different.Ē And I was off to the races again.

 

The Big Book talks about unmanageability on page 52 in the chapter called ďWe Agnostics.Ē In one paragraph on page 52, the unmanageability of my life was perfectly summarized with the words, ďWe were having trouble with personal relationships, we couldn't control our emotional natures, we were a prey to misery and depression, we couldn't make a living, we had a feeling of uselessness, we were full of fear, we were unhappy, we couldn't seem to be of real help to other people . . . .Ē

 

I was having trouble with personal relationships. I didnít get along with my family, had few friends, and no intimate relationships. My self esteem was nil. I blamed everyone and everything, including myself for my sorry lot. (It hadnít occurred to me that alcohol might have a role in this.) I was either working at a produce stand with a bunch of other alkies in the summer, or picking up dog and kitty poop at an animal hospital. I love animals, but the hangovers made me real moody, and I sometimes treated the animals there in a way that Iím not proud of. These were low paying jobs with no benefits. I had just turned 30. I felt useless. I feared that I would never amount to anything in life, and would die a long lonely death. I had nothing to offer anyone else (even though I was EVERYONE ELSEíS best advisor!)

 

I was physically, mentally, and spiritually a very sick person. It took me quite a while for me to surrender to this fact.

 

I called the Intergroup office to find a meeting. I was 15 minutes late. I literally had one foot in the door of my car, and one foot dangling out. I knew if I didnít walk into that meeting, I was going to drink again. I didnít go to that meeting. On the night of May 11, 1995, I bought my last bottle of liquor. I knew I was licked. Alcohol had finally beat me into a state of reasonableness when I finally conceded to my innermost self that I was an alcoholic, and would never be able to drink like a normal person.

 

In this humbled state, I went to my first meeting, got a home group and a sponsor, and began applying the spiritual principles known as the Twelve Steps, which we find outlined in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.

 

I went to meetings. I realized that as long as my alcoholism and other addictions serve as my higher power, my relationships and spiritual life would remain stunted. I can't continue trying to serve two masters. There's a better life out there and I want to be a part of it. The healthier I am the more I have to offer others.

 

My sponsor took me through the Steps, quickly but thoroughly, using the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. Essentially, he led me through the process of surrendering to the fact that I was an alcoholic of the hopeless variety, and that no human power would solve my problem. The solution to my problem had to be bigger then me; and therefore, spiritual in nature. Once I was willing to give it try, I had to find out what it was about me that was getting in my own way, share it with my sponsor, be willing to change, and allow God as I understood God to work through me. I made amends to the people I harmed through my alcoholic and selfish behaviors to the best of my ability. I continued to practice these principles to the best of my ability on a daily basis. I feel more comfortable in my own skin then I ever had before. Through prayer, inventory, and meditation, I have a better connection with the callings of my heart as opposed to the tapes in my head.

 

I don't do these things perfectly. I am not a saint. I am a spiritual work in progress. I also realize that I cannot remain selfish. I am so grateful to what this program has given to me. The only way I will be able to stay in fit spiritual condition is to express that gratitude through service to others. The main way I do this is by showing others what was shown to me. I teach others what I need to continually learn for myself.

 

My sobriety is contingent on the maintenance of my spiritual condition. I am constantly tweaking and refining my practice of the program. The quality of my sobriety has significantly changed for the better. My life has taken on greater meaning. That feeling of uselessness has disappeared. I throw myself into carrying the message to others by helping them take the Steps as outlined in the AA Big Book. Working with others helps to quiet the imperious urge. It helps ME stay sober when to do otherwise would cause me more pain and sorrow.

 

As a result, I have been freed from the obsession to drink alcohol. I feel connected to the God of my understanding. I feel connected to the human race. Although I still have self-centered characteristics, Iím more apt to think of the other person first, and find ways to be of service to my fellows. As a result of taking these Steps, I feel more comfortable in my own skin than I have in all my 40+ years. This truly is a miracle.

 

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