Grapevine Online Exclusive

Published January 2012.

Web Exclusive: The Lowest Bottom

He had quit drinking many times until one night in a motel turned into a 3-month bender

To admit to being an alcoholic has taken an exceeding amount of trial and error. I started drinking like an alcoholic when I was 14 years old. I am now 54 and have been sober for only 25 days. I've quit drinking a myriad of times, but would relapse all over again. When will I quit for good? I don't really know—maybe not until I'm dead. But I have more hope this time. Here is the story of my last bottom.

I once stayed sober for 9 months because I was locked up: first in county jail and then in a men's corrections facility. There, I was able to go to a treatment program. When I was released, I had in the back of my mind that my legal and drinking problems were the result of bad luck, not alcoholism.

Having saved up a lot of money from a pension, I rented a cheap motel room where I began drinking. That bender lasted over three months. A great deal of bad things happened to me during that period. This is what my life looked like then: I lost my appetite right away. I isolated most of the time, preferring to drink alone. I started forgetting a lot, I'd rather drink and forget than stay sober and think about myself. I obsessed over television shows which was easier than doing something more meaningful with my life.

I went for weeks without showering or bathing. I would pass out for hours at a time. After waking up, I would get earthquaking shakes along with tremendous anxiety, and thoughts about dying. I would often throw up, but then start drinking again right away. My ankles started swelling up, but I'd drink and ignore them. Toward the end, I felt generally sick most of the time. I began losing control of my bowels and bladder. I was a mess.

My relationship with my girlfriend and extended family was minimal. When I was drinking, I really didn't care much about important things. Then during very brief periods of being sober—or almost sober—I would feel overwhelming remorse and worthlessness, then drink more to kill the pain.

At any rate, sometime during this last drunk, I became "sick and tired of being sick and tired." I'd hit bottom like I'd never hit it before. And I kept remembering how good I'd felt the 9 months I was pressured by the court to stay sober, I desperately wanted that feeling back. Subsequently, I tried several times to stop drinking, only to fail because I would get those intense shakes again—it was drink or die I thought. Then I got so afraid of dying I checked myself into detox. My desire to stop drinking then began to grow and grow. After detox I began going to A.A. every day, connecting with God, my sponsor, my fellow recovering alcoholics. I was staying sober and sane. What a difference!

Now, still having a great deal of desire to stop drinking, my mind is opening up to all kinds of helpful ways to stay sober. I listen at AA meetings like never before, applying a lot of the suggestions I hear. I study the "Big Book" and the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions every morning, after which I pray and meditate. This gets my day off to a good start. I take the advice of my doctors and counselors very seriously. I stay busy through out the day with various sobering routines: socializing with other sober people, spending afternoons at the library, working on writing projects, and so on. It seems the good stuff in my life could go on forever, and I humbly believe my Higher Power, whom I call God, is behind it all.

May whatever experience, strength and hope I have be passed on to others. I am now 30 days into sobriety.

-- John L.