June 26: The Gift of Desperation

In just a few days, I will have been sober for 26 years. This is for me a miracle and beyond my understanding. I drank for more than three decades before I made my first attempt at quitting. But even then, I wasn’t ready. I wanted to drink more than I wanted to stay sober. It was as simple as that. I loved being drunk or high more than anything else in life. I wasn’t ready to give it up. My first go-round in AA lasted 15 months. I always knew I’d drink again, but I acted “as if.” I got a sponsor and did the Steps through Step 5. But Step 6 was a step too far. I wouldn’t admit to character defects. With my low self-esteem, I thought I was just one big character defect, and there wouldn’t be anything left if a Higher Power removed it. So, I walked away from AA, vowing never to return again.

Little did I know that alcohol would drive me back to the rooms. After five more years of heavy drinking, my disease had progressed to the point where I was truly enslaved by alcohol. I was making very unwise life decisions. I’d gone from party animal to solitary drinker. My mind was occupied with all the wrongs that had been done to me over the years. I was drowning in self-pity. I was cut off from other people and from God. I was alone and miserable. I wanted nothing more than to die, but I didn’t have the courage to do it.

Then one night, a power much greater than me showed me what I had become. I was full of anger and capable of violence. I was in a rage. An invisible mirror dropped down in front of me, and what I saw shocked and terrified me. I couldn’t be that middle-aged, raging, drunk woman another day. It was time to go back to AA. But I didn’t believe I could quit. I had no hope. But I’d run out of options. AA was the last house on the block. So, I went to a meeting. I have not had a drink since that meeting almost 26 years ago. I know now that I had been given the gift of desperation. I was desperate not to be the woman I’d seen. Never again.

Because I was desperate to change, I was willing to do what people suggested – without questioning them or their instructions. I was willing to listen with an open mind and to recognize how much I was like everyone else in the rooms rather than how different. When I listened, I learned. When I found the right sponsor and did the steps, I didn’t hesitate at Step 6. I wanted with all my heart to change, and I needed help – both from the fellowship and from the God of my misundertanding. But I did the footwork they told me was necessary. I read the literature, took on service positions, gave people rides to and from meetings, and started feeling less like one big character defect. I worked the program, and the program worked for me.

Looking back, I don’t think I’d have made it had I not been desperate to change mySelf and my life. That vision of myself as I was, rather than who I wanted to be, was what it took. I still believe there was a Higher Power who wanted me to live and had a job for me to do. For me, that job is helping other alcoholics get and stay sober. I do what I can. And I have changed. I’m now the person I want to be, although I’m still driven to be a better person than I am.

My suggestion for this week’s topic is the Gift of Desperation. Please share with us what that phrase means to you and how it has and has not worked for you. If you have anything else you need to talk about, please feel free to share it with us.