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Blessed to be an Alcoholic

J.C., W.V

I grew up in a typical middle class home in the New York City suburbs. My family was Catholic. My brother and I went to Catholic school. We went to church every Sunday. Mom stayed home. Dad worked. Everything about our family looked ideal and normal from the outside.

 It just wasn’t so. My father drank, my parents fought – and I walked on eggshells trying not to be noticed, not to be the cause of any conflict. We kept the ‘family secrets’ my brother and I – that’s how it was. No one knew what our home life was really like – the drunken rages, the broken things, the frequent abuse that just kept getting worse.

I found alcohol when I was about 12. I started out sneaking liquor from my parents supply, and from then on I drank as often as possible. By the time I was 15, I was having blackout episodes, and I had earned a bad reputation among my peers. 

I drank more, I changed friends, I went from being an A student to a C (I couldn’t fail for fear of my father’s wrath).

My only goal was to get away from my family – to get a job and move out – to escape the constant fear of what would happen next – to be able to drink as much as I wanted. So I became very goal-oriented. Driven by alcohol in all facets of life; it pushed me around, and pulled me in. I knew no other way!

As I progressed in life – through getting jobs and moving to new places – starting this and ending that – so did my disease (but I didn’t know it then). I had an excuse for everything. Some thing or someone else was to blame for any and all misfortune. I was always the victim of some drama. 

My 1st marriage was brief and violent – we were mutually abusive towards each other – he loved his drugs and I my alcohol. One episode included me aiming a handgun at him in self-defense. It was crazy, and I knew we were going to kill each other if it continued, so I left – sneaking away one day while he was at work – the only way I could get away from him safely.

Somehow, with my 2nd marriage (which was only verbally abusive = progress not perfection), I managed to keep it together long enough to have two beautiful and healthy baby girls -- staying fairly sober through their early years, with only occasional drunken episodes at special events.

As with so many things that were ruined during my drinking career, that marriage ended. Badly. Painfully. And then I was single mother to an 8 and 10 year old. And no one was preventing me from getting drunk anymore, so I did. Almost every night.

I quickly married a 3rd time – to a man who liked me drunk – because it made me easy to manipulate.

Six years and two major relocations later that marriage ended. Badly. Painfully. We were both lucky to still be alive (this time he had the gun), and at that point I wasn’t sure I wanted to be. My life had seriously sunk.

Again, I was a single mother and my daughters were now 14 and 16. Life was rough, my drinking was progressing quickly, I was having trouble at work, trouble with men, trouble with family, and my daughters became disgusted with me. My oldest “just wanted to get a job and move out” – I had become exactly what I never wanted to be – the alcoholic, unreasonable parent – just like my father had been. 

Ouch! I denied this fact for a very long time. It was too painful to face. I couldn’t imagine life without drinking, and I wouldn’t admit I was an alcoholic. Every one and every thing else was to blame for it all.

 My youngest daughter took to drinking herself – and she got away with it because I was too self-involved and too drunk to notice what was happening.

 Halloween 2009 began what was to be my last drunk. I remember being outside on my front porch, glass in hand, giving out candy to all the little kids. I remember thinking no one would notice I was drinking. I don’t remember anything else for the next few days.

 I woke up the morning of Tuesday, November 3, 2009 – sick as a dog, depressed, fearful, anxious, bruised, desperate and worried – there’s really not strong enough words to describe that place. It was terrible. I didn’t want to live – I considered my options. I decided I couldn’t die because my beautiful daughters had no one else, and I wasn’t going to let them down.

 And then I prayed. Sincerely. From the heart. For a solution. For help. Willing to do anything. I was sitting at my desk, crying, pitiful, a wreck. As soon as I prayed I felt like a weight had been lifted from me, that my sickness had been relieved, and that there was some hope.  It’s very hard to describe – I imagine this is what some call a spiritual experience, and to me it definitely was. I felt the presence of my Higher Power (HP), along with that of my deceased mother, and another friend who had died of this disease long before. I know that sounds crazy but that’s what I experienced. I heard the words “we got this”. Seriously!

I looked up – directly at a book on the shelf called The Courage to Change – it had been my mother’s (an Al-Anon book). It had been there for a few years, and I had no clue what it was about. I picked up that book, and I read the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.  I realized that the message was that I needed AA, and I was literally horrified.

Suddenly this was all about my drinking, and I couldn’t deny what the real problem was anymore. I think my HP 12th stepped me right there and then. In my mind I said “OMG! No, not that! Not AA!  Do I really have to?”, and I immediately perceived the answer as “Yes, that’s what you need”. So I immediately but reluctantly got online and searched for information about AA, and I found the GSO website.

I read the 44 questions, and I answered them. At that point, I could no longer deny that I was an alcoholic, and it was a painful reality for me. I couldn’t imagine living with alcohol, and I couldn’t imagine living with the stigma of being an alcoholic.

Chicken that I was, I looked to see if there were online meetings, and I found e-AA. Believe it or not, all of this was going on before 7 AM EST.  So, in the chat room I found many people who would become very important to me very quickly.

There was, I  remember, a Larry, Mike J., Eric, another Mike, a Trish and a Tricia, and Jojo. There was a Steve  I think and many others that helped me, too many to remember. I told these people my story, and I found out that I wasn’t alone -- that everyone had had similar experiences, and that AA worked for them. More importantly, I learned that these people were HAPPY about being sober. They were not a glum lot!  Amazing!

