His message? Love the repeated relapser until he can love himself
“I can’t believe I need a miracle to get sober!” I blurt out in the middle of someone’s share. The meeting becomes quiet and I sob in my seat, the same seat I have sat in for over ten years trying to get sober. Sadly, the same seat I would sit in for the next five years trying my hardest to find the miracle of sobriety I see so many others attain. I am broken, desperate, and exhausted at failing to do as so many have who have sat in this exact chair: get sober. I now know that I truly need a miracle. The kind of miracle that people pray for when a loved one is dying.
I was 25 years old when I entered AA through the psychiatric ward and alcohol ward at the VA Hospital in my hometown of San Antonio, Texas. I am not that alcoholic who believed he did not have a problem or thought everyone else was the problem. I knew I was an alcoholic and knew my only way out was through AA. I am not the part-time member of AA who would come in and out of the meetings when things got better or worse. I am that alcoholic that came into the meetings and stayed, struggling daily to stay sober. I am that alcoholic that had a sponsor, did the 12-steps, chaired meetings, worked with others, wrote daily in a gratitude journal, prayed daily, meditated on the Daily Refection’s, did breathing meditation, took meeting to H&Is, worked out of the Big Book and the Twelve & Twelve, shared in meeting, shared after the meetings.
I am the chronic relapser who is hard to love because people do not understand why I cannot get sober. People would come to me saying: “Benny if you would just do Step One you’d get sober…You won’t get sober if you don’t do Step One.” They didn’t seem to understand that I have an intimate relationship with Step One and know it like the back of my hand. I absolutely have proven to myself that I am powerless over alcohol and that my life is unmanageable.
I have had many people questioning my sincere desire to get sober. They did not realize that I was a walking talking representation of Tradition Three. Every time I took a sobriety chip I had a sincere desire to get sober; in fact, my whole life was about getting sober. People would question me—“Benny why did you drink?”—and I never had an answer that made sense. In fact, most time I just sat there saying nothing just looking into my palms with great sadness and confusion.
I am grateful to the vast majority of AAs who never questioned my desire to stop drinking, who welcomed me in with a smile, handshake, or hug. Who would invite me to sit next to them during the meeting. These people were my heroes, my cheerleaders and my guardian angels on earth. They were the ones who fed me while I sat at our local AA club, gave me rides to other meetings and let me know they believed in me. These are the people who taught me how to be a member of AA in good standing. If not for them, I would be dead.
I would continue to struggle for the next five years as I did the previous ten. I would continue to do the work, as expected of anyone wanting to get sober, to no avail. I cannot express the heartache of attaining several months and thinking: “Finally, it is my turn. I’ve got it!” I walked into the rooms, beaming, believing I was to stay sober forever—only to end up at the bottom of a glass wondering what it would take for it to really be my turn. I have never faced anything so deadly and insidious as alcoholism. I have been diagnosed positive with HIV and gone through life-sapping treatments to beat cancer, but never once did I consider ending my life, because compared to alcoholism those episodes were cake walks. Today, I can honestly tell you I would rather have another cancer diagnosis or have my HIV take a turn for the worse than take another drink because I know my chances of survival are much higher than if I ended up at the bottom of a drink.
My last drink came on July 18, 2010, when I manipulated my mother into buying me one more drink, knowing it would make everything better. She would return from the corner store to find I had overdosed and aspirated vomit into my lungs. I would end up on life support for six weeks. I would learn that I died twice during that time. I had a difficult time with wrapping my head around the fact that I died from alcoholism.
Today, I have over eight years sober. I went back to college and earned not only my bachelor’s degree, but my master’s degree, as well. I am married with two beautiful dogs, have a wonderful relationship with my family and my friends.
My message is simple. The chronic relapser is capable of getting sober, too. Yes, loving us is hard because it’s difficult to witness someone hurting themselves over and over again. I am a chronic relapser who got sober. I am absolute proof that we are capable of attaining long-term sobriety. Don’t give up on us. We need you. We need your compassion. We need your hope, your sponsorship, your love, and support. For fifteen years I use to say I was a member of AA. Today, I say I am a sober member of Alcoholics Anonymous.