AS A TEENAGER, when life was overwhelming to me, I was introduced to alcohol. At once, I knew that I had found a great friend–something to shield me from the new and powerful emotions of my developing youth and the inferiority feelings I was becoming familiar with as a result. Alcohol made me loose and free and allowed me to be the person I thought I really should be.
In those early times, alcohol was an occasional companion, comforting me when I needed it, but always under my control–so I thought. The day came when, through the insidious disease of alcoholism, I was no longer controlling my constant companion, but being controlled by it–I had to drink. (That was never obvious to me at the time; it is knowledge acquired years later, after entering AA.)
Gradually, as living problems mounted, caused and added to by alcohol, I found myself increasing the amount and frequency of sedation, trying to forget the difficulties of living. Finally, I began to seek help, not for the drinking at first, but for the problems. I took the path familiar to so many alcoholics: a general practitioner, a psychiatrist, and then–after those measures had failed but had given me some slight insight into the real nature of my problem–the National Council on Alcoholism and at last AA.
I’d like to say that this is the end of the story and that since I came to AA everything has been roses. That would be far from the truth, however, for it was, instead, the beginning: the beginning of death for the old me (the person I thought I was) and the beginning of life for the new me (the person I was meant to be).
During the next six years, which included numerous slips, especially in the earliest years, all the emotions I had kept sedated for so long were released. I was overwhelmed by them again–but this time, twenty years later, I was no longer hiding from them. I knew fear, resentment, guilt, frustration, depression, and total loss of self-esteem. Then came the miracle, unfolding gradually.
Step by step, through the Twelve Steps of AA, I began to learn how to live (a design for living), as I had not learned when I was supposedly growing up. But I had an advantage that most nonalcoholics do not have: I was able to go forward, led on by the knowledge–in personal experience–of the futility of a self-centered life. I learned that humility is being teachable; that willingness is simply being open-rather than closed-minded; that successful sobriety is born of a desire to be sober rather than drunk–a positive desire to experience the adventure of sobriety, rather than a negative life deprived of alcohol. I further learned that perfection doesn’t exist and only the intention matters, not the result; that the journey is much more valuable and exciting than the goal.
Though life without alcohol once seemed impossible, it now has become exciting. The pain of growing up, of maturing, exacts a cost, especially when we have postponed it, as I did, through alcoholism. But we are well reimbursed, for growing up is an essential part of the human condition.
I thank God (my Higher Power) for AA, the means through which I found this new life, and I hope AA is always there for everyone who wants it.