From the July 2009 magazine.

Not so old

After 30 years, a long-timer recalls turmoil and joy

LAST year I celebrated my 30th AA birthday. I started drinking heavily in my mid-teens, started trying to get sober in my early twenties, and I took my last drink when I was 27. At that point I could not go for more than a few hours without drinking, and I could not drink for more than a few days without getting put into an institution. I could no longer make it to work, to family events, or even--on occasion--to the bathroom. I was a physical and emotional wreck, I was an obvious danger to myself and others, and right up until the end I still didn't think I was that bad. I wasn't shooting drugs, for example, nor was I homeless. I had an apartment, albeit a pretty empty one, and I still had a car, which I continued to drive in spite of losing my license to a DWI. But at the lowest point in my life, I became willing to do anything to not live like that anymore. As I've since seen, no matter where you are on the "sick" continuum, as long as you understand "pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization" you can get off the impending train wreck of your life and get sober.

When I started going to meetings I could tell that some of the old-timers didn't think too much of the current crop, what with our long hair and earrings, the funny way we talked, and the faded peace signs on our jackets. I heard one old-timer say he wouldn't sponsor any of those blankety-blank hippies (although I still see him today and I now know he was making a joke). I heard another tell a newcomer straight-out to cut his hair, take a bath, get a job, and join the human race. And some of the current crop were heard to say they didn't think too much of those smelly old drunks either, what with all their divorces and lost jobs and brain damage from drinking things that weren't ever meant to be drunk. Some of those old-timers even wore suits, shaved every day, got haircuts once a week, and talked about what they'd heard in church. What could they possibly know about my life?


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