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He had to face Himself

Paul, Israel

 

When I was five years old,  my dad arrived home from work and the carton of twenty four beer bottles my mum had put in the chest freezer for him had all exploded. I remember smelling the strong beer smell and then seeing my dad go insane. He smashed our entire house to pieces and badly cut both hands and wrists punching out all the windows.  My mum, me and my little brother ran for the car and spent the night in a motel. My dad drove his truck and crashed it.

On New Year's Eve 1977  I went to my first AA meeting. I was nearly six years old. My dad who was now a member of AA took us to celebrate with all the other AA families. Before the party kicked off there was an open meeting with a speaker. The man spoke about throwing his television set out the window and arguing with his wife. My dad probably could not or would not give himself to the simple program of AA. 'There are such unfortunates'. He stopped drinking but kept on drugging.

When I was thirteen I drank two glasses of fortified wine and went to a birthday party. I wasn't drunk, but I acted like it and got a lot of attention for it. I didn't drink after that because I found the marijuana stash  in  my dad's  coat pocket . I decided I would be like dad. I wouldn't drink. I got stoned instead. I really liked it  and and continued in secret for years because I didn't want my dad to get caught for illegal drugs. I was also a workaholic and a nerd. I studied like crazy to get a good result for entry to university.

From when I was 14 my mum became a Hari Krishna. Spirituality saved her from her codependence on my father. He couldn't control her anymore. At this time my father told my mum he was taking a Thai bride as a second wife to share his bed and my mum would live upstairs and cook and clean.

Mum moved out.

When I was seventeen I left home. I started university and also started drinking. By the time I graduated I was a binge drinker. I can totally relate to Bill's Story where he writes about being drunk in an exam. I sat one of my final exams after an all-night bender getting smashed in the nightclubs. I was the only one from my group of drinking and drugging friends to graduate. I felt bullet proof when it came to alcohol.

During my time at university my dad left Australia without saying goodbye and started a new life with his new wife in Thailand.  He also started drinking again. He tried to burn down their house. During his final spree on alcohol he was murdered while he was on a drunken rampage. His wife's brothers bludgeoned him to death with an iron bar. He died on the day I turned twenty.

I progressed to harder drug use, but none of these drugs could compare to the feeling of freedom, excitement, recklessness and euphoria that I felt when I drank ALCOHOL. I loved alcohol. I also earned a reputation amongst my friends as being the most radical drinker in terms of the amount I consumed, my behavior and the consequences of that behavior. I loved the attention. Sometimes I bought cask wine and went to drink with homeless alcoholics. I really enjoyed their company and stories.

At the age of twenty I set off to see the world. I travelled and drank in many countries. I had a pistol put to my head in South Africa for insulting someone while I was drunk at ten o'clock in the morning. I was robbed while I was drunk. I picked fights and was beaten up while I was drunk. I looked at the waves while I was drunk, wishing I was out there surfing. In Tokyo I went to a huge dance party and was drunk and climbed a high wall above the dance floor. I fell and spent three days in hospital. Now when I drank I got so radical and so out of control that people didn't want to be around me. 

I am an alcoholic of the Jekyll and Hyde variety. I met a girl in Tokyo and fell head over heels in love. I drank less and made love more. I also got two jobs and worked 16 hours a day. We travelled together and then we got married. One day when we were living in Israel the cops came and kicked our door in and dragged me off to the police station for possession of drugs. I stopped using drugs and started drinking in the afternoons after work. Nothing serious, a beer or six. Plus a big spree on Thursday and Friday nights when I drank to oblivion.

When I was 26 my wife and I returned to Australia. I got my first job in my field of studies, environmental science. From 1998 until 2006 I was a full blown workaholic. I moved up in my career until I got a job with the national weather service. I was so good I was even on the radio in the morning reading the weather to thousands of listeners. I was amazing. I had status and respect. I was my own biggest fan. I was by now a family man with two sons. I was living the dream as they say.  I had my life all planned out. I'd made it. I'd overcome it all. A self-made family man. Nothing could stop me now. I was God of my world.

In 2005 my eldest son was diagnosed with autism. This event broadsided my perfect life. I couldn't believe it. I couldn't accept it. I couldn't control it. I drank gin to cope with the depression. This made me more depressed. My wife had to run with my sons to a women's shelter because I tried to hang myself. The cops arrived. I lied and said everything was okay. I was crazy. My younger brother sent me a medallion in the mail. The following words were inscribed on it. "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. The courage to change the things I can. And the wisdom to know the difference." It was my father's old AA medallion. He had left it behind when he went to Thailand and my brother had kept it unbeknown to me.

