What It Was Like, What Happened and What It Is Like Now
The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous tells us on page 58 that “Our stories disclose in a general way what we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like now.” We share our stories, not in meetings (ie. our drunkalog) but in a Step Twelve call or at a speaker meeting. Our stories are thus being used in a way to add depth and weight to our discussion with a newcomer to win their confidence and to give them the sense of hope and a solution to their drinking problem. Since this is my first post and presumably most readers will be alcoholic, either practicing or recovered, I though it appropriate to share my story to identify with the reader. As you read my story, please look for the similarities, rather than the differences. I am sure we didn’t grow up in all the same places, go to the same schools, work in the same careers, etc. But I am equally sure that we probably drank in the same way, and that our disease progressed in much the same way. I am going to try to share some pertinent details that show the progression of the disease
I was born in Calgary, AB in 1966. As a kid, my family moved around quite a bit, so I spent a lot of time feeling like the outsider. As I got older, I spent lots of time feeling like I didn’t really fit in; I was always the new kid at school, etc. By the time I had reached high school, we had moved from Canada to Kansas. At this time, I was of course becoming more interested in drinking. Although I had drunk small amounts before this, nothing of any consequence had happened. However, I very specifically remember having that first opportunity to drink in high school, and I knew then and there that I was going to drink as much as I could whenever I had the opportunity. I remember thinking that I liked the effect, how it took away all my nervousness and fear, but I also very specifically remember thinking that I would be a “real man” and drink more than anyone else. Of course, I was all of 15 at the time.
In those early days of drinking, fortunately, there really weren’t any consequences for my actions. In Kansas, you were allowed to drive before you were 16 with just a learners license for certain activities. I took that to mean I was allowed to drive anywhere, anytime, and that is when my drinking and driving began.
When I graduated high school, I moved to Minnesota to start college. I had gone to play hockey. For the first time in my life, I was not at the top of the team skill-wise which fed into my insecurities and I started to feel very isolated and alone. I was also very immature and was not regularly attending classes. What I was doing however, was going to house parties virtually every night. It was the only way I could get any relief from how I was feeling inside. I would spend the day sober, going to hockey practice, and then finding a house party on campus in the evening.
Eventually, I quit hockey If I couldn’t be the best, I didn’t want to play at all. I never understood that I needed to actually work at it, put in the effort the coaches asked for, and that as time went on, I would earn a roll on the team. I wanted the results but wasn’t willing to put in the action! So, having quit the team and failing all my classes, I decided to go back to Kansas.
After spending some time in Kansas, I moved back to Canada and went to work for a year. I was fortunate, in some ways, to have a job that paid very well. It was a manual labour, hard-working job in the oil industry, working with a lot of people who “worked hard and played hard”. Of course, I fit right into this lifestyle and my drinking progressed rapidly. I started to occasionally have a drink before getting out of bed in the morning and would have a few more drinks while travelling to the job site. Drinking in the morning however, did not become a real routine for me.
As time went on, I went back to University, partied and failed out, and eventually I ended up entering a technical school for a two-year program. During that time, I married my high school sweetheart. Soon after that, I was arrested for impaired driving and I lost my driver’s license. My alcoholism was progressing and there was starting to be some consequences because of it.
After graduation, I went to work for a very active and successful company of the time. I started work in a small community but quickly moved into the head office in Calgary, AB. I was given a company credit card for expenses. I also dealt with many salespeople that seemed to have unlimited expense accounts. There seemed to be an unlimited supply of free alcohol, of which I took full advantage. By now, I also had two small children at home. I would tell my wife everyday that I was stopping for two drinks on my way home from work, and I that wouldn’t be long. I would tell her this day after day. And when I told her, I truly believed it. I was not lying to her. I actually believed it to be the truth. But what would really happen is this: I would arrive at the pub to meet friends. I would order my first drink and still knew I was going home after my second drink. But, as I was ordering my second drink, I would already be thinking that if I drank it fast, I could have a third and my wife would be none the wiser. So I would order the third and as I was drinking it, any thoughts of going home would be forgotten. Although I had not lied to me wife and I honestly believed I was going home early, it almost never happened. You see, the physical addiction had taken over my body, and the mental obsession had taken over my mind. I could no longer discern the truth from the lie, and remember the consequences of even the day before. I continually thought that “this time will be different”.
I eventually tore that marriage apart through my selfish and self-centred behaviour and we divorced. It has taken a long time for me to see the truth, but I can now see how I ruined that marriage. I have made my amends with her as best as I can, however I really don’t feel like I can ever truly right that wrong. I do continue to try to make living amends to her by being the best ex-husband I can possibly be.
