I just finished reading another of those “Stay out of AA if you’re an addict!” letters in the Grapevine, and felt compelled to share my alcohol-related experience. I first came to AA for help because alcohol had dissolved my moral fiber to the point where I got so drunk I took LSD to “go along with the crowd.” I had vowed never to do hard drugs, but under the lash of alcohol, I found that I could not even live up to my own low standards of decency. Ironically, an acid trip was my alcoholic bottom.
I crawled to AA because I didn’t know where else to turn. I thought even God had spit me out. I hoped that maybe a roomful of drunks could love me. I firmly believe that it was one of those coincidences where God remains anonymous, when I walked into my first AA meeting and it happened to be a Step study on coming to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. I had thought that the God of my childhood had given up on me, yet here he was, working through this roomful of drunks! This drunk never felt more at home, so much so that I was afraid to leave my first AA meeting.
Some very understanding people gave me their phone numbers, a copy of the Big Book, and the encouragement to keep coming back. By the grace of God working through the people of AA, I soon had thirty days behind me. With a rediscovered smile, a new sense of pride, and my first thirty-day chip, I drove directly from the meeting to my old watering hole to celebrate. I was still too scared to drink; I only planned to socialize a bit over a soda. On the way, I picked up a hitchhiker and bragged to him about my month-long accomplishment. He congratulated me and offered to celebrate with a joint. With no hesitation at all, I gladly accepted his offer. You don’t drink marijuana, right?
Beneath the bull, I knew deep down that I was only conning myself, but I needed something to take the edge off of sobriety. I was still looking for an easier, softer way. I was making an even bigger mistake by taking credit for a gift from God. He was lifting the merciless obsession from me, but I was taking the bows. Mainly fear kept me from drinking, but that same fear kept me smoking pot. For the next six months I lived a lie. By the grace of God, I never returned to the bottle, but I went to many AA meetings stoned on marijuana.
Relief came only when I was able to share what I had been up to. I admitted that I was substituting pot for alcohol, and that I was just as powerless over both of them, that my life was just as unmanageable when I was under the influence of either one of them. My new honesty enabled me to get a sponsor and talk openly with him about my disease. Together we worked the Steps of recovery, and I’ve been able to make another substitution. I substituted God for my addiction to alcohol and other drugs. I am powerless over God, and with him working through me, I am powerless over nothing else.
I’m not even powerless over the people who would drive me away from AA. I have a desire to stop drinking. According to our own Traditions that makes me fully qualified as a member. I was just as qualified when I was still regularly smoking pot, but had a desire to stop drinking. Some people seem to believe that I was more qualified when I was still smoking pot, but only sharing about my addiction to alcohol. Isn’t that what we’re implying when we tell an alcoholic that he is not allowed to speak at meetings about his addiction to drugs other than alcohol?
Page 21 of the Big Book roughly describes the “true” alcoholic as one who “begins to use a combination of high-powered sedative and liquor,” who perhaps “goes to a doctor who gives him morphine or some sedative with which to taper off.” I have to wonder what sort of reception this average alcoholic of our early days would receive if he shared openly at an AA meeting today. Would he become like the “real” alcoholic of today who survives on a daily dose of legally prescribed valium, but shares only about his freedom from the tyrant alcohol? Would purists claim that they can’t identify with him and send him away? Is there room for him in the AA of the eighties?
By the grace of God I haven’t had a drink in two years, but I claim only one year of sobriety. One year ago I started working an honest program in AA and quit substituting other drugs for alcohol. My spiritual awakening came in realizing that God was working through you, and had even begun working through me, I owe a great debt to AA for helping me to find the power of God again. You saved this addict’s life. Please don’t turn me away now. To go back is to die.