The serenity prayer on the medallion enabled me to accept that my son was autistic. I ignored the first word on the prayer though. I hated God.

After my suicide attempt my wife said she was taking the kids and going back to Israel. I followed them. The loss of career, family, language and social status hit me hard so I kept drinking shortly after arriving in Israel. I drank in sprees at first. Soon I was the guy who drank the most beer at the pub. People were impressed by my ability to drink. I loved the attention. They never saw me when I woke up the afternoon of the day after drinking. Sick, hung over and a poor excuse for a father and husband. It became embarrassing so I became a closet drunk. I also discovered the world of craft beer and home brewing. I drank five nights a week. Five or six bombers of craft beer from the liquor store tailgated between eight o'clock and ten o'clock on a quiet night. On a big night (normally two or three times a week) I drank to oblivion until two o'clock in the morning from the five gallon bucket of homebrew I kept in the bedroom cupboard. I was brewing and drinking around fifteen to twenty gallons a month plus all the beer I purchased. All at home and all in front of my wife and kids.

My wife told me I was a happy drunk most of the time. The truth is I don't really know. I suffered a lot from black outs. I thought that I had disguised my alcoholism by making beer my "hobby. I thought that I was a functioning drunk. Most mornings when I drove the work car full of workers, I was still drunk from the night before. On my day off I started drinking in the morning. My wife tells me that the worst days were the days when I wasn't drunk because I was aggressive, agitated and obsessed with drinking. Not nice to be around. A nasty, bitter man who hated the world and wanted no part of it. Full of hate, anger, resentment and self pity.

In 2013 my youngest son was admitted to the children's psychiatric ward at the local hospital for two months. When he was admitted the hospital staff interviewed me and asked me about my health history. I told them about everything except that I drank alcohol. I hid that from them. I stopped drinking heavily while he was in the hospital. I couldn't drink because I had to visit him every day. After two months he got out and was sent to a special school. I started drinking lightly for the first week. By the second week I was back to getting blind drunk again. I drank, worked and brewed. 

Alcohol now well and truly ruled me. It was my master. It was ALL I thought about. In the past seven years I had tried to stop well over one hundred times. Now I didn't even bother to try to stop. The alcohol had me. I just could not admit it. I looked to the future and saw myself homeless and alone with nothing to do each day but get drunk. I began to wish for this.

In April 2015 I was about to turn forty three and my son was coming off psychiatric medication. I thought I have to give him a chance. I have to stop drinking. So I stopped. During this time my brother who I knew was an alcoholic and in AA shared his experience, strength and hope with me and gently suggested I probably should go to check out a meeting. I read a bit of the Big Book he had sent me a year before. I wanted to take a black marker pen to it and cross out the word God on every page it was on. I hated God. I had prayed for him to let me die in my sleep so many times just before I passed out during a spree. I tried to drive my car off a cliff with my eyes shut. I was so crazy from the obsession to drink and my failure to manage my own life I couldn't even do that. My brother was praying. I thought he was crazy. I thought he had become religious, but he was sober and happy. He spoke as though he had found a new way of living in AA.

I decided I would go dry for three months and if at the end of the three months I was not feeling better I would go to AA. Those three months nearly killed me. I was crazy and felt sick. A sickness I could feel in my soul. My soul was aching with pain. My mind was insane. My body felt permanently agitated. I was spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically bankrupt. I was a shell of a man. I still thought about drinking. Maybe this time I could just drink one beer on a Friday night? No. Maybe just one beer, once a year at Christmas? No. I knew I wanted more. I wanted a spree. I wanted to go somewhere and sit alone and drink myself into oblivion. Why couldn't I just drink like other people? Why couldn't I stay stopped? When and where would I start again? 

That is where I was at after three months going it alone. I was nuts and I wanted to drink more than ever. I thought to myself, maybe I am an alcoholic? 

I went to an AA meeting and told the people what was happening to me. I told them I could not go on alone. I told them I had lost my mind. I told them I wanted to go out and drink. I heard some of their sharing about their powerlessness over alcohol and how they had recovered. One of the members said he couldn't do it alone. For the first time I had hope. I didn't have to do it alone anymore.

I kept going back to the meetings and started working the steps. Working with what I now know is the spiritual tool kit of AA. I also became even more crazy because I was working the steps alone and nothing was happening. I had worked steps one to four and felt that something was missing. I couldn't honestly see who or what I was. In my mind I went back to the day that my son had been admitted to the psychiatric ward and how I hid the fact that I was a drinker. Why had I acted this way? 

It was time to face myself. In sheer desperation and hopelessness I prayed to God to show me what I had become.

