Hope for the Hopeless Drinker: Why I Go To AA Meetings

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The letter that follows was apparently written in the earlier days of Alcoholics Anonymous. It is reproduced exactly as I found it–with one exception. I removed three words that do not change the message one iota but were offensive to me. The author is unknown.Hope for the Hopless Drinker

It brought tears to my eyes because I’ve also known the struggle of alcoholism. However, my tears are not of hopelessness but of gratitude. Finally a solution.

WHY I GO TO MEETINGS

We died of pneumonia in furnished rooms where they found us three days later when somebody complained about the smell.

We died against bridge abutments and nobody knew if it was suicide and we probably didn’t know either except in the sense that it was always suicide.

We died in hospitals, our stomachs huge, distended and there was nothing they could do.

We died in cells, never knowing whether we were guilty or not. We went to priests, they gave us pledges, they told us to pray, they told us to go and sin no more, but go. We tried and we died.

We died of overdoses, we died in bed (but usually not the Big Bed).We died in straitjackets, in the DT’s seeing God knows what, creeping, skittering, slithering, shuffling things. And you know what the worst thing was? The worst thing was that nobody ever believed how hard we tried.

We went to doctors and they gave us stuff to take that would make us sick when we drank on the principle of “so crazy, it just might work,” I guess, or maybe they just shook their heads and sent us to places like Dropkick Murphy’s.

And when we got out we were hooked on paraldehyde or maybe we lied to the doctors and they told us not to drink so much, just drink like me. And we tried, and we died.

We drowned in our own vomit or choked on it, our broken jaws wired shut.

We died playing Russian roulette and people thought we’d lost, but we knew better. We died under the hoofs of horses, under the wheels of vehicles, under the knives and boot heels of our brother drunks. We died in shame.

And you know what was even worse was that we couldn’t believe it ourselves, that we had tried. We figured we just thought we tried and we died believing that we hadn’t tried, believing that we didn’t know what it meant to try.

When we were desperate enough or hopeful or deluded or embattled enough to go for help, we went to people with letters after their names and prayed that they might have read the right books, that had the right words in them, never suspecting the terrifying truth, that the right words, as simple as they were, had not been written yet.

We died falling off girders on high buildings, because of course ironworkers drink, of course they do. We died with a shotgun in our mouth, or jumping off a bridge, and everybody knew it was suicide.

We died under the Southeast Expressway, with our hands tied behind us and a bullet in the back of our head, because this time the people that we disappointed were the wrong people.

We died in convulsions, or of “insult to the brain,” we died incontinent, and in disgrace, abandoned.

If we were women, we died degraded, because women have so much more to live up to. We tried and we died and nobody cried.

And the very worst thing was that for every one of us that died, there were another hundred of us, or another thousand, who wished that we could die, who went to sleep praying we would not have to wake up because what we were enduring was intolerable and we knew in our hearts it wasn’t ever gonna change.

One day in a hospital room in New York City, one of us had what the books call a transforming spiritual experience, and he said to himself “I’ve got it” (no, you haven’t, you’ve only got part of it) “and I have to share it.” (now you’ve ALMOST got it) and he kept trying to give it away, but we couldn’t hear it. We tried and we died.

We died of one last cigarette, the comfort of its glowing in the dark. We passed out and the bed caught fire. They said we suffocated before our body burned, they said we never felt a thing, that was the best way maybe that we died, except sometimes we took our family with us.

And the man in New York was so sure he had it, he tried to love us into sobriety, but that didn’t work either, love confuses drunks and he tried and we still died.

One after another we got his hopes up and we broke his heart, because that’s what we do. And the worst thing was that every time we thought we knew what the worst thing was something happened that was worse. Until a day came in a hotel lobby and it wasn’t in Rome, or Jerusalem, or Mecca or even Dublin, or South Boston, it was in Akron, Ohio…

A day came when the man said I have to find a drunk because I need him as much as he needs me (NOW you’ve got it). And the transmission line, after all those years, was open, the transmission line was open. And now we don’t go to priests, and we don’t go to doctors and people with letters after their names.

We come to people who have been there, we come to each other. And we try. And we don’t have to die.

Welcome to AA.

(author unknown)

The AA Sponsor: Mentor or Tormentor?

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As someone in AA and Al-Anon, the word “sponsor” always conjures up many memories. I can still see the face of my first sponsor, Marilyn. Round face and big eyeglasses. Brown, wavy hair cut in a short, practical do. A little on the “mature” side. She had 10 years of sobriety and liked to have fun but understood the seriousness of her task as a sponsor.

Back when I was 2-3 months sober, I told her that I was thinking about finding a new group. When she asked why I would want to do that, More

An Anonymous Funeral

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Walking in, I glance around and then get in the line to sign the guest book. I spot several friends of mine up ahead. They  wave at me; I wave back. We whisper that we’re glad to see the other and our arms automatically open up to share a hug. Some are red-eyed; others just sniffling. We all agree that it was so sudden, we still are having a hard time wrapping our collective brains around the idea that he’s gone.

As we shuffle through the line, I glance to my right and see more familiar faces. Little groups of two’s and three’s are quietly talking; some are looking at the display of photographs that the family put out. After signing the book, I find a place to leave my raincoat on the back of a chair. The gray and cloudy day outside seems to match my insides today.

