“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.