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Freedom, Finally

Bill B, Las Vegas, Nevada

Alcohol. Who ever would have thought that that simple little word would eventually control my life? It all began in the fall of 1953 in Denver, Colorado, after our high school won the state basketball championship. We had to celebrate, and celebrate big-time we did. We went to a place called Look-out Mountain. On the way we obtained some beer. I got my own bottle, a quart bottle. I remember starting to drink it, the way it made me feel, the tingly, numbing sensation on my lips. I was having a great time, but I don't remember finishing that bottle of beer, don't remember going home that night — just don't remember. “Don’t remember” was soon to be my answer almost every time I took a drink. I don't have lengthy, colorful drinking stories like some alcoholics do — because I just don't remember. What that tells me today is that I was a black-out drinker from the very beginning.

I do have one drinking story that I can recall enough of to share. It started on a gloomy, overcast Saturday night. I had discovered that our house key also opened our neighbors’ front door. They were traveling salespeople and bought liquor by the case. I went into their home and stole a quart of whiskey to take with me on the ski-train the next morning to Winter Park. On the train ride I passed around the bottle. After anyone took a sip, I had to follow with a gulp. By the time the train arrived at Winter Park, the bottle was empty, and I was falling-down drunk. It was 8 a.m. I fell off the train, tried to get up, couldn't. There I lay in the snow, drunk and vomiting. I remember someone saying, "Oh, look! That poor boy is sick." The responses she got from others were mainly, "He's drunk. Leave him alone." That was to be what I heard from countless others for many, many years to come.

When I was eighteen years old, I joined the Navy to see the world. The next year and a half I was busy going to schools and training centers. My drinking was minimal. After training I was assigned to duty in San Diego and then shipped out to the Philippine Islands with a Seaplane squadron. It was heaven. I could drink all I wanted. There was no age limit, and beer was a quarter a bottle. I began to get into trouble. I’d start drinking, forget to go back to the base, and get restricted to the base. When not on restriction, I drank all I could.

Alcohol had started to control me, and I wasn't yet twenty-one years of age. That kind of living went on for many years. There were brief periods of not drinking over the next three to four years. I got married and we had a baby. Then it started again. I began what was to become a life-long career with a local electric utility and was doing quite well, even though I was drinking a lot. But my family, having had enough of me and my drunken tirades, one day hauled my butt to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. At the time I wondered why they would do that to me. However, I found that I was just like the rest of the people at the meeting. But I wasn't done drinking yet, so I didn't hear about their recovery. I only heard the stories of what they had done that I hadn't done — yet. I spent the next four years trying to control and enjoy my drinking. I failed. My employer held an intervention. I was shipped off to a treatment center. The timing was perfect. I had begun to realize that I really did have a problem with alcohol.

In the treatment center I was educated about the disease of alcoholism. I even agreed that I had it. But, what to do about it? Their answer was to send me right back to A.A. Though I returned to meetings with a different attitude, I still had one more drunk in me, which came three months later. After drinking for a week and knowing that my job was on the line and that I was headed for trouble, I finally asked God to help me (a first).

I went back to the treatment center. I came out again with a completely different attitude and outlook. I returned to A.A. and asked a man whom I previously had heard share in meetings to be my sponsor. He initially agreed to just be my friend but said he would help me if he could. I was willing to do whatever he suggested. What he suggested was that I start by reading the book Alcoholics Anonymous and that I go to meetings at which the book was discussed and meetings at which they talked about the Twelve Steps. That’s what I did faithfully for several months.

My sponsor and I sat one night and talked about the first three Steps. Convinced that I was ready, he said that I should start the Fourth Step and that he was now my sponsor for real. That man also became my best friend until he passed away fifteen years later.

In addition to my sponsor, I hung out with a core group of guys ho actually showed me how to do this thing called sobriety. We did things together. There was always something going on that was fun to do, and when I'd get goofy and confused there was always someone around to help me get back on track — all I had to do was seek them out. They had already told me that difficulties would occur. It was my job to tell them when I needed help because not one of them had a crystal ball or could read my mind.

Those guys got me into service work as well. When I reached one year sober I was taken to a Hospital and Institution (H&I) Committee meeting. I became a panel member, and, for the next thirteen years until moving to Las Vegas, H&I service work was very rewarding and an important part of my sobriety. I have continued to do that type of service work here in Nevada. I was told very early in sobriety that I had to “give it away to keep it,” and H&I has been my way of doing that. It works for me.

A.A. has given me a life that is very different from anything I could have imagined while drinking. It’s a full life, a life that has no boundaries. My wife, also a member of this fellowship, and I have so much for which to be grateful. But we also both know that we're not immune to alcohol or its effects. We have to constantly be aware of that fact and continue to be diligent about working the A.A. program — the Steps — in all our daily affairs. I invite all who desire to have a life that is full, happy, and, most of all, free to join us on the journey down the happy road to find our destiny.

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