I got sober in a place where the joke is that if you want to hide something from an alcoholic, put it in their Big Book. I stayed dry for 9 years before I became suicidal and started planning how I could off myself. I learned many important lessons – like God will provide the right people – as He did for me, when I surrendered. I also learned that alcohol is only a symptom of my alcoholism.
People came into my life when I was so desperate for a solution that I was even willing to take a drink and give up my “time” to find out if I belonged here. I did not have to do that – because God provided me with someone who called me and 12-stepped me properly. She was armed with the facts about herself and she shared her experience, strength and hope with me in such a way that I felt that I could be honest for the first time in my life, and I told her the truth about my drinking and she said she was convinced that I am alcoholic.
I was what I would consider one of the ones who “stopped in time”. This is what the AA Book says about us:
Among today’s incoming A.A. members, many have never reached the advanced stages of alcoholism, though given time all might have.
Most of these fortunate ones have had little or no acquaintance with delirium, with hospitals, asylums, and jails. Some were drinking heavily, and there had been occasional serious episodes. But with many, drinking had been little more than a sometimes uncontrollable nuisance. Seldom had any of these lost either health, business, family, or friends.
Why do men and women like these join A.A.?
The seventeen who now tell their experiences answer that question. They saw that they had become actual or potential alcoholics, even though no serious harm had yet been done.
They realized that repeated lack of drinking control, when they really wanted control, was the fatal symptom that spelled problem drinking. This, plus mounting emotional disturbances, convinced them that compulsive alcoholism already had them; that complete ruin would be only a question of time.
Seeing this danger, they came to A.A. They realized that in the end alcoholism could be as mortal as cancer; certainly no sane man would wait for a malignant growth to become fatal before seeking help.
Therefore, these seventeen AAers and hundreds of thousands like them, have been saved years of infinite suffering. They sum it up something like this: “We didn’t wait to hit bottom because, thank God, we could see the bottom. Actually, the bottom came up and hit us. That sold us on Alcoholics Anonymous.”
So, just about “us”, who stopped in time. Just because we stopped in time does not mean we still don’t have to hit the same bottom as the ones who “drank enough”. I was not willing to follow the directions when I first came in, but I was beaten into a state of reasonableness by alcoholism over the following 9 years which made me willing. As I observe, it is those of us who “stopped in time” who are the ones who think we know how AA should be changed… AA is perfect just the way it is, and eventually I was backed into the corner and needed AA in it’s pure and perfect form – hence this blog. There seem to be more of the “they stopped in timers” now than ever wanting to “change” AA. Sadly, there’s not that many old-timers who are standing up to them and telling them to “Shut UP” – so I hope that AA will remain pure in a few pockets for the generations to come.
I was very angry because at that point it had been recommended that I take the Marty Mann drink test (try to drink 3 drinks a day for 30 days) which is a derivation of what is referred to on p. 31 of Alcoholics Anonymous “Step over to the nearest barroom and try some controlled drinking. Try to drink and stop abruptly. Try it more than once.” I could not wait to take that first drink. I was supposed to stock my house with liquor, give my keys to a friend, and try to drink 3 drinks a day for 30 days – and I was ready with my Big Gulp Cup. It really pissed me off that she had called me a real alcoholic so I could not get away with taking another drink till she said that she took me up to page 43 in the book and if I was still not convinced, then I could try some more controlled drinking. She also said that the “drink test” was a witch hunt – it works but the witch always dies. The book, she said, states in the Forward to the First Edition “For them, we hope these pages will prove so convincing that no further authentication will be necessary.”
I came in to the Fellowship at age 28, on February 18, 1991. I had been trying to quit drinking for 9 months because of a boyfriend who had gotten sober in the previous May who daily told me I was an alcoholic. I didn’t think so, but to save face, I set out to prove him wrong, and proved him right instead.
I had started drinking from my dad’s perpetual glass at age 5. I had wanted a sip. Had thought of asking Dad. Had thought “what if he says no?” so had taken a sip. Asked -he said yes, so I had 2. I got the warm feeling at once. But not the craving. I subsequently began sipping off the Vick’s Formula 44 bottle in Mom’s medicine cabinet before getting on the terrifying school bus, from then on, on days when the psychic pain of being me, was worse than usual. I was considered by my friends to be “too negative” to hang out with. I had found that I was good at negativity and sarcasm – having no other personal qualities that I could build on – and having no gut feeling … I had no true friends. I was surviving from the moment I was born. Getting by. This was rooted in growing up in the violence of alcoholism, and my own alcoholism – never feeling “right”. Never feeling like I belonged. Never feeling like I fit in. Feeling out of place. Feeling raw in my own skin – like my skin was turned inside out. I always felt better when I was alone. I found escape in drawing pictures, watching TV, eating candy and when I got around people I did not know what to do. I had racing thoughts and I could not express myself.
I was just trying to make it. I am a social butterfly by nature but was more like a carnivorous moth by action and appearance, back then. I was a bully to the weaker kids and I was bullied. People didn’t like me and I was always in emotional pain. Dad was a mean drunk. Mom was busy with teaching under privileged youth. Mom divorced dad, but I had to go to his house every weekend unsupervised. Those were the 70s. Dad drank all weekend and I endured it through distraction. I suffer the family disease of alcoholism as well as my own alcoholism.
