I said I was going to stop this blog when I reached the 300 mark, and we’re almost there. I will be using this one just to give short rants about what I happen to be interested in that day. I’ll be doing a writer’s blog on Goodreads, where it should be. But since we’re getting close to that 300 point I want to get personal as I did a couple of years ago. And I do that because if you are reading this and you have the same problem I have, or know someone who does, you can pass along the good news that there is hope for all of us.
I am a recovering alcoholic. I can say that for two reasons. I have always been an alcoholic, although I didn’t know it until my life spun out of control in the late ‘70s. And, I can say that because I have not had a drink of alcohol for over 30 years now. I know some of you are saying things like, “Ah, shit, I’m not an alcoholic, I just have a few drinks (and here you can fill in the blank with things like) “after work to relieve the stress.” “To celebrate when something good happens.” “Because I broke up with xxx and I am depressed.” “My parents/sister/brother/dog died.” “To make me feel better around people” “To let my hair down and have fun” “When I’m bored” “When I think of sad things” “When my team loses” or any number of excuses.
So, maybe you don’t know if you are an alcoholic but it is easy to find out. If your father or mother was an alcoholic you have a genetic tendency to slip into alcoholism. That was the case with me. Or, you can just drink yourself into alcoholism. Try this – can you go for a weekend without thinking about that bottle of booze in the cabinet? Or, hidden in the garage? Or under the car seat? How about that six pack of “Lite” beer in the fridge? “Lite” just means they’ve added a little water to it, but it is still alcohol. “Oh, I’m not an alcoholic, all I drink is wine.” Yep, and there are a lot of bums down at Five Points sucking up Thunderbird or MD-20/20. Booze by any other name is still alcohol.
It is possible to use will power to stay away from booze and still be an alcoholic. I forced myself to stay “dry” for two years, before I finally realized that I was just a dry drunk. Or you can replace booze with drugs. Quaaludes are a great way to get drunk without drinking. I know because I did that. And there are any number of other drugs that will do the same.
I want you to know that I know what you are going through, and so do thousands of other people who suffer from the same disease. And, although some jerks on government grants periodically do a “study” of three people for a year and their “findings” declare that it is not a disease, everybody knows it is a disease. One just came out that said three glasses of champagne a week could forestall Alzheimer’s. That’s bullshit. These phony studies just give alcoholics another “excuse” not to face up to their disease. And, unfortunately, it is a disease that cannot be cured. If you are an alcoholic you will always be an alcoholic. I know that and I am one. But the good news is that it can be controlled so that you never even think of taking another drink. But I wanted you to have the bad news first.
If you answered “yes” to any of those questions I put forth earlier, I want you to look in your phone book and go to an open Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. All it requires is that you listen and keep an open mind to what you hear others say. I can promise that you will hear honesty as you have never heard it before. They have all been where you are. AA has been around since the ‘30s and it, and the help of a higher power than I am, saved my life on April 1, 1980. Had it not been for a wonderful man taking me to an AA meeting I would have committed suicide before that year was over. (Open AA meetings are for anyone at any time. Closed meetings are for those who have committed to following the 12 step program.)
Now, you can go to a “rehab” center and pay a lot of money for “treatment” and what they will do is put you in their AA meetings. So save yourself some dough and go to the church next door and attend an AA meeting. It won’t cost you anything. You don’t have to believe in God. The only requirements to get started in the 12 step program, are two, and these are:
- You have to admit that you have no control over alcohol.
- You must not reveal the identity of anyone at that meeting. That anonymity of AA is what makes it work.
You don’t even have to give up alcohol forever – you just have to do it for “today.” If you do, that day will begin to stretch into two days, three days, and then the rest of your life. What sometimes happens is that you will become so comfortable with being sober you will think, “Oh, it’s been two years and I haven’t had a drink, so I’m cured.” That’s a trap. Although you stay sober the disease is like a virus that keeps growing in your body. So if you take that drink or two after a few years, it’s not like starting at the beginning of your younger drinking days. You will become an active drunk much quicker. I know a man who stayed in AA and sober for 25 years. Then his wife convinced him he was “cured.” Two drinks later he was drunk and stayed that way for several years, until he realized what was happening and he returned to AA and now has been sober again for the last five years.
My greatest fears when I entered AA were: Somebody was going to rat on me and I would lose my job. That never happened. Another was, I couldn’t meet with friends and not drink. My friends didn’t give a shit whether I was drinking or not. I could have a glass of coke or soda water, and it was enlightening watching them become the sloppy drunk that I used to be. So I changed my friends until they also got sober. There is one solid truth about alcoholism. It will kill you. Of course it will cause you, and others around you, a lot of pain and suffering on your way to death, but it will kill you – that is a guarantee.
I, and AA, both suggest that at the beginning you go to 90 meetings in 90 days. I did and it worked. And I have reached the point in my life now where I seldom go to meetings anymore, but I know if need to, there is one close by. And I have a best friend with whom I have a “two-man” AA meeting often and it is fun reliving those days when we wrecked our cars and our relationships, knowing that we don’t have to do that anymore.
You don’t have to be a secret drinker, because you really can’t hide it. You don’t have to ruin your life, lose your job and your family, go around embarrassing yourself, getting into fights or jail, killing yourself or some innocents on the highway, or throwing up on your buddy’s shoes. Take it from a recovering alcoholic; help is as close as your nearest AA meeting. If you don’t know of one, there is a phone number where a volunteer will tell you where to go. But do go. I will be proud of you, and so will everybody else.