Originally published in the September 1999 Grapevine Magazine
From Section 1, What We Used To Be Like
ALTHOUGH I ONLY DRANK FOR FIVE YEARS, I am an alcoholic. I was born with this disease and I will die with this disease. Without AA, I would be dead. I am so grateful for this program. It has given me eleven years of sobriety this month. Everything I am is a direct result of God and AA.
When I speak, I talk about my childhood a little, not because I blame anything that happened for my alcoholism. I talk about it because I believe I was born with this disease. Whether I came from a mansion or a cardboard box, I would still be an alcoholic.
As a child I always felt different. I like to say I had a God hole. I was filled with fear. I never felt like I measured up. I always just fell short. I judged my insides by everyone's outsides. They all looked so happy. I wanted to feel the way they looked. I just didn't know how to get there.
I come from a loving home. Alcohol was always present, but I wouldn't consider it an alcoholic home. I was adopted at age three but I was never made to feel different. Yet I was always filled with fear. And that God hole was always there.
The best way I can describe the way I felt is with my sneaker story. When I was a kid, sneakers were a big thing. If you had a cool pair of sneakers, then you were cool. So I would see a cool pair of sneakers on someone and I would go out and get the same pair as they had. But for some reason my sneakers didn't look as good on me as they did on other people. I was in constant turmoil. If I could have unzipped my skin and crawled out, I would have. I was always searching for a way to feel okay, something that would take the fear away.
I had my first drink at age eleven. I had seen drinking as a kid. I noticed before people started drinking they were quiet. But after a few drinks, they seemed to be happy. I wanted what they had. So a friend and I raided his mother's liquor cabinet one night. I had a little bit of everything. And then it happened! For the first time in my life, I felt okay. The fear was gone. And my sneakers were as good as everybody else's, and if they weren't, it didn't matter. I could talk to people, I was as good as, and I measured up to. I knew then that I was going to drink whenever I could.
The "Twelve and Twelve" says that "alcohol the rapacious creditor, bleeds us of all self-sufficiency and will to resist its demands." "Rapacious" means "feeds on living prey." When I look back, I realize that alcohol robbed me blind. It stole family, opportunities, and finally my desire to live. At the end, I prayed for death.
I became a violent alcoholic. I got in a lot of trouble with the police. At the age of fourteen, I got my first unlicensed DWI. Six months after that I got my second DWI. I got into fights and got locked up in a ten-by-ten holding cell several times. Each time I got locked up, I'd say to myself, "How could this have happened again? This time it was going to be different." It never was any different. But I believed alcohol took away the fear. I wasn't prepared to give that up.
The minute I picked up the first drink I no longer had control of how much I would have or what I was going to do. I sat downstairs with my bottle of whiskey like a mad scientist, trying to figure out the right mix so that I could drink normally.
I did what alcohol told me. What choice did I have?
I came around AA for about a year before I got sober. From my first meeting I knew I belonged. I just thought I was too young. People would tell me when I came back in, "You never have to feel this way again." In December 1987, through the grace of God and AA, I finally believed that in my heart. This program gave me hope even when I didn't want it. AA people made me feel okay. God filled the God hole. Everything I looked for in a bottle I found in AA.
My life is beautiful today. I stay close to AA. I try to help another alcoholic. I am active in my home group. I got my driver's license, I turned twenty-one, got married, had a son, and I did it all sober. To all the young people out there who are unsure, I want to say, "Keep coming back, no matter what." Enjoy the gift of sobriety and try to pass it on.
I would like to close with a line from a prayer I read: "I asked God for all things that I may enjoy life. I was given life that I might enjoy all things."
—John L., Howell, NJ