My story begins when I was a child who wanted to grow up and drink. Drinking looked like a sophisticated blast –even if I could see what drinking was doing to many people in my family. That was a nightmare. Of all the ambitions I had, becoming a drunk like them wasn’t one of them!
My ambition, from childhood on was to enjoy drinking like my family couldn’t — or wouldn’t.
I wasn’t going to be like them. And I wasn’t – except we shared one family trait, I drank too much, when I drank.
I started drinking around age 15, with friends. I drank only on the weekends in high school, losing a spot in the honor society, and forfeiting good grades because my mind was not on my studies.
Going away to college, I drank with friends; my drinking routinely interfered with study, because friends who liked to drink and party were preferable to academic pursuits. Party animals aren’t always the best of friends – and I made a bunch of dumb choices for many years.
Then I decided to crack down on myself and watch my drinking.
The harder I tried, the harder it was, until finally I realized – largely because I was learning about alcoholism through Al Anon – there was no way to pretend I was a social, or occasional drinker.
I couldn’t take it or leave it.
Although I was headed down, I still thought with a little more will power, and I’d be fine.
My aunt had gotten into recovery; her siblings had not – she had urged me to go to Al Anon, because my mother was failing rapidly. I finally went – the best decision I’d made since saying yes to my husband!
Being around the people and the program, I began to think about my own drinking. My M.O. was different from other family members.
I didn’t hide booze, or sneak it. But, booze controlled my thinking.
I thought about it all the time I wasn’t drinking to the point that I would not listen well to people talking to me. All I thought about was how quickly another round might be coming.
And then I had a black out, a small one; but, a real one. I had horrifying dreams, and my hands shook. The less I drank, the more I wanted it – and the more determined I was to whip this problem by instituting more drinking rules. I cut back on how much I drank, but lost control of my mind and emotions on less booze.
I even called AA and asked them if they thought I might be alcoholic.
The lady who answered the phone was patient and welcoming, inviting me to a meeting, assuring me alcoholism was not contagious.
When she asked me why, I was surprised at the honesty of my answer: Because I am not ready to stop drinking.
After a pregnant pause, we said goodbye. Nobody stops drinking until they are willing.
Being ready to stop drinking didn’t come for another two years.
During that time, I drank less, but could not stop planning for when it would be safe to drink. I argued I couldn’t be an alcoholic: I gave up booze for a six-week diet, and later for Lent and was mean as a snake both times.
When I finally realized that drinking any amount never gave me what I hoped to get from it, I was somewhat willing to stop; but I still wondered if I were a drunk – I mean I kept house, volunteered, took care of a baby, and went to Bible study. Drunks don’t do that, right?
I worried and thought about this all the time.
“Social drinkers don’t wonder if they are alcoholic.”
(Man! I hated that ad in the early 1970’s!)
Fear was mounting in my brain that I could lose everything and it pushed me closer to asking for help — but still I waited.
Finally, on Mother’s Day 1981, I awakened with a distinct impression God spoke to me: He called me by name and said you are alcoholic, get help.
It scared the living daylights out of me – and I jumped out of bed and I called my aunt, and told her I thought I was an alcoholic – at 5:30 in the morning.
She said she didn’t think I was . . . Oh great.
Now I didn’t know what to do.
But I chose not to drink – even though we were going to a stupendously fun crawfish boil. Booze abounded. I did not drink – but, I wanted a drink – and my aunt told me I wasn’t an alcoholic! I sat there the whole afternoon playing and replaying those tapes and ugly variations. That’s sane?
When I got home, my aunt called – anxious to know if I had had a drink. Seems she mentioned the early morning call to her sponsor, who suggested she invite me to get my tail to a meeting.
She and I both learned pigeonholes don’t work for drunks. We are many and varied; but what we share is perhaps an allergy to alcohol – a doctor’s explanation that explains many things for which we cannot account. (AA Big Book, p xxvi)
I went to my first meeting the very next day, scared, knowing I was about to turn a corner from which I could not safely return. Slowly, I became willing to look at my own issues without comparing them to other people who seemed to have issues with booze.
So I began a new story.
People in the rooms of AA are patient and practical – none are perfect. Each has shown me, not drinking, saying my prayers, and getting to a meeting is a good plan even on a bad day, and especially on a good day.
What’s your story like, dear reader?
If you are having a hard time today, wanting a drink, and dreading it too, maybe consider finding an AA meeting? Alcoholism isn’t contagious.
You may find some kindred spirits, or you may meet some folks who have traveled wholly different paths than your own. But you will find some help, and more than enough compassion and common sense to make it through the next 24 hours.
Love in Christ
Sober & Grateful