When he was drinking, he was lost in his emotions. The Steps of AA helped bring him back
I was a “happy-go-lucky” drunk and an avid party goer. I was almost always happy. But when I had hangovers, I saw the truth of what I was becoming—sad, depressed and demoralized. I tried my best to carry on, thinking there was no solution to my problem. The only thing that worked to remove those feelings was more drinking.
About a month before I had to get sober, I went to a movie with a girlfriend I had been seeing for six years. Our relationship was starting to fall apart because of how often I went to the bar and how much I drank. This was our date night, and I only went to the movie to appease her. She suggested that we see a movie called “Eighth Grade”. I went in not knowing anything about it. The movie theater had a bar and we were allowed to bring our drinks in for the showing. As I sat sipping my drink, the movie began.
About 10 minutes into the film, my eyes began to well up with tears. The story was about a single father raising a daughter who’s in the final week of her eighth-grade year. In the film she goes through a coming-of-age process that helps her gain self-confidence as she moves into high school. And there I was, sobbing. My girlfriend gave me a confused look. “Why are you crying?” she asked. I replied that I was as confused as she was. I finished my drink and all I could think about was getting another one. I thought that would balance me out and I’d stop crying. My girlfriend told me not to have another drink, and to please her, I didn’t.
The movie ended and the lights came on. We left the theater and got into my car to go home. All I could think about was going to the bar to stop these emotions. My girlfriend insisted that I not go. She said that more drinks would only make it worse. I believed her, but my mind kept on telling to go to the bar. She was the only reason I didn’t go.
The next night, when my girlfriend wasn’t with me, I went to the bar and got good and drunk. I made fun of the situation of the previous night. I thought my crying in the movie was a random occurrence and it wouldn’t happen again. Turns out I was wrong. I soon found myself in treatment, where I attended my first AA meeting.
I’ve been sober a while now. I regularly attend meetings and take others through the Steps. I understand that my hopeless state of mind wasn’t merely a one-off emotion. That hopelessness would only have gotten worse had I not gotten sober.
In AA, I’m learning to embrace my emotions. The Steps have taught me a design for living on life’s terms. Today when I’m sad, I eagerly work to find the root cause of my sadness, either with my sponsor or through the inventory process. When I’m happy, I thank God for allowing me to see the beauty that life has given me. It’s been tough to consistently apply these AA principles in all my affairs. It’s through the trials of life that I’ve learned to work toward emotional sobriety.
When I had 43 days sober, an old bar friend committed suicide. He was like me in every way when I was drinking. His memorial was going to be held at the bar that he and I and many of our friends frequented. I asked my sponsor if I should go. He asked me if I would regret not going. I said I would. He reminded me that AA’s program is designed to give us life, not to take it away. We can go to these places if we have a good reason to be there. My reason for going was to support my friend’s wife and my old friends. My sponsor agreed that was a good reason, but added that while I was there to give support, I should also seek support for the grief I too was going through.
At the memorial, I didn’t try to minimize my own pain and I was able move forward in my grieving process. I embraced my emotions and sought comfort from my friends, with no judgment of their drinking. I was able to reconnect with everyone and be empathetic.
When I drank, I withdrew from life. Now, because of the Steps, I participate in life with a new emotional understanding. There are always challenges. Not every day is a great day. But I know that today I’m sober and that I have a choice to see the world with clear eyes and thoughts, which has allowed me to grow up. This willingness to strive for emotional sobriety is allowing me to be a useful person in the world.