An Experience In Daily Living – Grapevine Article by D.W

He found that there is no panacea for living problems

I WAS HAVING trouble living and was unable to ask for help. Suffering blackouts, financial ruin, and separation from my wife and child, I was sure I was insane. I felt certain the end was near but was helpless either to hasten its coming or to postpone the inevitable.

I walked away from a good job with a wire service and hid at home for two days, refusing to answer the telephone, respond to knocks on the door, or take another drink. At last, I had decided to win this battle, one way or another, on my own.

I couldn’t get into my car; I was afraid I would kill myself while driving it. The alternative means that I had explored–the drugs in the house, the guns, the gas stove–didn’t appeal to me, either.

My wife had once obtained literature on alcoholism, and some of it made reference to Alcoholics Anonymous. I checked the local telephone directory to see whether AA was listed. It was.

The realization that AA might be my only out was a crushing blow to my overinflated ego. It took hours of shaking, sweating, and alternating between hot and cold flashes for me to get up the nerve to make that first call. I made it thinking the AAs would send someone to solve my problems.

They didn’t. Instead, the person who answered the phone sounded almost nonchalant as I guardedly tried to hint that I might have a drinking problem. I wasn’t ready to admit that I was in desperate trouble. He told me where I could find a club run by AAs, open day and night. It took several more hours of despair to get me out of the house and on my way. After driving around the block on which the club was located, I struggled with myself and nearly lost. In a low, low moment, I parked the car and walked into the club.

They weren’t impressed with me, and I wasn’t impressed with them. They had seen hundreds like me before. I had never seen anyone like them before, nor was I ready to accept what I saw. They were people at ease with life, able to top any and all stories I had about my problem. In short, they had been through worse things than those that were forcing me to the brink of personal destruction, and they were laughing about their past experiences. They offered me help–if I wanted it–and left me to my own devices. There was a meeting at the club that night.

For some reason–maybe because I hadn’t attracted the attention I thought I deserved during the first visit–I went to the meeting. I continued to go to meetings and spend time at the club, first talking superficially about my problems and later learning to listen to others who had overcome similar problems.

I played with the AA program for some ninety days, getting a job driving taxicabs to keep me going. At one point on a warm afternoon, every beer sign I passed seemed to wave me in. The urge to get drunk again or commit suicide, or both, was becoming too strong for me to deal with.

I had heard about the spiritual part of the AA program but did not want to listen. As a writer, I had found it fashionable to disown any spiritual upbringing I had had and to profess agnosticism. Now, I found myself wanting to get right with God, especially if I was going to end it all. Driving past a walk-in chapel, I thought I would give it one try, so I parked my cab in a loading zone nearby, walked into the chapel, and dropped to my knees.

I hadn’t been in a church since I had been married nine years earlier, nor for several years before that. The only thing I could think of to do was to look up at the altar and say, “God, if You’ll take this load off my shoulders, I’ll promise to try as best I can not to con You or myself anymore. I won’t promise that I can do it, but I will promise that for once I’ll try.” Instead of immediately attempting everything I thought I had to do to make the AA program work for me, I wrote one rule that I would try to follow: “Thou shalt not con thyself.”

I stuck to that rule as I had never stuck to anything before in my life. I lost the urge to destroy myself. I found myself getting involved in AA and its philosophy of living a day at a time–sober.

Instead of trying to analyze why the AA program worked, I began accepting it on faith and making it work for me. Before long, I had a whole year behind me without a drink. I could talk openly about my problems when asked. Occasionally, they seemed disastrous, but I hung on even after losing a really top job that I had appeared to be a shoo-in for–until I explained why I had left my wire-service job.

I made another rule: I would never again work for anyone who would not accept me for what I was–an alcoholic only one drink away from disaster. When I became honest outwardly, I became more comfortable with myself inwardly. Old fears began to disappear. I could feel myself grow.

I told my first public drunkalog in bankruptcy court. I pleaded with the judge to let me pay my creditors off on time payments under court jurisdiction. Snickers from spectators hurt, but I stuck by my plea, and the judge allowed it. I met the payment schedule he assigned and escaped bankruptcy.

I got new jobs along the way. For a while, I was a rehabilitation counselor working with people who had problems similar to mine. I stayed in that job long enough to learn that I could no longer hide within my problem from the society outside. I would have to learn how to live in society with my problem, placing restrictions only on myself, never attempting to alter anyone else’s life.

I turned to AA, to group and one-to-one discussions, to volumes on psychology and self-help, and to a higher power when it came time to say, “Thanks for letting me live.” I had reached a point where I truly wanted to live and live comfortably.

The comfort was long in coming. Only after I had taken myself apart piece by piece and reconstructed both my physical and psychic self did I begin to achieve any degree of comfort. I am convinced I will always need a continual overhaul and repair program to remain comfortable, and I’m willing to pay that price.

In return, I have been freed to a large degree from the resentments, angers, frustrations, and fears that once made up the largest portion of my life. Upon close examination, I always find that when I am angry at someone else, it is usually because I am in some way angry with myself.

It would be nice to stop right here and say I’m cured, but there is no known cure for living problems. There are only daily solutions to current problems. I have been able to obtain a good deal of self-honesty, but during periods when I am incapable of being totally honest with myself, I must step aside and let my higher power run my life. My higher power is simply a common bond among human beings who suffer, laugh, and enjoy extending a helping hand–no strings–attached to other mortals. My higher power may never be clearly defined, but whatever it is, it is there, and it works for me.

There is no end to this story. For those of us who have survived, there can never be an end-only a day-by-day experience in living. For me, it’s a beautiful experience.

One thought on “An Experience In Daily Living – Grapevine Article by D.W

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: