The good folks at AA Agnostica published an AA story that deserves sharing. This particular AA story is by Alex M. And like most AA stories, its many parallels can be heard in 12 Step rooms across the country. But it's not just the bad parallels that bear repeating; it's the miraculous parallels as well.
A Typical AA Story
Like many addicts and alcoholics, Alex M. is from an alcoholic family. It "was the perfect incubator for an isolated, selfish, self-centered life," writes Alex. "My father shared his alcoholism with his mother, and with many family members before her."
While Alex's father "was a callous, abusive drunk, whom [he] rarely saw sober," his mother was what's called a 'sober drunk.' That is, she had all the hallmarks of the alcoholic, without the liquor.
"My mother was a narcissistic, aggressive, controlling woman," writes Alex. "Her love was conditional on how I behaved rather than who I was, and was withdrawn if I failed to measure up to her standards. She had a mean streak, with a hand so fast that she could slap you before you knew it was coming. You did what you were told, kept quiet and never argued. A secluded silence was the safest defense."
A Family Affair
Alex didn't just have to carefully navigate the stormy parental waters; he also had to be careful with his entire family.
"The rest of my family was secretive, insular and somber. None were genuinely affectionate. We were a family bound by blood but not by love: no touching, no emotion, no tears. I quickly learned to 'don’t talk, don’t trust, don’t feel' at an early age."
This, naturally, left Alex feeling isolated and alone, another familiar refrain in the rooms. It's what AA's mean when they say "I was an alcoholic long before I ever took a drink."
"Unable to fit in with my family, much less my peers, I didn’t understand why I couldn’t be a part of rather than apart from. I felt unappreciated and unloved, and concluded there must be something wrong with me. So I began to behave in ways I thought others wanted me to behave. I’d put on the pretend mask and become whatever you wanted me to be. Many times it worked, and I would feel love and approval. When it didn’t work, I became agitated and angry."
Agitation and anger, of course, need soothing.
"Entering my teens I mercifully discovered alcohol," he writes. "What a magical elixir! My anxiety, anger and fear melted away. I was on top of the world, riding that magic carpet of peace and contentment. Everyone loved me, and I was finally accepted into the herd."
Alex had found "liquid courage," which seems to be the prerequisite of every AA story ever written or told. Nearly every addict and alcoholic has found courage behind their substance of no choice. And nearly every addict and alcoholic soon finds that courage wears off quickly. And when it does wear off, we become more fearful than ever. Alex wasn't any different.
"Despite my relief from drinking," he writes, "over time I began to feel more detached and alone than ever. So I just drank more to forget my woes."
A Wife, A Job & the Bottle
Alex was luckier than a lot of early-age addicts and alcoholics, however. He managed to finish school, get married and launch a career. And though Alex didn't manage to stop drinking, he did manage to excuse the drinking that he did.
"I never drank on the job," writes Alex. "But I drank a lot off the job. So much, in fact, that after ten years my wife filed for divorce." Her last words to him were 'You’re never here for me. All you do is work and drink and I’m sick of it.'
Alex didn't blame his drinking. Not entirely. He blamed geography. So he moved back home. There Alex immediately rebounded with another woman. And since this was "the finest woman [he] had ever met," Alex decided to not risk losing her over alcohol. Like most alcoholics though, Alex thought he could have his liquor and drink it too.
"I decided that I had to stop drinking 'so much.' And I did. I stopped getting drunk, but I wasn’t sober."
Life Really Happens
Then life really happened. Alex's "soulmate" died of cancer and his world collapsed. Alex also found a convenient way to justify a return to excessive drinking.
"I no longer cared about anyone or anything. I hated every living being and had a rage I never knew possible. My wife was taken from me. Just as I was starting to get my life back in order. Someone had to pay. [So] I sought revenge by committing to drink as much as I wanted. Maybe more alcohol would heal my broken heart."
Yep, as you might suspect, wife number three was Alex's drinking buddy. But his illness progressed, while hers didn't. And the sicker he got, the more he drank.
"The committee in my head began meeting constantly," he writes, "reminding me of yesterday’s misdeeds and fueling tomorrow’s fears. Alcohol drowned out that guilt and shame. But not for long."
Little did Alex know the worst was still to come.
Blackouts & Shotguns
"One day I heard that fateful snap, writes Alex. "I woke up from another blackout and realized I had been unconscious for the past three days. I remembered nothing. And I knew then that I had reached that jumping off place of deep loneliness and despair. Hopeless and helpless, life was not worth living. With no way out, I was doomed. I was an alcoholic."
This, of course, is another all-too familiar refrain among addicts and alcoholics. And it's the realization we all must face when taking Step One. We admit we were powerless over alcohol, and that our lives had become unmanageable. Unfortunately, Alex never made it to Step Two.
Instead Alex divorced his wife, stopped working and shut himself in. He cut himself off from family. He cut himself off from friends. And he only left the house to buy more booze. Alex then ricocheted between self-pity and suicide. It wasn't pretty.
"For days on end I repeatedly stuck a shotgun in my mouth, pleading with myself to pull the trigger," he writes. "When that didn’t work, I gave up and resigned myself to living life as a hopeless, useless drunk."
Alex's self-destruction lasted for months. And of course it took its toll. It also put him in a bit of a quandry. Alex couldn’t stop drinking and he couldn’t kill himself. Stymied, Alex weighed his options. Turns out he had one. Alcoholics Anonymous.
The AA Way
"I slid into my first AA meeting drunk," writes Alex. "But I remembered to ask them how to stop drinking. They explained the one-day-at-a-time approach that had worked for them. So I tried it. I stayed home alone for a week, not drinking."
"After that first week I started going to as many AA meetings as I could each day," he continues. "[I] listened to people tell me how much better their life was sober." Alex also got a sponsor and worked the 12 Steps. And then the proverbial miracle occurred.
"My obsession to drink vanished as a result of doing the step work," writes Alex. "I experienced a permanent change in my attitudes and actions. I'm no longer bound by guilt and shame over the past. I'm now mindful of living in just this day, and of trying to do the next right thing right using the principles of the 12 Steps. I no longer fear what tomorrow might bring. Self-esteem has returned. I'm much less selfish and self-centered. I feel like a human being. I fit in with my new herd. A herd called humanity. I'm free at last."
Alex now spends part of each day touching another alcoholic in some way. He calls it a privilege. It's also a necessity. Why? Because helping someone stay sober helps Alex stay sober himself. "It’s a simple recipe for a simple life," closes Alex. "And I couldn’t be happier."
Happy for the Happy AA Story
We at Recovery Boot Camp couldn't be happier either. For Alex, as well as for every addict and alcoholic who's been lucky enough to live his AA story. Such AA stories may seem common to some. And in very many ways they are. But we'd like them to be even more common. So common, in fact, that every addict and alcoholic out there has just such an AA story to tell.