My name is _____________ and I’m an alcoholic

“Some day he will be unable to imagine life either with alcohol or without it. Then he will know loneliness such as few do. He will be at the jumping-off place.” (Page 151, Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous)

“Hi I’m _____________ and I am an alcoholic.” What a terrifying and dreadfully difficult sentence.

I will never forget my first few months sober and it still amazes me that I lived through it. The shakes, the overwhelming desire to drink, those white knuckle moments, feeling unable to breathe, my insides were twisted into knots and I wanted to crawl out of my skin. The chaos, the voices in my head, the continual mental arguments left me mentally and emotionally exhausted. I wanted to say “screw this!” on an hourly basis. I hated not drinking, I hated drinking, I hated feeling the way I felt, I hated life and I certainly hated AA.

Of course at that time I had no idea what the program of AA was and I had no idea what was going on in my body and mind as they adjusted through those first days without alcohol. I was not prepared for the physical, mental and emotional upheaval that removing alcohol from my system was going to have on me. I had never attempted to stop drinking before…why should I? I never thought I had a drinking problem. It was more like a life problem, which drinking made bearable. But for some still unknown reason I felt compelled—driven—to try AA. I was under the impression that it was some sort of self-help group that would help me figure out what was wrong in my life and how to fix it. So despite the fact that I didn’t want to stop drinking, despite the fact I hated AA meetings and everyone in the rooms, despite the fact that I was not an alcoholic, I would race to an 8pm meeting like the hounds of hell were nipping at my heels and slide into a seat near the door. The odd thing was that only then would the voices stop the chatter and for one hour I could stop holding my breath, unclench my jaw, relax and breathe. It was only then I felt “safe.”

During my first two weeks in AA I introduced myself, by my first name only. I would not finish the typical AA introduction with the phrase “…and I’m an alcoholic.” Personally deep down I knew that if I actually said those words there would be no turning back for me. Either, I would have to do what the AA people did, whatever that was, and never drink again–which was not a thought I could even comprehend–or I could pick up that first drink once again and continue with my lifestyle with the knowledge I would end up dead, or trying to die. Fortunately, as I sat in that smoked filled, dingy AA room night after night I could not escape what I was hearing in the meetings. Despite myself I began to identify. I heard a level of gut wrenching honesty being shared and it started sinking in through the fog. Never before in my life had I ever experienced people being that open, vulnerable and honest in front of total strangers. I heard people share about their experiences, which were every bit as bad as mine, or worse. I heard them tell my story as if they had lived and felt it. I heard about lives being changed and I heard about having hope. I could also not escape the fact that these people had peace, freedom, joy, they laughed and that they loved life.

One night I could no longer escape the insistent yearning to enjoy life as they did and the heartbreaking realization that I was an alcoholic. At that moment it was do or die. At that moment I chose the gift of the impossible, the unknown, a miraculous joyful journey through life.

I opened my mouth and said, “Hi I’m _____________ and I am an alcoholic.” What a simple, profoundly liberating and life-changing sentence.