In Our Own Words: Stories of Young AAs in Recovery
Originally published in the September 1999 Grapevine Magazine
From Section 1, What We Used To Be Like
My Sneakers Never Looked As Good As Yours
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
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