But the actual or potential alcoholic, with hardly an exception, will be absolutely unable to stop drinking on the basis of self-knowledge (Big Book, page 39)
THIS is not the story of my drinking career, which pray God is over. That story would be more lurid than some, not so shocking as others. A typical story of a social drinker with a large capacity for hard liquor, gradually consuming larger and larger quantities because, unfortunately, I could remain the gentleman and keep out trouble. Then the gradual decline to the occasional, then frequent, binge. ‘Nuff said, you know the rest!
Here I would like to tell of my coming to AA–my little success, my frequent failures, and the final devastating blow that so nearly laid me flat.
I am the father of seven children. Some two years ago my drinking began to cause me serious financial worries. It also started to intrude into my work. Taking stock of myself I decided it would be necessary to stop drinking until I succeeded in getting things squared away. I came to AA. With these reasons for coming you can imagine the success I had. I lasted three months, attending the odd meeting and reading a little of the literature.
About a year later, coming off a bender, sick and shaking, I came back to AA. Still not believing I was alcoholic, I lasted about two months.
For the next nine months I continued to fool myself, because I could control my drinking for varying periods, but inescapably I always ended in a bender. Finally on April 1, 1952, after a particular heavy go at the bottle, I stopped drinking abruptly. The resultant shakes, nerves, depression, etc., necessitated my staying home from work for a few days. Then for the first time with some degree of sincerity I went back to AA.
I had never before attempted an address of any kind to a group, AA or otherwise. Now I did. I also tried to read the AA literature intelligently. I listened carefully to the various speakers. I tried, sincerely I thought, to pray. For the next seven months all went well as far as sobriety was concerned. But there continued to build up in me a conviction I was not actually alcoholic. I could find no reason satisfactory to myself as to why I was alcoholic. Others, yes, but not me. Eventually I decided I had been only a heavy drinker and that now I could once more control John Barleycorn. I deliberately started to drink.
I was careful to inform the members of my group after my first night, saying that though I had helped to kill two quarts of gin and a quart of rum in an evening I had no desire to drink the next day. Therefore I was not alcoholic. To my long-suffering wife I explained that were I able to convince myself I was alcoholic or if I believed as some did that a drink would lead to eventual death or confinement, then I would have no trouble following the program. I actually believed this when I said it. But now being convinced I was at constant war with myself, not against taking a drink but about the necessity of refraining from taking even one drink.
About this time I came into some money with which I intended settling my financial worries. In less than three weeks I found myself hanging on the ropes. In the middle of a drunk and afraid I wouldn’t stop until all my much-needed money was gone. In desperation I asked my wife to call AA. They responded quickly. I asked to be hospitalized. This was my first experience of this nature. The desire to be hospitalized came from fear. . .fear born from the knowledge I had gained in AA.
During the drying out I read an article by a doctor. In it he claimed alcoholism was an irreversible chemical change in the body and that all human beings if they drank long enough and hard enough would eventually become alcoholic. This I accepted. I then was no different than anyone else. I had just reached my Saturation point. I was satisfied. I was alcoholic. I left the hospital with the firm conviction that if I ever drank again it would be for some extreme reason. To my utter consternation, in two short weeks, for no reason whatsoever I again stared to drink. I was horrified; I had been so sure that with conviction would come sobriety.
I drank for five days. On the morning of the day before Christmas I was lying in bed completely disgusted with myself for what I was doing to my family, especially at this time of year. I called my wife and asked her to bring me a drink. She, God bless her, did. A drink of tea! Then patiently and sympathetically she began to review the AA doctrine. At last she said:
“You know the program, one day at a time. Why don’t you ask God to help you just for today?”
I had always thought I had faith, but that morning I believe was the first time I sincerely, without reservation, ever asked God to help me through just one day. I suffered horribly that day but I was never near taking a drink. God knew I could stand little temptation the way I felt. So He gave me none.
On Christmas night I attended an AA meeting. Many told how happy and thankful they were that night but there wasn’t one in the hall as humble and thankful as I. God had became personal to me that Christmas Day. He had stooped down and drawn me back in the middle of a drunk, back from the brink of disaster, back to the safe haven of AA. I had finally had my “spiritual experience.”