I then quickly married again and that marriage was a disaster. By this time I was drinking daily, and I had that old attitude that if you were married to my wife, you would drink too! I knew even before we married that it was a mistake, but I didn’t know how to get out of the engagement or the relationship. I was full of fear, and it was easier for me to get married than to end the relationship. I just could not figure out how to deal with the whole situation. Also, we would go through times where things seemed fine and I was not able to see that those times would never last. After divorcing again, I eventually met the woman who was to become my third wife. When we met, we were both very active in our alcoholism. Together, we really took off and I spiralled further out of control. The relationship was very volatile and eventually we split up. We decided to get back together to give it another try. I had a plan that I thought would “fix” our relationship. I though we should stop drinking for a month to sort out our issues, we should go see a couples councillor, and I also committed to stop talking to that other woman who I was speaking with on a daily basis. My future wife eventually agreed to give my plan a shot. On our first visit to the counsellor, he enquired about our drinking habits. After giving him a pretty honest appraisal of our drinking habits, he advised us we both probably needed to stop drinking permanently. I remember leaving there thinking that he was absolutely crazy. I could not even fathom the idea, or imagine how to go about doing a thing like that. My drinking had progressed to the point where I couldn’t even imagine life without alcohol. The mental obsession had a very tight grip on me by that point.
We then both spent the next 7 or 8 months trying to stop drinking on our own. I was away working and she was at home. There was much chaos in our relationship as we were both white knuckling it. I was constantly paranoid and accusing her of all kinds of horrible things that just weren’t happening. Neither one of us had the ability to trust the other. It was a very chaotic and difficult time.
I want to talk about my last drunk for a minute. I was still away working and was staying in my trailer. I had not drunk for a few weeks but was boiling over. I was full of anger, resentment and fear. I stood in the kitchen of my trailer with a beer in my hand for what seemed like forever, trying desperately to not drink it. I really have no idea how long it was, but it seemed like an eternity. Finally, I succumbed and drank it. I literally drank it in what seemed like one gulp. I quickly had two more while I was still standing in the kitchen. I grabbed a fourth beer and went and sat on the couch. Those first three beers were gone in less than five minutes. As I sat on the couch, I was desperate for that sense of ease and comfort to kick in; for all those feelings inside me to be gone again. However, they just weren’t going away. That sense of ease and comfort wasn’t there. So I started drinking that fourth beer and that is pretty much the last thing I remember. You see, I had blasted right past that sense of ease and comfort that comes from having a few drinks. The allergy that manifests itself as a craving for more alcohol had kicked in. I had known for a long time that I could not control how much I drank after I started, but for the first time I also knew that I could not stop and stay stopped on my own. I had finally reached that point of desperation.
Eventually, that counsellor steered us into Alcoholics Anonymous and slowly things started to get better. My wife managed to get through her steps much more quickly than I, but she patiently waiting for me to finish. I could see that she was getting so much better and I wasn’t. As an interesting aside, as it turns out, that counsellor we went to had many years on the program of AA when we met him. I know that this was God working in my life.
Once I finally got busy working on my steps, it was truly magical. I did steps 4 through 8 in very short order and started on 9 immediately. My life started to change dramatically. I was no longer so angry and resentful, my relationships with family and friends started improving. But most importantly, for the first time in my life, I felt like I could be in a relationship with a woman and that relationship would actually last forever. You see, I learned more about myself by taking action and doing the steps as they are laid out in the Big Book than I had learned in my entire life. I think the biggest lesson I have learned lately is the importance of being a giver in all aspects, rather than taken from life. How can I contribute to life, rather take? It is by giving that I get satisfaction in life. I know that to be true, but I have to work at it constantly.
Today, I have a sponsor and he has a sponsor. I sponsor people. I have a home group to which I am accountable, I run a Big Book Study and I regularly attend meetings. I try to touch AA in some way in each and every day. Because of these things, my life has already improved beyond my wildest imagination. I have become closer than ever to my wife, parents, children and friends. I have actual, real friends. Friends that I can talk about my feelings with, friends both in and out of AA. That is one of the most amazing things to me. Because you see, I never had long-lasting friendships. I had friends one year at a time as a kid. My friends as an adult were the people I worked with, but I changed jobs frequently and lost track of those people. Today it is so much different. But I have to continually work at it. It can be very easy to slip into old habits.
I know there is more available to me through AA. I have gone through a patch of time where I do not feel as though I have been growing spiritually as much as I was early in my program. That is a big part of why I am starting this blog. I want to write about how fabulous life is in sobriety. I have my ups and downs, but life is pretty darn good these days. I also have my struggles. That is when I tend to grow. This is a way for me to me honest about my struggles, but I want to share how I have gotten through my them when they do occur, and what I have learned as the result. I think this will give me a deeper understanding of myself. And if it helps me, just maybe it can help somebody else along the way. I also want to explore different parts of AA and delve deeper into various topics to further grow. I am willing to put in the effort to try to join those people who have been rocketed into the fourth dimension. I believe that Alcoholics Anonymous has two fellowships. The first one we all have access to through Tradition Three which states: “The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking”. The second fellowship is discussed on page 164 of the Big Book which states: “Abandon yourself to God as you understand God. Admit your faults to Him and to your fellows. Clear away the wreckage of your past. Give freely of what you find and join us. We shall be with you in the Fellowship of the Spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny.” That fellowship sounds like it comes with conditions that can only be met with me taking action, and to continue to take action. It is the Fellowship of the Spirit that I crave.