From the November 2010 magazine.

Dawn of a Higher Power

Spirituality was elusive until he accepted an energy beyond his understanding

Compared to many of my friends, I came late to the drinking game. As a teenager, I was very caught up in doing well in school and making it into a solid college. I stayed away from most of the parties. Inevitably, though, a suitable occasion arose. When it became common knowledge that my friend Tara had never gotten drunk, a group assembled to rectify the situation. I was part of that group. I had never even had a drink, but I was too shy to admit it. So my first drink was a screwdriver pulled off a tray one Saturday night. My next few drinks followed within minutes as I tried to understand why everyone else wasn't pounding them down like I was. I felt a terrific glow inside. Before long, though, my friends had to take me home and pour me onto my parents' porch.

After that, I didn't drink until I went to college. A few frat parties, a few dorm parties, and I was off looking to buy some alcohol of my own. That proved difficult, as I was not only underage but also looked younger than my peers. Getting drugs was easier than buying alcohol, so my sights turned to other substances for a time. That was good enough, as far as it went, and I found there were a number of ways to feel the way I wanted to. Even so, alcohol held a special appeal. Whenever I started drinking I just couldn't stop, and I needed to feel the way I felt when the alcohol was flooding through my body. By the time I was 23, two colleges and three geographics later, my girlfriend's mother called me a "borderline alcoholic." That didn't help sober me up, but it did give me a hefty resentment.

-- TOM L.

Palo Alto, Calif.

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