by Mark H.
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I started using alcohol (age 13) and drugs (age 15) to cope with my dysfunctional family and life’s challenges outside my toxic home life.
Later, at age 32, with a common-law wife and two children and a fulltime job, the alcohol and drugs weren’t working anymore. In fact, they were making my life worse. That year I found myself divorced, alone and hurting bad (as was my lost family).
I had a sober co-worker, though, who I had been sharing my problems with for about two years. He kindly listened, told me how AA had helped him and always told me, “If you are ever about to drink, but don’t want to (the only requirement for AA membership), call me first.”
One day I went on a drive to get away and consider my plight. I was drinking and drugging, then realized I was behaving like I did when I was a teenager. I knew my old coping mechanisms weren’t working anymore. I had to try something else.
The first little leap
Not long after the drive, I was home alone on a Saturday afternoon hurting and looking for a way out. I walked over to the refrigerator, pulled out a wine cooler, but then hesitated. I could hear my friend inviting me to call him before I drank.
So, I took that first leap of faith by calling my friend. I humbled myself and asked for help. This was a new strength I was use again.
“Dump that shit down the drain,” my friend said, and I did!
He then told me to call the AA Central Office and ask for a nearby meeting.
“I can’t go alone, its just too scary,” I told him.
“Don’t worry, ask for someone to pick you up,” he said.
“Really, someone will pick me up?” I just couldn’t believe strangers cared that much.
So, I humbled myself again and asked for help. I didn’t think anyone would care enough to do a stranger this favor, but sure enough an older man came to my house and took me to my first meeting. His kindness impressed me. It was Labor Day 1986.
I was scared stiff at that first meeting, but I stayed because I was even more frightened by the direction my life was taking. I told a few folks this was my first meeting. They welcomed me and invited me to a sober picnic that day at a nearby park. I went and had fun, but still looked around the whole park for people using. I really couldn’t believe no one was drinking or using drug. But, no one was. That impressed me too.
I stayed in AA and sober for a few months, but then went back to using. But AA, even that little bit, had ruined my drinking. The notion that “ignorance is bliss” made using easy, but I wasn’t ignorant about substance abuse anymore and the drugs and alcohol still weren’t working.
So, I reluctantly went back to AA in October 1987 and, like they said, ‘we don’t shoot our wounded.’ Much to my relief, the group welcomed me back. I wasn’t sure I wanted to quit drinking/drugging or be in AA, but I didn’t want to die or end up in jail either.
“Give AA a chance,” they told me. “The only thing you have to lose is your misery. And if AA is not for you, got back out. Your misery will be cheerfully refunded.” Those words stayed with me then and still.
The Big Leap
This time back at AA I really began to debate whether I was an alcoholic or not, whether or not I should admit Step One: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol and our lives had become unmanageable.
I read the Big Book, took diagnostic surveys, discussed the matter with fellow AA members and debated the issue with myself for about nine months. I was becoming the Great Debator at my club. My sober friends would tell me: “Analysis is paralysis.” Indeed, that was me. Still looking, perhaps, for a way out?
Life was still a struggle, especially now since I was between two worlds: No longer using, but not fully embracing AA’s help either.
Then, one day I just decided to take Step One to heart. Much to my surprise, the transformation and relief was immediate. Being on the fence is hard work, much harder than ‘making a decision.”
I had finally ‘walked through door” and made the great leap of faith, come what may. I didn’t know if this path would work, but at least I had picked a lane! I hoped it would work.
Its not easy to leave an old life and build a new one, but once I admitted Step One I was exhilarated by the fact I had admitted the truth about myself and, just as important, what to do about it: 90 meetings in 90 days, get a sponsor, do the steps, find a higher power and unload my using friends and places.
AA was my life back then until I built a new, sober life, which took about two years. Now, AA guides my life.
My first home club always ended meetings by saying “Keep coming back, it works if you work it.” New comers and old timers alike told me my life will get better the longer I stayed sober and participated in AA. “Meeting makers make it” is one of my steadfast mantras.
Starting with those first few months and years sober, the promises of AA have come to pass. Every year sober my life has improved thanks to AA.