I’m pretty sure I stayed in the chat room for 3 days – sobering up – barely sleeping – absorbing all the info I could as quickly as I could.  I was told to read the 1st 164 pages of the Big Book, and I did that online the 1st day.

You have to picture the incredible mess I was – in my robe, feeling tattered and torn, a disheveled disaster glued to the computer monitor doing what anyone in that AA chat room told me to do, trying not to drink.

Well, thanks to all of these people hanging with me around the clock, I made it through. By Thursday evening, they had talked me into getting myself together and going to a real meeting. I did not want to go. I thought I was doing just fine sitting at my desk chatting with people all over the world.

Meeting face to face was incredibly intimidating. Who would be there? Would I fit in? What would it be like? I remember others sharing with me that the first meeting was incredibly emotional, and someone else explaining that it was exactly the same, just in person. They all assured me I’d feel as welcome in F2F meetings as I did here.

So I went. And I cried through the entire meeting. And I got a 24 hour chip.

I made it back home without stopping at the store for wine, and here in this chat room were many of my friends waiting for my report (Now I know they were probably also praying the whole time).

I told them all the people were amazing and awesome, and how blessed I felt being a part of this whole new world where people cared about each other. I just couldn’t believe it. I’d never experienced anything like this.

I was already so glad to have found AA, to have listened to my HP – who I could already see knew far better than I did what I needed. I just couldn’t have been more grateful.

By Saturday, I was ready to tell my girls about this new journey. I made them a nice dinner, which I hadn’t been doing often enough for them, and they cried when I told them I had started going to meetings and I was committed to doing everything I had to to stay sober. 

My girls had been through hell with me, and I had promised them many, many times I wasn’t going to drink again. They were used to that. But this time they knew something was different. There was hope.  They could see it in my eyes already, and hear it when I told them about AA.

I had never felt closer or more supported by my two beautiful daughters than at that moment, when they hugged me and cried and accepted my admission that I was an alcoholic, and that I was going to get help. I realized that somehow I had been blessed with amazing, forgiving children.

I kept coming here for online chat and meetings. I started going to meetings every day face to face. My recovery became my full time effort, and somehow my HP worked things out for me so that it could be.

I was told to go to meetings, get a sponsor, a home group and don’t drink. I did everything that was suggested. And it worked. It was a miracle.

In no time at all it seemed, the desire for a drink vanished. If I had any inkling of a craving, I would call my sponsor, read the literature… I used all the tools. And it worked. What an absolute miracle.

I had tried many times before to stop drinking, and couldn’t. I had thought I was the weakest willed person on earth because I couldn’t. I’d had no idea I had a disease, and that there were so many others like me. AA was a major relief!

I was told to get into service. So I did. At 2 months sober I became Secretary of my home group. It was all very exciting! I baked cookies for all the ‘guys’ – there were barely any women at meetings. I suddenly had a whole bunch of new friends, a wonderful support system, rides to meetings when the weather was bad.

I kept wondering how all of this had happened as a result of being a drunk. It was just amazing to me. I was glad to be a drunk!

Before a year sober, I was GSR of my home group, and started attending district meetings too. From there I became the webmaster and designed our district’s first website. I still have that position. I also ended up with Where & When’s somehow. And service continues on.

I heard once at a meeting that the 12 steps are how you get sober, and service is how you get MORE sober. I think that is true. I’ve grown tremendously as a person – I’m not that anxious, depressed, fearful, pathetic woman anymore. I’m confident, assertive, cheerful and calm now most of the time J.

I can only say that I love service work, and it has been a big part of what has worked for me these last 6 years.

About 10 months sober, I had my first sponsee. I had no clue what I was doing, so every time I had to talk to her, I just prayed beforehand that my HP would guide me in helping her. It worked. It’s really amazing how all of this just works. Sponsorship is another major part of what has worked for me.

It is very rewarding to help another alcoholic, and sponsoring really boosted my own sobriety by leaps and bounds. When we met to do step work, I always ended up feeling I had gotten more out of it than she did.

That has continued over the last 6 years: sponsoring, service work, working on my recovery as the #1 priority in my life. And it has worked.

Miracles have happened in my life as a result of my making this choice in 2009. First of all – I’m still alive. I know I would be dead had I not taken this path.

I’m married again – YEP – 4th time is the charm? My husband of a little over 3 years is in AA too, and together we do a lot of district and area service work. Our life involves almost constant interaction with other AA’s, newcomers, old-timers, everyone. We often host gatherings at our home, and he and I are the Activities committee for our district.

Personally, I’ve made amends with all of my family and I’ve got the best relationships with them ever!

My daughters and I have never been closer, and they continue to encourage and support me. My youngest daughter has stopped drinking now as well

I’ve gone back to school and finished my degree – college classes had gotten in the way of my drinking back then. And I’m close to finishing my Master’s degree now. I love my life. I continue to grow and improve. I am very, very grateful for this program. I am blessed beyond belief! 

It really is a miracle how “normal” my life is now. Actually I consider it above normal, better than normal. Most people don’t have the steps, the program, the amazing way of life that we do. We are blessed. 

Thank you for reading my story, and if you're an alcoholic like me I pray you will give AA and e-AA a chance to lift you out of hell as well. I've no regrets!

 JC.  WV

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