This post is another in a series of occasional installments describing my early recovery and treatment for alcoholism. Others may be found in the “My Links” section on the left side of my blog. Every time I post one of these stories I hear from a number of people struggling with alcoholism/addiction – either theirs or someone in their family, or a friend. I am grateful for that as my primary purpose in telling my story is to carry a message of hope to others who are dealing with this killer disease.
It also makes me humble and grateful for my sober life and recovery program. I mention AA periodically, as that is what works for me. I am neither a spokesperson nor do I represent AA in any manner. There are many ways to get clean and sober and it doesn’t matter to me how one achieves this. Simply put, this is my story. I appreciate you taking time to read it.
I am in my second year of sobriety (it’s 2001) and the fog is starting to lift a little. It has been a real up-and-down roller coaster ride without drinking. Mostly depression interspersed with glimpses of exhilaration. I am riding back from group and feeling low (way too familiar feeling) and sad and Chris calls. He is on the shoulder of the interstate – “I just spun out – I think I’m okay- it has to be divine intervention - one second there were trucks all around me then I spun out three times and then there were no trucks around.” I am confused and we hang up. He thinks it is divine intervention. I think it is cocaine. Later it turns out I’m right – maybe he was too. Who knows?
I am now thinking of coincidences in my life. Like the time I got the mailroom job at the Alaska newspaper (1971), and the janitor job at Providence Hospital...the bitter cold night in the Yukon Territory (-40F) when I was literally “saved” by the sight of a blue neon cross far off on a mountainside...the time my Vdub bus blew off the Wyoming highway in a winter storm and a truck driver saved my ass...the time I was arrested in London, KY for an alcohol incident at the age of 20 and that my sponsor is from London, Ontario...and then for some reason my mother’s polio in 1954...my infant sister’s death-sister I never knew. Later that evening I am walking in a cold rain from the grocery store to my apartment with some groceries. Still feeling blue and sorry for myself. My sponsor once asked me how I was doing and I said “I’m feeling pretty depressed.” He replied, “You must be thinking about yourself again...I’d be pretty depressed too if I was thinking about you.” Ouch. A guy that I saw in the grocery store drove by and rolled down the window and asked if I needed a ride? It was pouring down rain and cold. I of course declined (“I can do this myself”). He replied “Yeah, it feels good to feel the rain in your face, doesn’t it?” He drove off and I looked skyward and the cold rain was stinging my face and it just felt so good. He was right. I think this is the first moment in sobriety where I actually felt some aliveness and I walked the next twenty minutes just soaking in the rain and feeling better by the minute.
It rained all the next day and the sadness returned and I went to a meeting that night and I’ve been back to that same meeting every Tuesday night for ten years now. It was just what I needed that night. For some reason I could actually connect with the discussion on spirituality. I met after with my sponsor and we talked for hours about prayer, relationships, and sobriety and life adventures. I actually felt good again – but couldn’t sleep well that night. The next day I called my father-in-law and spoke with him for the first time in over a year and didn’t feel nervous or embarrassed by my alcoholism and my erratic behavior. The guy who spun out his car called me and asked me to be his sponsor. That didn’t turn out too good. I am aware of a constant thought that if I could be in a relationship then life would be good. I say some prayers and go to bed and cried myself to sleep trying to not be awake when Neil Young finished his Unplugged album.
I devour The Sermon on the Mount (Fox) on the bus ride to work. It’s making sense now. I just want to let go and quit fighting and I don’t really know how to do that. I seem to find things wrong with other people and it really gets my stomach churning. I know I “shouldn’t” feel this way but I do. It seems as if in every meeting I go to there is at least one person that I just can’t stand to hear open his mouth. Sometimes I go to three meetings in one day. I occasionally share what’s going on with me. I realize that my motives are not always honest and sometimes they’re just plain self-serving. In fact, most of the time my motives are self-serving. Life has just been one giant lie after another. I do good things for others – but it’s not really for them – it’s for me. I feel better. Then the next day comes and I have to do it all again. Tiring too. And if I keep on doing the people pleasing thing then you’ll never get close to me and get to know the real me. The vile and awful real me. And that’s how I want it to be.
I attend my son’s basketball game in the afternoon. He’s ten now and so glad to see me. Me too. Wife and I got into huge argument – don’t remember over what – it sucked- it’s the norm lately. She’s angry – I’m angry. Yech! We met together the next day and sadly agreed that it wasn’t working. This was just honest and not angry. I find myself reciting the names of liquor bottle brands. Short-term relationship- ex calls on phone – or maybe I called her – and tells me all the things wrong with me and “no, I don’t want a relationship with a guy like you.” I see her that night at a meeting. No contact of any kind. This guy in the meeting asks to speak to me afterwards and tells me this story about his autistic son and how they were in a car wreck when he was young...and I just listen. A rehab friend calls – great conversation. Probation officer called and wants me to pee in a cup in the next hour.
The next day I am at the mall and run into a guy from the meeting and we have this conversation about God and spirituality and prayer and recovery. An hour later I am aware that something is happening to me because I never talk about stuff like that.
A few days later it is Christmas Day 2001. I go to the noon meeting. A lady shares about burying her seven year-old granddaughter the day before who had been hit by a drunk driver. Three other people including my sponsor share stories of their children who died at the hands of drink drivers. All I wrote in my journal that day was “powerful.” Joined the family for an afternoon carol service and then went to the house for Christmas Day celebration with my kids and wife. Turned out to be a pleasant evening all around. I actually had a few conscious moments of gratitude. I had really put my sobriety first in my life over the past year. I had learned to pray for others and was actually doing that every day. I could laugh some with my kids. I was sharing some in meetings (often tearfully) and often people would thank me for “sharing from your heart.” This was a new place for me. An apartment neighbor had invited me over for a celebration with her family and that felt good. It was fun and they were mostly strangers. I called my sponsor and thanked him for helping me. And I told him that I had finally seen another Elvis clock that was as dumb as the one he had on his kitchen wall. He just laughed. I knew he would.
I have been writing excerpts of my alcoholism and recovery story and posting them on OS for quite awhile. Some reading this today are “new” readers and I appreciate you taking time to read this. This all occurred about ten years ago. My life today is a total miracle in so many ways, and I want readers who may be struggling to know that there is hope and that it takes time. And to be certain, my life today has its struggles and hardships; but, that’s just life.
And to you “veteran” readers of my story, I continue to offer you my most heartfelt thanks.