After I started sippin’ at Dad’s house, I started having experiences with the phenomenon of craving at family holiday parties and outings where there was alcohol being served … I would sneak more than my share and get ploughed between the ages of 6 and 12. At 13, I was introduced to the cool kids and got taught how to get adults to buy us beer. It was on. I flunked out of the prestigious private school Mom had placed me in, in 9th grade and was put in an all girls Catholic high school. So what? We continued to party hard. I remember my guidance counselor asking me, at the end of senior year what i wanted to do, and I was thinking, where’s the next party?
A combination of astrological good fortune and God kept me from many consequences I could have had. I had one car accident in high school with others who were drinking but I got away with only some scrapes. I took a year off from high school to “find myself” – that summer took me to England for Drama in Britain through Interlocken Camps – yea I brought the drama. I missed the plane back to the states because I was drinking all night. That following year was spent working for a law firm in San Francisco, where I learned about liquid lunches. In addition, Mom had the typical untreated Alanon guilt about the upbringing I had had, and plied me with money for whatever whim I was entertaining. I had “talent” and was eventually sent off to art school in New York City. Mom paid and paid and paid.
I took full advantage. I loved art school and I loved drinking more. Within 2 weeks of my geographic to New York, I had my home bar on the upper west side – The West End Cafe. For the next 6 years I drank every other day trying to control my drinking and lived the insane life of an alcoholic. I was miserable and unhappy. I got into horrible relationships with crazy people. I had terrible low-paying crappy jobs. I missed amazing opportunities – all because all that I wanted to do ever was drink – but I didn’t want it to seem like that.
When I finally recovered from alcoholism as the result of the 12 steps as they are outlined in our basic text, Alcoholics Anonymous, I ended up moving to a city where people seemed to know and understand the steps, the traditions and the concepts – and applied them in groups and in the service structure.
I have realized that although people get the steps, they only give lip-service to the traditions and AA as I once knew it is waiting for a Resurrection. I am waiting for people to show up who want to put AA first and want to help drunks and trust God that our lives will be taken care of again, but who this time, want to use the Traditions (which includes God), rather than a charismatic alcoholic as our leader.
When I first moved here, 14 years ago, I was a member of a group that was active almost every day of the week – Monday we had a workshop going at a club, Tuesday we had a potluck Big Book study at someone’s house, Wednesday and Saturday we went to the homeless shelter and took a meeting in there, Friday morning we had our homegroup meeting in the morning and went to breakfast together and Sunday evening we went to detox. We rolled like this for more than 10 years. Several of those years we had a commitment at drug court. That was our solution to the people being court-ordered to AA. We cooperated with Alanon, CA and NA and brought a meeting to drug court once a month. That commitment was started in the 80s and lasted for 20 years before it faded away. We showed up for health fairs and also were members of the District Committee. We had yearly events where we attended a meeting at all the groups in our district ending in a dinner… it was called A Day In AA, but that too has faded in to something more convenient… or is gone. That group eventually dissolved to due to Personalities – we had a Bleeding Deacon in our midst and eventually he killed th group.
These days if we try to bring meetings into local treatment facilities or half-way houses, we get kicked out because we won’t let the clients talk about “trauma” or outside issues. If we try to keep it about alcoholism we are shunned because treatment has glommed it together as substance abuse and chemical dependency. The recovery movement on Facebook say that our Principle of Anonymity is all about shame…
Here I am 28 years sober and I no longer feel the purpose and meaning I once felt as a member of AA. All around town I see groups headed by gurus. It reminds me of tide pools and the tide has gone out.
My friends around the country and I have talked about calling ourselves Anonymous Alcoholics and that’s what I am doing here.
My relationship with God today is amazing. There is nothing like fully relying upon God for everything. That has been a hard-won fight, but finally I feel I have that. I do what I need to do. I sponsor 3 gals – 2 in other states and one here. I practice prayer and meditation, and I practice 10, 11, and 12, one day at a time, and one way or another I trust God will provide… I have a homegroup. I no longer do service in the AA service structure. However if our group wants to do it, I will not fight them.
I have been very blessed with great sponsorship. I am sponsored by a man with over 50 years of sobriety, since 2012. He is a passed Trustee and he understands the Traditions and how to use them. We read through AA Comes of Age, the AA Service Manual, The 1953 Traditions Pamphlet, etc for 6 years, at his house every week and slowly but surely I was able to get them under my skin. He introduced me to another man who I talk to on the phone out-of-state – a passed Delegate, who also has a firm self-embodiment of the Traditions as well. I have also been a part of a few groups for several years which practice the Traditions. A friend and I were gifted, by God, with a simple way through the Traditions, as a result of reading the Traditions Sieve, which makes them accessible and useful in the moment. I have also used the Traditions for inventory purposes. I intend to share all that here. Prior to that experience, I was also sponsored by another man who was a past Trustee-At-Large for the US and Canada. From him I learned how to go through the 12 steps and have a Spiritual Awakening and how to work with anyone, anywhere who reaches out for help with the deadly disease of alcoholism.