“We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable”
Growing up, I knew nothing of alcohol. Coming from a religiously conservative teetotaling family, I had never even seen it until I was in high school. It was a tool of Satan. Yet one evening when I was in puberty, I watched a TV drama about Bill W. I knew at that moment that I was an alcoholic or an addict. I recognized something in myself, and I just knew.
When I finally did start drinking on my first Friday night in college, I got drunk. I got drunk every time I drank after that. I loved the buzz. It made me more outgoing and less afraid. Had it not been for discovering marijuana a few years later, I’d have hit an alcoholic bottom very early on, I think.
The point is that I knew I was an alcoholic. I had the first half of the first step down pat for many years before I finally managed to see the second half come true for me. I even made jokes about it. At the bars, I’d say, “I’m an alcoholic, so bring them two at a time.” It was funny, but it I meant it.
I had many good years as a pothead and sometimes drinker. I felt very superior to drunks. I didn’t slur my words. I didn’t stumble. I didn’t act like a fool in public. But I was stoned every hour I was awake for about 20 years. While others outgrew the habit, I did not. Then it started getting hard to find since I didn’t hang with the druggies. So, I started relying more and more on booze. And booze brought me down.
For many more years, I was a “functioning alcoholic.” I performed well at work and got promotions. Never had a DUI. Never came even close to a jail. Lived a seemingly normal life. Yet, every day when I left work, the drinking started, and it didn’t stop until I was unconscious. Sometimes it would include friends and drunken parties, but usually it was me alone with my cat and the television. I had to check the kitchen sink to see if I’d had dinner the night before and check the towels in the bathroom to see if I’d bathed. That was my life. But everything was under control – as long as I didn’t make or answer phone calls in the evening.
In 1996, unmanageability could no longer be ignored. I married a man with whom I had never had a date and who didn’t speak very much English. I thought I was making my stand for the Third World and really helping someone. Then I started helping him more by giving him cash I’d gotten off my credit cards. My explanation for marrying him? I didn’t have anything better to do at the time.
It took only three months for me to finally understand. I was powerless over alcohol and my life was truly unmanageable. Alcohol had sunk into my brain and made me insane. I was completely delusional and absolutely hopeless. I began to rage at him. I tried to kill him.
One day, he asked me what I wanted out of life. My answer was a blank stare. I had no idea. I had gone too far into the bottle to know or even care. The only thing that mattered to me by then was when and where I could get a beer. All I wanted out of life anymore was to get and stay drunk.
But I thought about it. After a while, I had an answer: “I want God. I want Him here and now, not someday after I die.” My world was spinning out of control. A month later, I returned to AA. This time, I understood the first step. I am an alcoholic, and my life is unmanageable. I have no control over my drinking, and I certainly have no clue how to live life.
It’s been many 24 hours since those dark days. I haven’t had a drink in a long time. My life is simple, manageable. It’s not that I learned how to control or manage it. It’s that I gave up and gave in. I finally was desperate enough to let people who had been there teach me how to stop and stay stopped. I was finally desperate enough to hand everything over to a God I do not understand and trust that God – most of the time. Today, there is no doubt in my mind or heart that I am an alcoholic and that, if I choose to drink again, my life will be unmanageable – as long as I live (which will probably not be long).
It took me at least 15 years to do Step One where alcohol was concerned. It took longer for me to let go of my romance with pot even though I stopped using it long before I quit drinking. For me, I know I am an alcoholic and an addict, and I will never be cured. There have been enough incidents over the years to make that clear to me. Even when I abstain from alcohol and drugs, they can dominate my thoughts and behavior if I am not vigilant about working the program of AA.
So, that’s the topic for this week. Step One. “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.” Please share with us your experience, strength, and hope surrounding this absolutely necessary beginning to a sober life.