A Satisfied Customer
Anonymous, Central Florida
I came from a broken home in New Jersey. We never had much of anything. Neither did a lot of kids in the neighborhood, but not all of them become alcoholic. I neatly turned my back on God as THEY understood Him in church when I was 10. He apparently wasn’t listening to my prayers to help keep the family together.
I didn’t need Him, either. I had my first drunk when I was about 11, three bottles of beer, and immediately felt the world was right again. My first question after the alcohol filled the voids within was, “Is there any more?” and I was off. I drank regularly every day. I even made my own wine, so I wouldn’t run out.
By age 16, my mother had me sent to a psychiatrist. I lied about everything, including my drinking, and was labeled “Incorrigible”, but I was told I drew good trees. Trouble with the law became more or less a constant. The police would drag me home and tell my mother, “It’s just a phase; he’ll grow out of it”. “Yeah”, I thought, “I’ll grow out of it”.
I ran away into the Navy seven days after graduating high school. This would fix it. I was enrolled in a highly technical, top secret school. I continued to drink daily, and still graduated in the top half of my class. By now the magic was no longer working, as I just didn’t ‘fit in’. Drinking allowed me not to care what others thought.
My drinking was noticeable to others, and I narrowly escaped a couple of run-ins with locals and the cops. My superiors continued to cover for me as I was a fast learner and a hard worker – my camouflage. We lived off base, rather than in barracks, during the second phase of this school. That meant more freedom to drink, and I did.
As my drinking got worse and my attempts to control it failed, I liked myself less and less. I reached a point where I loathed the fellow looking at me from the mirror. I became violent when drunk and shot a man while under the influence. I found myself in the county jail. I barely remember the incident as I had been a blackout drinker for many years. They told me my next stop was one of the toughest prisons in the country.
Sadly, instead of fear, I felt relief. I knew if they let me out, I would continue to do things I didn’t want to do. I didn’t know how to stop the madness. I was willing to spend the rest of my life in prison rather than keep on waking up and wondering what I had done to whom. I was 19.
Instead I was released and turned over to the Navy. I knew there was something seriously wrong, but thought “I have a gun problem” and returned to the main manufacturer of my misery – alcohol. They kicked me out of the program and assigned me to a ship. I continued to drink, as it was the only thing that would get me far enough away from myself.
On ship, the troubles continued. I was a loner now, wandering off to drink by myself. I recall waking up in a bakery van outside the base one morning, not knowing how I got there, or where the knife was I had the night before. I checked myself for blood. The ship was leaving the States in a few days, and I guessed that I was one of the several thousand onboard happy to get out of the country, in case I was wanted by the police.
A week or two into the six month cruise, I felt that loneliness that we alcoholics know so well. I had run out of people to blame my problems on, and had the thought, “Maybe I am the problem?”
It was a Moment of Clarity.
A fellow in AA somehow got hold of me, and we talked.
He said, “Maybe it’s your drinking?”
I had previously thought I had a gun problem, an anger problem, a bad upbringing problem, boss problems, girlfriend problems, shipmate problems; everything but a drinking problem. Drinking had always been the solution, but somewhere deep inside I was tired and sick, and sick and tired of feeling that way. I couldn’t seem to live, and couldn’t seem to die.
I was out of options, so I went to a meeting on ship.
I had no idea what AA had, but I knew what I had wasn’t working. I remember that those AA’s were old (I was only 20). Some of them looked as though they had been sailors since the days when boats were rowed. But they made me feel welcomed, and told me if I wanted what they had, I just need to do what they did. There was a way out.
Most importantly, they told me something I could never figure out by myself: “If we don’t take the first one, we can’t get drunk.” It was a revelation. All my life I had been fighting the Caboose and Box Car, but they showed me it was the Locomotive I needed to worry about.
I learned all I could about this ‘Alcoholism’. I thought the more I learned the better off I would be. In September, the ship hit port in Barcelona, Spain. I took off for Liberty Call on my own.
I remember walking down the streets of Barcelona thinking I am lonely, it’s Sunday, I don’t know anyone . . . maybe I’ll go to a bar and just talk.
A voice behind me called my name. It was one of the AA members from the ship.
Suddenly, it dawned on me, and I told him my epiphany. “I was just setting myself up for a drink . . . stinking thinking” and then proceeded to detail what had been running through my head.
He said, “I’m going to a meeting here in Barcelona. Why don’t you come with me?”
“No”, I replied enthusiastically. “I got this AA thing. I got this God thing.”
We parted ways, and the next thing I remember was looking at an empty beer. I was sitting at a sidewalk café with two other shipmates, and don’t remember ordering, paying for, or drinking that drink . . . but I did.
I was scared like I never been before, because I had experienced that strange mental blank spot those AA’s warned me about. I knew then, that I either got this AA, or I was going back to the living Hell behind the first drink until I went mad or died.
I got the Gift of Desperation that day, and thus began a love affair with Alcoholics Anonymous that has lasted since my last drink, 28 September 1980.
Today, I have a second chance at life. And it’s a good life. I am a satisfied customer of AA.