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Lost and Found

Clark E, Cornwall, Ontario, Canada

My name Clark E. and I am an alcoholic.

My parents divorced three years after I was born. Mother remarried, and I was adopted. I endured an unhappy childhood that included physical and emotional abuse. At age sixteen or so, I learned that the man who was so unkind to me, whom I called Dad, was not my father. It was a traumatic experience.

In high school, I was not a good student, nor was I a member of the right crowd. My friends, like me, were misfits. There were five of us and we did everything together. Beer drinking was a regular pastime. From my very first drink I looked for a change in the way I felt. I was looking for the feel-good experience that my uncles often talked about — and alcohol worked! It  made me feel good; it gave me courage and helped me to feel that I belonged. However, there was big a price to pay. For example, I dropped out of university before graduating. I was fired from the only job that I really loved. I married the wrong person for the wrong reason; I was not a good husband, father, or employee. Finally I came to despise the face I saw in the mirror. The remorse, fear, self-hatred, and guilt I suffered was unbearable. My stomach seemed always tied-up in knots. This condition persisted for years. The only relief was alcohol.

My wife and I  separated. She stayed in our house with the children and I stayed alone at our cottage.

I was paranoid. Thought my phone was bugged, that my car was bugged. I thought that I was losing my mind. I considered admitting myself to the psychiatric ward.

One sunny September afternoon, while puttering in the garden, I stopped, leaned on my rake, bowed my head and asked God, who am I? A husband, father, friend, employee, son? What was wrong with me? I had lost all sense of identity. At that moment the number 31 flashed into my mind.

I immediately got my Prayer Book, read Psalm 31 and found my answer!

Part Two:

My (drinking) story began in 1944 and ended in 1971. Like all alcoholics, my story started out happy and ended sadly. Those last few years were tragic. During this period of my drinking I slept with my prayer book and crucifix by my bed along with a club (for protection from my imaginary demons). I often went to church to pray, asking God for help. I consulted with my priest. I sought help from two psychiatrists.

Meanwhile, I had become friends with John M. who was an AA member. At the time, I had no idea that he was Twelfth Stepping me. He told me about the annual AA fall conference in Ottawa and that it was open to anyone, including non-alcoholics. He suggested that I might find it interesting.

I decided to go to the Sunday morning spiritual meeting. I went alone. Ottawa is an hour away. When I saw so many well-dressed, smiling, cheerful men and women with  name tags stating 'my name is so-and-so, and I’m an alcoholic,' I was impressed!

It was hard to believe they were alcoholics. They didn't look like alcoholics. Not like the skid-row winos I had seen. The speaker was a physician from North Carolina. As he spoke the hair on the back of my neck stood up! I had goose bumps!

The man was talking about me!  I identified with his story.

I left that meeting on a pink cloud! I was high! I finally had found a place where I felt comfortable with people who accepted me and were like me. I felt love in that hall.

I wanted what they had, but I wasn't ready to quit drinking.

I continued to drink and to get sicker. I am five feet ten inches tall, and at that time I weighed only 145 pounds. (My normal weight is 180 pounds.)

On Main Street in our town, there was a door. It had a triangle on it and was called the Triangle Club. I had been told that it was an AA club. One Thursday evening, after a few beers in a sleazy bar, I thought, what am I doing in this dump? Half-loaded, I went to the Triangle Club. which was in a room over a shoe store. There was an AA meeting in progress. I knew a couple of people there. I knew them quite well. I hadn’t known that they were alcoholics. One of them, Jim B., a police officer, was chairing the meeting. I staggered in, was welcomed and invited to join the meeting. The topic was changed to Step One (probably for my benefit) and the “20 Questions” pamphlet was passed around. Each member discussed one of the questions. When it came to me, I started to complain about my wife! The chairman quickly instructed me that the AA program was for me and to leave my wife out of it!

Shortly after that, on September 24, 1971, I had my last drink, a pint of Old Vienna lager beer.

At this point, it would be nice to say that I lived happily ever. But it didn't work out that way.

My wife and I reconciled and I moved back home.

During the first year or so of my recovery, I had a problem identifying with the speakers I heard at meetings. They had gone much further, and had had way more trouble, than me. I had never had a license suspension, a drunk driving arrest, had only lost one job, had never gone to jail or wrecked a car.

I jumped into AA with both feet., ninety meetings in ninety days? Not me. I attended 365 meetings a year! And I did so for a few years.

I just couldn't seem get enough. I became an AA zealot, an evangelist out to carry the message to all who would listen.

This wasn't helping my marriage. We eventually separated and then divorced.

After four years of frantic AA activity (service work) I experienced my first heart attack. This, I was told, was the result of too much stress in my life.

To this point I had been busy in recovery in the fellowship of AA. I had neglected the most important part of my recovery, the twelve steps —  the Program of Recovery! Sure, I had admitted I was an alcoholic and I did 12th Step work. But the steps in between were hard. I thought eventually I would get around to doing them. The time had come!

Steps 4 and 5 were the most difficult, but when I did work them, my life took on a whole new meaning. I knew who I was! I am a child of God — a loving, forgiving God. Admitting the exact nature of my wrongs to myself, to God, and to another human being was the greatest spiritual awakening of my life.

A few years ago, an AA friend recommended the book “The Cross and the Switchblade.” It's a true story about a minister who helps alcoholics in New York City. In it, he refers to Psalm 31 as “The alcoholic psalm.” It was the psalm that God, as I understand him, recommended to me in September 1971.

Today, we celebrated my seventy-seventh birthday. It was a happy occasion. It was a pleasure to have fun without alcohol.

On September 24, I will quietly celebrate my thirty-fourth year in Alchoholics Anonymous.  "it's been a mess of good years".

I am grateful to my Higher Power, whom I found in this program.

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