Walking over to the photo display, I’m hit with the same reality that hit me when I first heard the news of his passing. There he is, smiling back at me. I see pictures of a boy, a young man, a husband, a father, a grandfather. As the photos progress, the hair color changes and the hairline recedes; the face grows round and wrinkles begin to form. Funny how our bodies can go through a lot of changes, but our eyes always stay the same. More

The Problem of the Alcoholic…Family.

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We’re told that for every alcoholic, there are five people who are directly affected by the disease. Logic would then follow that Al-Anon meetings would be five times larger than AA meetings, right? Sadly, if you’ve spent any time around AA or Al-Anon, you’ll agree that this is not the case. Which says a lot about the state of recovery from the FAMILY disease of alcoholism.

My interpretation is that “family recovery” is way behind in the attention and help that alcoholics and drug addicts receive. If we take a quick glance at the family situation, it’s easy to think that if the alcoholic/addict can get sober/clean, then The Problem in the family will go away. The family’s hopes are pinned to this idea. And, quite frankly, so are the hopes of the alcoholic/addict. Just ask any recovering alcoholic who has been to treatment more than once. If they work an honest program, they will tell you that (with some exceptions) going to treatment was a quick and effective way to get the family (employer, judge, etc) off their back.

So just how DOES a family hear that they, too, need recovery? More

IS ALCOHOL REALLY THE GREAT EQUALIZER?

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Alcohol is the Great EqualizerAs a practicing drunk, I had put my friends into two different categories: the People I Drink With and the People I Didn’t Drink With. To avoid conflict, I kept them away from each other as much as possible. I felt only anxiety around the People Who Didn’t Drink; I laughed–a lot–with the People Who Drink.

The non-drinkers didn’t know me at all.

  • They didn’t know that I would lie to my husband about where I’d been or who I was with.
  • They didn’t know that every morning before getting out of bed, I’d be thinking back on the night before, trying to remember if I did anything embarrassing (again) and who I needed to avoid for a while.
  • They didn’t know that when I made them a promise and then broke it, it was because More

Reflections on 26 Years of Alcoholic Sobriety

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Reflecting Pool

About Sobriety

  • I have as much sobriety today as someone who quit drinking yesterday.
  • The number of years of sobriety will not help anyone stay sober.
  • God took away my compulsion to drink from the beginning but most people struggle with the obsession.
  • The “passing parade” is very long.
  • Sometimes people die before they get recovery.
  • Not Drinking is way different from Being Sober.
  • Going to treatment more than one time is a waste of money and hope.
  • It is “God as we understood Him”– it is not “god of our understanding”; there is a huge difference.
  • At 8-10 years of continuous sobriety, the ego kicks into high gear and the ears shut down.
  • Recovery only happens one day at a time.
  • The same determination to drink (thinking, planning and carrying out no matter the cost) is exactly what is needed for the recovery process. Alcoholics already have what is necessary to succeed.
  • God had everything in place for me to stop and stay stopped–I had to want it.
  • The more difficult it is, the closer the miracle.
  • There are a lot of talented, gifted, intelligent, lovely, funny, caring alcoholics.
  • There are no shortcuts to recovery.

About The Family

  • Alcoholism is a Family Disease: it’s not just about the alcoholic.
  • A person can feel so much pain it is hard to breathe.
  • Alcoholism Kills: the Love of the Family, the Hope of the Future, the Joy of Life.
  • Consequences: the alcoholic family’s greatest tool.
  • We do not need to be ashamed about who we love.
  • People quit drinking when THEY are ready and not one split second before that.
  • Detachment with love is vital to physical health, not just mental health.
  • Much of what we call Help is really an attempt to quell our own emotions.
  • A person CAN be mentally and emotionally addicted to another person.
  • Al-Anons also hit bottom and have slips.
  • Recovering alcoholics begin to drift into Al-Anon at about 18 years of sobriety.
  • There is much joy in the Al-Anon rooms.
  • There are no shortcuts to recovery.

Who’s under your thumb?

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Control isn't pretty.Once upon a time there was an Enormous Thumb belonging to a woman with an Alcoholic Husband and Three Teenaged Children.

The four of them lived under her thumb, so of course they couldn’t do much growing up. Often their spirits writhed under the weight; every time they tried to get out from under, they’d do something wrong and the thumb would clamp down on them again.

Father managed by keeping himself flattened out drunk most of the time; he was so cute about escaping to a bottle that, no matter how much mama watched, she couldn’t catch him at it until he’d drunk himself into unconsciousness. Everyone thought she was a Very Nice Lady, and they were sorry she was having such a hard time with her family.

There was really no reason for her to come to Al-Anon to solve her problems because she always knew just what to do about everything. But she did want to make her husband stop drinking, so she thought she’d try it. She was quite unhappy at first because some of the members were not inclined to Pull any Punches. She was quite indignant when they tried to show her what she was doing to her family, but to everyone’s amazement, the Thumb began to shrink and lose weight, and things looked brighter.

More and more she realized what she was doing and, being a Determined Character, she applied the program every day and her other problems took care of themselves very nicely.

–One Day At A Time, pg 286

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