By: Clark W.
My last drunk began on December 31st 1984; it was literally a nightmare. As I drove to a New Year’s Eve party located in rural Oklahoma, I swore to myself that I would control my drinking. Around 1:00 AM on New Year’s Day, I blacked out. I later learned that I engaged the guest’s refrigerator in a fist fight. When asked to leave, I threw a whisky bottle at my host’s 80-year-old mother. I then drove towards a neighboring town to continue the celebration.
Taking the back roads to avoid the police, I accidentally drove my pick – up into a deep ditch, I was stuck. The temperature that night was minus 18º Fahrenheit and I was dressed in jeans and a light wind breaker, I decided to stay put. My truck ran out of gas and the heater quit producing heat. I became enraged and promptly tore the plastic heating vents from the dash and smashed them; I also stomped my accelerator into bits. I eventually passed out. While passed out, I dreamed that I was outside of my body floating outside the truck. Looking at my body slumped over the steering wheel, I remember promising that if I could return to my body, I would change.
I came too and started running down the country road towards some lights about a mile away. I fell down many times, but I finally made it. I was very cold. Going around to the back of the farmhouse, I knocked (Banged really) on the back door. I then scrapped the ice off the window and saw a blazing furnace inside. I broke the window with my elbow and reached through and unlocked the door, an older gentleman met me inside. Recognizing me from the area, it was a small town, he invited me in. I grabbed his furnace and babbled about something before he drove me home. When I later made my amends to this man, he would not tell me what I had said that night, knowing it would embarrass me. He also stated that when he grabbed his gun, something told him not to take it to the door.
As a result of an another bad drunk a few months before this night, I had promised my self that I would go to an AA meeting if another drinking disaster ever befell me, well this certainly qualified. My first AA meeting consisted of 6 guys whining about their problems, the basic message I got was “Life sucks and we can’t drink” and that maybe God would help them. As a hard core atheist, I was less than impressed and decided that AA was not for me. For 6 months I went to bars and would not drink alcohol. Although my life was a shambles, I was better off than when I drank. I moved in with my cousin in Dallas, Texas hoping to find work. Big city life did not agree with me. I was terribly lonely and quite frankly thought myself in desperate need of female companionship. Going to bars and not drinking was not working out.
Then one day, while looking through a Playboy magazine, a short article about AA caught my eye. The article said that coffee shops around AA clubhouses were just brimming with young ladies. The article explained that due to having shared their emotions at the meetings, these women were “ripe for the picking.” I decided that I would beat out the competition in the coffee shops by going directly to the AA meetings themselves. Thank God for Playboy magazine!
While I was not interested in a solution besides stubbornly not drinking, I enjoyed the meetings and the coffee shops afterwards, not just for the girls either. I genuinely enjoyed the friendship of AA members.
After 14 years of sobriety, I have found that my solutions to alcoholism have been directly related to my definition of alcoholism. For the first 2 months in the fellowship, when I said I was an alcoholic, I meant that when drinking I could not always control the amount I took in. Blacking out was my worst fear; this fear kept me from drinking. The solution to this allergic reaction was simple, just don’t drink alcohol. With this definition, I could live anyway I want, I chose anything but drink.
The trouble was, I desperately wanted to drink. Every night I would fight the urge for just a few drinks. I would combat the impulse by reminding myself of my drunk a log. I would also go to lots of meetings. Being unemployed and lonely; I made 3 meetings a day. I loved to share and would always talk about my drunk stories and how my allergy made another horrific blackout a certainty if I were to drink. My only real solution to alcoholism was to remember my bad drunks and go to meetings as much as I could.
One day I was sharing about the allergy (what else?). After I shared, a man shared his feelings about the mental obsession alcoholics have with drinking, although I had heard this before, this time it had a profound effect. One thought crowded out all others. I thought “If I was a reasonable man, I would have quit drinking when I was 14 years old.” After the meeting I went back to my cousin’s apartment, she was working the night shift and would be gone for the evening.
