If I Hadn’t Become an Alcoholic, I Wouldn’t Have Become Much of Anything ...
Chuck B, Florida
My name is Chuck, and I am an alcoholic. I don't know when I became an alcoholic but when I took that first drink, the alcoholic became me. My sobriety date is January 1, 1962. It may not impress you but it sure impresses the hell out of me! I don't believe there is any seniority in sobriety. Sobriety is not attached to any length of time without a drink. It is a day-by-day journey from sensitivity to sensibility. Today, I am completely out of trouble! Mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. A precious gift from all of you: the gift of the "untroubled mind." You taught me how to stay out of trouble! I just don't pick up that first drink, no matter what. I still have problems. My beloved Sponsor socked it right to me, "Provided we follow the principles and practices of this program, A.A. will not only solve our drinking problem but will solve! just about any problem that we have in life". I can back that up one hundred percent. I could sum up all my qualifications by quoting what the cat said to the skunk after making mad, passionate love. The cat said, "Phew! I didn't get all I wanted but I sure got all I could stand!" Can you relate to that?
I will qualify only briefly because I want to share my recovery, most of all. I was born over 70 years ago in Rock Island, Illinois, to alcoholic parents, an only child. A.A. taught me that I am not responsible for their behavior but I am responsible for my recovery. When I was fourteen years old, both my parents decided to end it all and took fatal overdoses of Seconal. Right away, something died inside of me! I began to have that empty, achy, lonely, feeling inside my stomach that no medicine could relieve. (When I took the Steps, it disappeared, as if by magic!) As far back as I can remember, I suffered from "chronic dissatisfaction." Nothing could please me or make me happy. I was painfully shy and I stuttered a lot. There was a wall between myself and other people. I was a big mistake in life.
In school, I became a people pleaser. I was always interested in other peoples' reactions toward me. I was always wondering what you were! thinking about me, or whether you were or not thinking about me, and I would try to manipulate you to get you to think the way I wanted you to think and to feel the way I wanted you to feel. I took my first drink in college, after I got out of Boys Town, Nebraska. How could I ever forget that drink! It gave me a sense of awakened appreciation and beauty that I had never felt in my life! A second drink and my anxieties and fears disappeared just like that! I immediately sold myself on the idea that if this is what alcohol is doing to me, I never want to depart from it. I tried hard later, to recapture the feeling of those first few drinks, clear into A.A., but it eluded me. Like the song says in The Days of Wine and Roses, "A door marked nevermore that wasn't there before." Then the rat race began!
I was a "binge" drinker from the start. I left college by the back door instead of the front. I began geographical "cures." I woke up in various cities without knowing how I'd gotten there! I was picked up by the San Francisco police in a dazed, drunken condition and court committed to a state hospital for the insane.
I was locked up in restraints in "back ward" for eight years. I was a "mental case." At seventeen years old, at that time, I was too young to be classified as an alcoholic. I went into convulsions and DTs, but in the doctor's eye, it was a psychotic episode. On the Thorazine shuffle for three months, followed by insulin and electric shock treatments (about seventy-five of them). My mind was no longer my own. It belonged to them. I was like a puppy dog on a leash. After eight hellish years, I faced the Lunacy Commission and was released to a halfway house as "condition improved." The first thought that came to my mind was: when, how, and where can I get that next drink? That was my obsession.
I drank again. It never gets better, it just gets worse. Three weeks later, I got awfully thirsty and threw myself into a plate glass window of a liquor store and almost bled to death. The alarm went off, and the police got me into a hospital in time. I had to have three blood transfusions. Then I faced the judge and got sent to prison for three years and ten months. I drank every day I was in there.
Now the miracle of me!
When I got out of Prison, in a blackout, I came to in Cleveland, Ohio, strapped down in a room in a Jitter Joint. The next day, they unstrapped me and moved me out into the dormitory with the other patients. I never want to forget this day. I walked into the bathroom, looked in the mirror, and saw what I had become! God washed my eyes with tears so I could see. I was so full of shame, remorse, and guilt that I wanted to puke! That, I believe, was my first spiritual experience. I got down on my knees by the toilet bowl and said, "Whoever you are, wherever you're at, I don't want to live or be like that anymore." That was my bottom! I walked out of the bathroom and a well dressed man approached me and said, "You are Chuck?" I nervously said, "Yes!" He said, "Do you want to do something about your drinking?" (I was really jerky and shaking.) I said, "Anything!" Then, this is what he told me: "It desn't make any difference what you think of me but it! makes a lot of difference what I think of you! My name is Henry. Chuck, when I look at you, I see myself the way I used to be. I know exactly how you feel because I was like you at one time. Someone helped me, and I'd like to help you!" I said, "Okay." He said, "There's one thing that I want you to understand! I love you and I'm going to be your sponsor."
