When I first walked through the doors of AA I didn’t think I was an alcoholic; I was just unable to stop drinking. Nothing in my life was going right. My adolescent kids treated me with anger or pity. My health was shot. I always had colds or aches and pains, and nothing about my internal system was working properly. But I didn’t see these as symptoms of alcoholism; I thought I was just getting old.
Financially I could make ends meet, but I didn’t appreciate that at all. I took it for granted. I’d been divorced for three years and I was lonely. It dawned on me finally that the few men I’d managed to meet all had trouble with alcohol or drugs, usually both. I met them in bars. What were they always doing in bars? I never asked myself what I was doing there!
But the worst of it was the way I felt all the time: incompetent, foolish, weak, stupid, emotionally unstable, and probably crazy. Something was wrong with me–everything but alcoholism. Because alcohol seemed to be my only friend, I drank at lunch. After dinner, I either holed up in my room with a bottle or headed for a bar. That was my lifestyle for ten years, with husband and without.
But alcohol began to fail me. Where once I could drink an entire bottle of tequila, I now began to embarrass myself after one glass of wine. Shocked by my inability to hold alcohol, I tried to hide my newest weakness by declaring to my friends and children that I was going to stop drinking. Every night I went to the bar for two or three tonic waters. Then I went home and took a bottle of wine to bed. July passed, then August. It slowly dawned on me that although I was no longer capable of getting drunk I also wasn’t capable of not drinking. I decided to seek help, secretly, from AA.
I walked into my first meeting silent but belligerent, defeated but too proud to see it. But what I found inside the door completely astonished me. Here was a whole roomful of women and men, all different ages, wearing all different kinds of clothes, who were listening to one another.
“Things still just won’t go my way,” said one man with a deep chuckle.
Everyone in the room laughed. I recognized the words, but I didn’t recognize the tone of voice. I waited with bated breath for his next words.
“Oh well,” he said with a shrug.
I sat back in my chair, confounded. Oh well? Oh well? I didn’t get it. Someone else raised her hand. I leaned forward again.
“I’ve found out that when I try to run the show nothing turns out too well anyway,” said the woman with a smile.
Again words I recognized–but where was this woman’s frustration? She didn’t seem at all saddened by her inability to take charge. There was something wrong with her.
“But when I just sit back and accept the day as it comes, without fighting about it or trying to change it, my day goes just fine.”
There were nods all around the table. I looked from one person’s face to another. What was going on in here? That old guy with the grizzly beard seemed to be in perfect agreement with the neat, pretty speaker. That guy in the business suit was leaning back in his chair with a big wide grin. I was astonished, but no one else was.
By the time the meeting was over several people had introduced themselves to me and someone had given me a Big Book. I went home in a daze. That AA meeting wasn’t at all the way I’d expected, and so I decided to go back. This was the first interesting thing I’d found in years!
After a few months of not drinking and a steady growth of hope I decided I just might be alcoholic after all. I joined a group. I looked forward to meetings all day, and once I got to them my spirits lifted. Then my group appointed me coffee maker. Every Friday night I got to that meeting an hour early and put on pot after pot of coffee. Other AAs usually arrived early to set up the chairs.
One night I was in about as foul a mood as I had ever been in AA. It was the day before Valentine’s Day and I hadn’t had a glimmer of romance for over a year. Sure I was glad I was sober, but Valentine’s Day was depressing. My husband had left me almost four years before. I’d lost the only man who would ever look at me, and I better get used to it.
Through the door came the night’s first arrival. “Dave” had been around awhile, and always had a friendly word or hug available. Oh good, I thought, I need a hug.
“Hi!” he said. “How are you doin’ tonight?”
I heaved a deep sigh, put on a poor-little-lost-me expression, and my voice trembled slightly with real self-induced tears as I replied wistfully, “Oh, I’ve been better.”
“Oh yeah?” he replied, “Have you been worse?”
And down the hall he went to set up chairs.
I couldn’t believe it! Not even a hug!
I watched Dave bend over the chair rack. He was whistling.
“You’re in an awfully good mood,” I thought resentfully.
And then it hit me. I was in a bad mood, and he was in a good one. The only difference between us was that I’d been better, but he’d been worse! It was all in the way we chose to look at it!
The words of the Serenity Prayer began to make sense–accept the things I cannot change, but change the things I can.
I now know it was my attitude my kids couldn’t stand to be around–bad vibes are contagious. But so are good ones, and my kids and I are openly loving with one another today, a miracle for which I thank AA. I have a lot of gratitude today. I can change my viewpoint any time I want to. I can look at things from down, by lying back and waiting for someone to rescue me. Or I can stand tall and look at the way things are as the way they’re meant to be.
Today I know what Dave meant. I’ve been worse–and I don’t ever have to feel that way again! Now if that isn’t worth a smile on a rainy day, what is?