Before and After

IMG956036747057175Leaning against the top rail of a fence on a cool mist filled morning I gazed over the green paddock grass, the still water of a small billabong, the dusty green gum trees and the small mob of kangaroos quietly grazing. In a few weeks I would be leaving my childhood home of Australia and flying to America. Somewhere in the young recesses of my heart I knew I would never be able to recreate that moment, that there would be no going back. I intuitively knew one entire section of my life was ending; nothing would ever be the same.  I was 17

The pungent bite of vodka mixed with orange juice gagged me as I swallowed. Genuinely stunned that anyone would willingly drink such fowl tasting liquid, I sputtered my disgust at my very first taste of alcohol. However for some unknown reason I continued to take a few more swallows.  As the burn traced downwards through my throat and hit my stomach I instantly felt the “magic.” The tumblers of an internal combination lock clicked—clicked—clicked into place and opened a portal into a new world where nothing would ever be the same.  I was 27

Fighting my terror and the urge to run I slunk through a doorway into a smoke filled room where people were sitting around drinking coffee.  Having repeated the process for the past 11 days I headed to my “usual” spot near the back of the room.  As the emotional typhoon swirled internally, I was sure the rage I felt was rolling off of me in almost visible waves.  The introductions coming around the room were getting closer to me as I sat there trying not to shatter into a million shards.  It was my turn to speak and with one last terrifying, thundering crash the dam inside broke and I conceded to my innermost self the truth. Without a shadow of a doubt I knew nothing would ever be the same.  I opened my mouth and after 17 years of drinking uttered the words, “I’m ___________, and I’m an alcoholic.”  I was 44.

This morning when I saw the above photo/quote I paused to reflect upon the few moments in my life that are divided into “before this, and after this.”  Mentally categorizing the events I tried to find the one pivotal moment. In an instant I had my answer.  Everything is now divided between BA (Before Alcohol) and AA (After Alcohol), which then led me to having a spiritual experience as the result of working the 12 Steps.  Why do I pick that moment in my life?  Well to quote someone far more gifted with words than I am: “My faith in and contact with, my Higher Power shines more brightly than I dreamed it could. Those promises I thought were impossible are a viable force in my life. I am free to laugh all my laughter, free to trust and be trusted, free to both give and receive help. I am free from shame and regret, free to learn and grow and work. I have left that lonely, frightening, painful express train through hell. I have accepted the gift of a safer, happier journey through life.” (page 543, Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous)