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September 1994

Step One: Gateway to Freedom

Lying face down on my dirty living room carpet, hands manacled behind my back, I listened as the sheriff's deputies ransacked my home looking for contraband. I heard one deputy remark, "Boy, this dude sure likes to drink. Must be forty empty liquor bottles on the kitchen floor."

Terrorized, my mind raced, trying to remember if there was anything illegal in the apartment. Unfortunately, a week-long drunk prevented any lucid thought at all.

How had I gotten myself into this situation? I had no idea. My world had become a one-bedroom apartment which I protected with half a dozen loaded guns. The hideous Four Horsemen--Terror, Bewilderment, Frustration, and Despair--had moved in as nonpaying roommates and refused to leave. I lay in a pool of incomprehensible demoralization, not knowing what to do.

One day a week later, bright and early, the doorbell rang. I looked out through the peephole and saw it was John, a former crime partner I hadn't seen in over six years. He looked very different, was quite fit, and his eyes sparkled. Afraid of what he might want, I conversed with him through the door. He told me that the reason for his visit was to make amends to me.

After further discussion, I finally opened the door. John was stunned at my deterioration. He spent the rest of the day carrying the message to me, telling me the story of his miraculous recovery in the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. I finally agreed to go to an AA meeting with him that evening, though I couldn't see how it could possibly help me.

At the meeting, I heard the First Step for the very first time: "We admitted we were powerless over alcohol--that our lives had become unmanageable."

The word powerless hit me like a bomb blast. It described my situation with alcohol perfectly and completely. My life was more than unmanageable, it was illegal.

The best part was the word "we." I was no longer alone. Others before me had made the admission of powerlessness and had been set free from years of alcoholic misery. If John could work the AA program and stay sober for six years, then I would have to try my best to do it, too.

Later on I got an older member to help me work the program and formally took the First Step. My sponsor told me that my unmanageable life was a result of self-will run rampant. He went on to say that the only things I had any power over were my behavior and my attitude.

Believing that I was powerless ultimately reduced the size of my world--down to me in the moment. My sponsor explained that alcohol was but a symptom of deeper problems. He also went on to explain that I was selfish, childish, grandiose, emotionally sensitive, and had a number of character defects that stood in the way of serenity and peace of mind. But he said I had a choice: to live life reacting to everything with childish emotions, or to try working the remaining eleven Steps and learn how to live a life guided by spiritual principles.

Today I am learning how to develop a better sense of honesty and to accept my alcoholism with all its ramifications. The obsession to drink was lifted almost immediately and the grace of God continues to shine down on me as I learn how to live life on life's terms. The First Step was the gateway into a new sober life that I could never have imagined.

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