From the August 2012 magazine.

August 2012: Man in the Mirror

Thirty-three years ago, his reflection showed him the truth. Now he likes what he sees

On Nov. 30, 1978, at the tail end of another ugly drinking binge, I found myself staring at the bathroom mirror in my apartment. I was hoping to reach the elusive glow I had experienced the first night I drank alcohol and had chased ever since. That night, as I stared into the dirty mirror in my San Diego apartment, I could no longer lie to myself. I was probably the last person who believed I did not have a “drinking problem”—to put it nicely. I saw the real me: the drunken slob I had become, always pretending to be something or someone else. As I gazed into the mirror, I wondered whether that was my reflection.

Sure, alcohol had worked for me in the beginning. My first drinking episode at age 15 was fantastic. My brother and I and our friend Richard had heard from our older friends wildly funny stories about getting drunk. So we raided our families’ liquor cabinets, and poured a little out of each different-colored bottle into our quart jars. Then we added some lemon juice and water. The three of us snuck out of our houses at midnight, ran to a nearby golf course, and drank the awful-tasting concoction. It was hard for me to swallow, but it got easier as it warmed my body and numbed my brain. We laughed, fell down, fought each other, and threw up. I loved the feeling. It was the answer to all my problems in life: it made me feel handsome, strong, witty, sexy, and confident. The Big Book says we drink for the effect. And even though I woke up the next morning bloody, bruised and sick, from that day forward I chased the euphoria I experienced that night. I also did all kinds of drugs. But alcohol was my drug of choice, and I did not care whether I drank beer, wine, or hard liquor—as long as it got me loaded.

-- Charlie A.

San Diego, California

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