Henry was the first human being that I began to trust. There was something in his eyes! He took me to my first A.A. meeting in that Jitter Joint that night. I was jerking so bad that I couldn't hold a coffee cup. He went in the kitchen, got a spoon, and spoon-fed me my first cup of coffee at my first A.A. meeting. If that wasn't love! I sat down at Henry's feet and did everything that I was told. I was ready for this A.A.! He told me to put my brains on a clothesline for a year to dry out. No major decisions or relationships the first year of my sobriety.
After being in A.A.three weeks, I heard a speaker say that he could go one day without one drink. I sure didn't know that! Being new, I asked my sponsor, "How long do I have to go to these meetings?"
He said, "You have to go to these meetings until you want to go. When you want to go, you never have to go to these meetings again." Wise advice!
I went to a meeting every night the first four years of my sobriety. As I kept going to A.A., I began to see things that I'd never seen before. I began to hear things that I'd never heard before. I began to believe in things that I had never believed in before. I got the feeling of belonging to something. I had never felt that before. Thanks to A.A., I'll never be lonely again! I dont count the days -- I try to make the days count. I stay active in service.
My sponsor asked me one night, "Do you want to stay bitter or do you want to get better?" You don't have to be drunk to be useless, he told me. Some people make things happen, some watch things happen, and some wake up and wonder, "What happened to me?" You don't have to wake up that way anymore. This is a program of action! Move the muscles. Join the Construction Gang instead of the Wrecking Crew. Do the things you fear the most and the fear will go away. Do the things you are supposed to do, when you are supposed to do them. If you get too busy to go to meetings, you might get too tired to go to meetings, and then get too drunk to go to meetings. Be grateful. I was a year in A.A., saw a sunset and wondered how long "that thing" had been going on. May there be enough clouds in your life to make a beautiful sunset!
My sponsor took me through the first 164 pages of the Big Book, including our Twelve Steps. One evening, he asked me the ultimate question, "Do you believe in God?" Very defiantly I said, "No way!" (I became an atheist after I started drinking.)
In his loving manner, he said, "Chuck, I suggest you find one."
I was afraid not to. I set out to look for this God because I wanted desperately what you people had. A year went by and I couldn't find Him. I was devastated! It almost sent me to the cleaners. I cried on my sponsor's shoulder. He said, "In certain cases, when we quit looking for him, that's when we will find Him."
How right he was! About two weeks later, I found Him in an A.A. discussion meeting. A voice whispered into my ear, "I love you because you are you and I am I." I never in my life ever heard anything like that before. That moment, a wave of peace and tranquility came over me, and I have never been the same since! After the meeting, I called my sponsor and asked him what was happening to me and he said that it was unconditional love and I could use that as my God. That, I am trying to do. The greatest things that have happened to me, since I tapped into that Power, are things I have done in a loveable Spirit. There is absolutely nothing you can do or say to me that will stop me from loving you. I love you not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you. A.A. gave me the love of God instead of the fear of Him. What an awesome thing.
What are some of the dividends I have received from my A.A. investments? Five years sober! , I went to Nursing School and got my RN. Seven years sober, I was elected Delegate to the General Service Conference. Ten years sober, I went another year in college. Eleven years sober, I got my Bachelor's of Science in Nursing Education degree. I took the exam and became Director of Nurses in a small hospital in Chicago. Fourteen years ago, I retired to Florida. I'm very active in A.A. God isn't finished with me yet despite health problems. I am a survivor and not a victim. And I love all of you. If you are new to A.A., there is hope here and there is help here and change is possible. The only thing stopping you from becoming a better you is you. The whole secret of A.A. is just to step aside and let us help you to help yourself. If I can get sober and stay sober, anyone can. Thank you all for reading my story.
Devoutly, in A.A.,