I’ve been sober since January 15th, 1980. I got sober when I was 25 years old and have stayed sober in AA ever since my first meeting. Getting and staying sober wasn’t an easy road for me. In fact, it was very, very difficult to get my sober legs underneath me.
After I went to my first AA meeting though, I saw something in the faces of the others there. They had something special going for them. If not drinking would get me what they had, I knew I didn’t want to be drinking anymore. For sure! But an alcoholic? Weren’t alcoholics old men; who wore brown overcoats, got arrested for ‘drunk in public’ a lot, lived on the streets, and drank booze from brown paper bags? I was none of those. I was still a young girl. I had a job – sort of, a roof over my head, a car, no arrests, and no real ‘wreckage’ (as they say in AA) to speak of. How could I ever be considered an alcoholic?
I couldn’t identify with being alcoholic for a long time sober. Yes, in meetings I’d say; “My name is R, and I am an alcoholic.” But, in my heart, I really couldn’t identify with that word. It was just something you’re supposed to say when you go to AA.
At that time I was drinking a lot – A LOT! My drinking consisted of – getting up in the morning, eating an egg and a piece of toast, running 2 miles, managing to get to work somehow, barely getting through my workday, stopping by the grocery store on the way home and getting a bottle of whatever was on sale, getting home, closing the curtains and locking the door, and pouring water glasses full of booze down my gullet until the bottle was empty (since I poured my booze into a glass, I couldn’t be alcoholic, right?) Then I’d bounce off the walls to my bedroom where I laid down and dealt with the bed-spins until I fell asleep. And, oh yes, crying my guts out because of the sad, sorry life I was a prisoner of.
But to be an alcoholic? No Way!!
No, I really didn’t identify with that word, because I didn’t do all the things real drunks do. Then, during the course of the first year, I learned what having alcoholism really meant. It’s in the “Doctor’s Opinion” in the Big Book of AA. It’s a condition of ‘mental obsession coupled with physical allergy’.
(quote) “It did not satisfy us to be told that we cannot control our drinking just because we were maladjusted to life…. But we are sure that our bodies were sickened as well…. any picture of the alcoholic which leaves out this physical factor is incomplete.”
Even though I read that paragraph many times, I’d missed the point. But one day I finally saw it, and a whole new view of alcoholism opened up to me.
I am alcoholic. I have the magic combination that makes me one. Like all of us, I have life problems, but unlike most people, the way alcohol is processed in my body helps me already feel better so I drank instead of figuring out other ways to solve these problems. Alcohol doesn’t make most people feel this way. I found out that having this physical way of processing alcohol is what makes me, a 25-year-old girl with very little outward wreckage from drinking yet… alcoholic. This is also why I saw something special in the faces of the other sober alcoholics in that AA room that first night. They were learning how to finally solve their life problems in very unique and wonderful ways.
When I came to understand this about alcoholism. And when I looked at myself honestly, with this view in mind. I could finally say, and believe in my heart, that …
“My name is R. , and I am alcoholic.”