God showed me. In my mind's eye I saw a scene where I was looking down at myself from above. There I was being interviewed by the nurse about my health and any other information that could help my son. I saw a black shadow on my back. What was that? Was it my self will? Yes! I had willfully attached myself to the desire to drink alcohol.

The shadow now had eyes and a mouth that snarled at me. Then I made the following admission. When it was time to be honest to help my son I had hidden the truth about my drinking. When it was time to show courage to help my son I had been filled with fear. And when it was time to show love and compassion for my son I had been………selfish.

At this point the black shadow in my vision flew off my back and came for me in real life and I was filled with terror. I thought oh no this AA stuff is going really wrong. The shadow grew bigger and started to surround me. I thought I am going to hurt myself, I am going to end up in the psychiatric ward, I'm going insane! Then it hit me like a sledge hammer. I was already insane! At this point the blackness was all that existed. It was above me below me and it was closing in on me from the sides as well. I felt like I was being buried alive. I stood at the turning point and with complete abandon………….

I screamed for my wife to help me and she ran into the bedroom and asked me what was wrong. All I could say was I am afraid. She held my hand and the blackness backed off and I was again looking at the black shadow of my self will, my ego staring back at me. I told my wife that I was okay and she left the room.

It was then with genuine heartfelt regret and despair I said "I wish I called God."

 

And with those words He came and I felt, heard and saw the presence of God (as I understand Him). I felt at one with the Great Spirit of the Universe. I completely abandoned myself to God. I later read about Bill Wilson's white flash. I had a rapid spiritual experience that changed me. It was like I died and was reborn a changed man.

Well, as I have read in the Big Book, faith without works is dead. The Steps are a program of action. And as I was soon to experience, action would be required. A week after my spiritual experience my eldest son was admitted to the same psychiatric ward that my youngest son was in. I couldn't believe it was happening. But this time around it was different. I told the team at the psychiatric ward that I am an alcoholic. I also tried to be loving and accepting of my son and his situation. I tried to show compassion towards my son and to the other children in the ward. I tried to be patient about his recovery and passed the two and a half months he was inside one day at a time. God granted me the humility to tell my son and wife that I had to cut the time short I spent at the hospital on Sundays because I needed to go to the AA meeting because I was also sick. They insisted that I go to the meetings. They saw that I needed it.

I sat with a guy from the group and told him my story and he told me some of his. I did Step Five with him including admitting the exact nature of my wrongs to him.

Before AA I managed to get drunk in front of my sons five nights a week. I was lonely and crazy. I wished I was dead.

I came to AA. I admitted that I am an alcoholic and powerless over alcohol. Other alcoholics shared their experience, strength and hope with me. I found that there is a solution and that I could get well. I work the Steps and they give me a design for living a spiritual life. I have a sponsor. I had my sanity restored and the compulsion to drink lifted. I never have to be alone again thanks to the fellowship of AA. I hand my life and will over to the care of God first thing when I wake up each day. God is doing for me what I cannot do for myself. Today by the Grace of God, the Fellowship and the Twelve Steps I am sober.

I am able to live life on life's terms, with sanity, serenity and humility. One day at a time. I have started to love again.

I recently travelled to visit my mother and brother and for the first time in thirty years my mother saw her two sons sober. She said she is the happiest she has ever been. I returned my dad's serenity prayer medallion to my brother along with my twenty four hour chip. My brother said he had cried tears of joy that our family has healed. Hurt pride and resentment had put a big rift between my brother and I for many years, but this was swept away once we had made our amends. We now trudge the road of happy destiny together as equals.

I have a lifetime amends to make to my wife and sons. I no longer sit and drink in front of them anymore and by carrying the principles of the program into my family life I have a way of living that ensures that I behave like a caring and loving family man and not a selfish drunk.

God willing, I will carry this message to the alcoholic who still suffers and continue to try to practice the principles of The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous in all my affairs.

In the Big Book Chapter 7 'Working with Others'  we are told "Burn the idea into the consciousness of every man that he can get well regardless of anyone. The only condition is that he trust in God and clean house."

It's that simple.

Service work helps me to stay well. I started off by opening up the meeting place at my home group and setting up. Today I work with other alcoholics as part of a team of online sponsors. I am also a face to face sponsor. I am in a team that responds to requests for help online. A fellow member who can't make it to meetings because of his job comes to visit me in my home regularly.

 

In truth I can only do this service work by the Grace of God. Without sobriety and a Higher Power I couldn't do it. I am humbled and grateful that God is demonstrating through me what He can do. 

 

Love to All.


Thank God for Alcoholics Anonymous.


Paul, Israel

13/07/2016

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