I thought about my drinking history. I had in fact quit drinking when I was 14 years old (a few months after I started), but I didn’t stay quit, a few weeks later I convinced myself that I could control my intake if I just tried harder. I remembered all the bad drunks and blackouts, followed by quitting. I had quit many times, only to start again a few days, weeks, or months later. Always with a new plan for successful drinking. I had tried limiting drinks, wine only, beer only, etc. My quitter was in fine shape; I had a defective starter.
My definition of alcoholism changed that night. Yes, I had an allergy to alcohol all right, but it was coupled with a mental illness. This mental illness had always made me believe that, despite all evidence to the contrary, I could drink without bad consequences. Deep down I knew that no matter how many meetings I made, no matter how well I remembered my last drunk, this mental illness, alcoholism, would someday cause me to drink again.
I read and reread the chapter to the agnostic, especially the first paragraph. This paragraph asks me two questions about my drinking. If I answer yes to these questions, the paragraph tells me that I may be suffering from an illness that only a spiritual experience will conquer. I desperately wanted my alcoholism conquered. I wrestled with whether to pray or not. Since I hated the thought of believing in God, this was a tough one. Looking back at it, it seems funny. I didn’t believe in God, yet had an immense resentment against God. I mean, I don’t believe in the tooth fairy either, but I don’t have a resentment against him. I blamed God for my child hood, and thought it absurd that a loving God could have allowed all of that to take place. My new definition of alcoholism demanded a spiritual solution, what could I do?
When drinking I never really cared if people witnessed my vomiting, but frankly I was scared to death that someone would observe me on my knees praying. In addition to locking the apartment door, I braced a chair against it for added privacy. My words were something like this “God I don’t believe in you, but I don’t know what else to do. I cannot go on like this and will do what ever it takes to serve you if you are real.” An overwhelming presence rushed through me. I cannot fully describe it, other than I firmly believe it was the God of my understanding.
The next day I got a sponsor. I had heard “Tough Love John” share in meetings and was impressed with his knowledge of the 12 steps and the Big Book. His first advice to me was the best advice I have ever received in over 14 years of sobriety. John explained to me that the first 164 pages of the Big Book outlined the “program,” and was the only place that I would find specific instructions on how to recover from alcoholism. The fellowship was full of good advice on how to stay sober; but if I wanted to recover from alcoholism, I would need to follow the instructions laid out in the Big Book. John never gave me advice about jobs, girls, or anything else. He taught me to recover using the program. He knew that once I was returned to sanity, I could make up my own mind about such matters, with God’s help of course.
After a few months as a recovered alcoholic, I joined the Army. Being an all or nothing kind a guy, I joined up as an Airborne Ranger. The training was hard and demanding for a 26 year old man, and some of the advice givers in the fellowship thought it was a terrible mistake for an alcoholic to face such pressure and advised me to quit. I went through a lot in my five years as an Airborne Ranger and thank God that I was able to experience the spiritual and character growth that only certain trails can bring about, not to mention the many fine young men I was able to meet and try to emulate.
God has never abandoned me during my 14-year military career and I eventually realized a life long dream and became a Green Beret. I am currently stationed at Fort Carson Colorado and live in nearby Colorado Springs.
I met my beautiful wife at an AA meeting in Savannah Ga. we have been happily married now for 12 years (Playboy was right). We are members of the Sunday morning Breakfast Group. This group meets every Sunday at a local restaurant and enjoys breakfast and fellowship until 10 AM. At 10, the meeting starts, it is conducted like most meetings I have enjoyed around the world, with the exception of the last few minutes. The last person called to share is asked to discuss the importance of sponsorship and the rewards of belonging to a home group.
I recently did a five-month stint in Kosovo. For the first three months there were no meetings available to me. I read the Big Book and listen to Joe and Charlie Big Book tapes. Although I yearned for AA meetings, I found that I was much more diligent about adhering to the “Design for living that works.” My sobriety and peace of mind hinge on my relationship with the God of my understanding through the practice of the 12 steps. After three months, a small AA group started up on Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo. I enjoyed several meetings there and we even got to work with a newcomer.
It just goes to show that armed with the program and the fellowship, we are never really alone.