A friend sent me the following reflection from one of his parishioners, who asked not to have his name attached. Well worth reading:
I am an alcoholic. I can say that now and know what it means- that was not always the case. When I first started coming to the rooms of AA I couldn’t say it. I would introduce myself by name but would refuse to say I was an alcoholic… An alcoholic was someone who was homeless and begging for money to drink on, an alcoholic was someone older, someone who drank in the morning, someone who drinks and drives- I did many of those things but that isn’t what makes me alcoholic. I thought maybe alcoholism was “the result of”- the result of bad parenting, or the result of my obsession with my lover, or the result of always feeling different- not smart enough, not good looking enough, not coming from the right part of town (etc), I thought it might be because of mental illness or depression… but my problems aren’t what make me alcoholic- what makes me an alcoholic is that I used alcohol as the solution to those problems.
I love alcohol, it gave me the power to do or say anything to anyone. It allowed me to dance, it made me feel attractive and smart- but most of all it silenced all the noise and chatter that ran through my head. All my fears and resentments were suddenly gone and all I focused on was the next drink. To some it’s a beverage- something to compliment a meal perhaps, a way to socialize after a long days work… to me to was the key to making me a whole person- The solution to the problem of being me. I chased that sensation until I had just about killed myself, I didn’t even care… I was constantly hurting the people around me- always accompanied with countless apologies or justifications and it never stopped.
I’m not really sure what I was looking for when I came to AA. I knew I wanted to stop hurting my loved ones, and I new I was going to die, but I just couldn’t imagine a life with out drinking. They told me that I was suffering from a disease- a disease that meant I had a body that couldn’t tolerate a single drink, a mind that wouldn’t leave it alone, and a spiritual condition that put me and my problems at the center of the universe. Always playing the victim I had the attitude that “if you were going through what I was going through then you would drink too!” Another personal favorite was “Life sucks now and will suck later so I may as well be drunk!” They told me I needed to live my life in a way that wasn’t full of pain and misery, that I needed to live my life in a way that meant I wasn’t in charge… I needed a higher power.
If I could have figured out a way around it I would have. I hated God and I was convinced that God hated me. My first sponsor told me to pray- I said I didn’t believe in God, they said “I didn’t ask you if you believed in God I asked you to pray!” It had been years since I had prayed… There had been lots of “Please God get me out of this one!” but not an actual prayer. I think my first prayer went something like this “Who ever is out there I don’t like you and I bet you don’t like me but help me to not pick up!” It was enough. I had made contact. Suddenly I had something I hadn’t in a long time: hope. Hope that I could get better, hope that there could be a life with out alcohol, hope that if I just let God do what God does I could be happy. Hope turned in to willingness and willingness turned into action. Its been almost nine years with out a drink.
God has given me so many gifts I’m almost moved to tears writing this- but far and away the most important I have received is usefulness. My experience, once my greatest handicap has now become my principle asset. When I see someone wasting away into alcoholism I can offer them a solution today. I’ll finish with a story that sums it all up for me: I was newly sober I was talking to an old timer Ed, and I very melodramatically told him that “life as I knew it was over!” He looked me square in the eye and said “With God’s help that might just prove true”