Through the eyes of alcoholics reality is not seen
Casting down a glass
They choose instead to drink from the bottle
Brightness is sought in the dead of night
Darkness arrives in the morn
When liquid hell permeates the brain
The alcoholic’s intellect mirrors insight
Truth speaks otherwise
Unceasing rain batters the windshield making it near impossible to see. The road is dirt, dropping off into ditches on both sides. These trenches are waterways deep enough to swallow any vehicle leaving the road. Darkness is having a dinner party, and the guest list includes disaster; I pray it does not show.
I am awash in fear, voices yell in my head in cadence with water flinging wipers. I am a drunk in need of a drink. The need is three weeks old. Thoughts lurch through brain cells like angry fire flies, they blink, they scold. You desensitized all your relationships, such a fool you are! If you had pictures on the mantle they would only be of you. Your daily life makes nightmares seem like a very peaceful place. Loser is what you are!
His name is Jordan, the man I am driving to see. Jordan has somehow remained sober for thirty-six years and I want what he has. I was given his name at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. AA members tell me sobriety heals the mind. Continuing to drink will insure death, sheer spurning guaranties lunacy. Wild bees begin to swarm inside my psyche, and voices yell in the darkness. Jordan’s log cabin appears between wiper swipes. Pulling in to the drive, I sense something in the back seat and quickly leave the car slamming the door. Walking onto the porch, the door opens without knocking.
“You do know there are two kinds of dry Bobby, and you’re mighty wet; welcome to the cabin, I’m Jordan. Let me take your jacket. Go sit by the fire, I’ll pour us coffee. Nasty night to be driving, did you have any trouble getting here?”
“Never bothered me a bit Jordan, they call me Mr. Tough.”
“A rough dude I see, coffee black?”
“Yeah black is fine.” My shaking hands spill coffee. I set the cup on the barn wood table.
“When was your last drink Bobby?”
“Three weeks ago.”
“You do not need coffee, Mr. Shaky, you need sugar. I keep a jug of orange juice with Karo syrup in the fridge; I’ll pour you a glass.”
“Fine, and don’t call me Mr. Shaky.”
“If you want me to be your sponsor I’ll call you what I damn well please. If you really want to get sober, the first word to learn is acceptance, a day at a time. Now chug down the juice, I’ll pour you another.”
The warmth of the cabin and several glasses of Jordan’s super juice calm me. “Jordan I did not mean to be nasty but it’s the way I am.”
“I was the same way Bobby, took me seven to ten years to unravel the spaghetti in my head.”
“That long! Are you telling me ten years? I’ll be dead in ten years.”
“I’m telling you how long it took me to be completely sober. That does not mean your quality of life lags behind. When I first started attending AA meetings I was completely insane.”
“Are you calling me crazy? Don’t you think insane is a bit much?”
“No Mr. shaky, insane is what we are. Consider this; you are in a room with two doors. Behind door one is a three hundred pound guy with a ball bat. Behind door two is a blonde in a Corvette. A drunk will choose door one, get beaten by that bat, over and over and over. That is what we do, every time we take another drink, and yes, it is insanity. How many years have you been drinking?”
“Eleven years old is when I had my first drunk, and now I’m thirty-six, do the math; I can‘t think.”
“Twenty-five years, twenty-five years of door number one, qualifies as being insane. Bobby, what drove you to AA?”
“I discovered I drank when I did not want to drink. My life is like living in a trash can! I’ve lost my job, wife, kids…but I, I still wanted… no needed to drink.”
“You are powerless over alcohol Bobby; powerless! Your life is unmanageable. If you do not stop drinking, you will die; understand? There is only one way. Make a decision to turn your will and life over to the care of God. If the word God pushes you away from AA, the bottle will push you back. Are you are an alcoholic Bobby?”
“Yes I am I am.”
I begin sobbing, and time seems to stand still. I can feel hate, and resentments clawing their way out. All of the despicable things I have done were flashing through my mind. Seeing the real me without a fake facade is crushing my ego. Pain shaking hands with joy is the most awkward feeling wounding yet healing.
“Go ahead and cry Bobby, just let it out. Everything inside this home stays here.”
For the next hour and a half I pour out my sordid past. Every horrid happening, never divulged to a living soul, lay bare. I had lied about much of the past. The real truth plus lies, having been spun in minds blender, leaving me unable to distinguish between reality and make believe.
“That is all Jordan, the garbage truck is empty; I am ashamed.”
“Don’t be. I’ve heard worse. Now bury it right here, covering it with a shovel; then break the shovel handle so it will never be dug up.” Jordan, pausing for a moment, continues. “Have you ever wondered why rear view mirrors are smaller than windshields?”
“Never thought about it.”
“They allow only a glimpse of what is behind you. Windshields offer a panoramic view of what is in front of you. The point is this; do not dwell in the past live in the present.”
“Is this the meaning of a day at a time?”
“Yes, yesterday is history tomorrow a mystery, just live today. It is going to take sometime but if you stick with me you will have a life that will be beyond belief.”
“How did you stay sober for so long?”
“I keep repeating a quote from the poet Dorothy Parker, which I have turned around; I’d rather have a frontal lobotomy then a bottle in front of me.”
Jordan, reaching into a drawer, retrieves a copy of The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. “This is yours Bobby, take it home and read Chapter five. If you feel like taking a drink call me first, I will answer twenty-four seven. Today is Tuesday, I’ll see you at my home group Wednesday at eight PM. Walk slow, and drink lots of orange juice with Karo syrup.”
“Thanks Jordan, will you be my sponsor?”
“Yes, Mr. Shaky, I will.”
As I drive away, I soon realize an unusual feeling is present. One not felt in such a long time I cannot describe it. What is this, this sensation? I begin to cry again, as I identify the lost feeling; it is peace. Smiling with wet eyes I turn on the radio for the first time in years. The song is Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark, and I think; I can make it; I can make it a day at a time.
Winds of change in sobriety become puffs
Pouring down from mountains of hope
Storm clouds form not and
Pain no longer travels on currents of regret
Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for AA membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. AA is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy, neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.
My name is Dave Burbee and I am “An Alcoholic“. Naming me signifies my conviction that there is no such thing as an ex-alcoholic. No man (or women), once alcohol has secured a grip on him, will never, as long as he lives, be safe in saying that he was ONCE an alcoholic. For the rest of his life, the threat of alcoholism will stand at his elbow.
I had my first drunk at age six. Both parents and practically every relative were Alcoholic. At age thirty-six, I surrendered and sought help in AA. Everyone and I repeat everyone who knew me was convinced I would die. However, I celebrated thirty-five years of continuous sobriety in May of this year through the program of AA. AA is a GOD program. Spirituality is the corner stone of AA where God is your most powerful ally. Alcohol is cunning, baffling and powerful. Without help, it is too much to handle, but there is one who has all power—that one is God. Half measures will avail you nothing. Ask for His protection and care with complete abandon. Here are the steps one takes as a program of recovery:
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
The motto from here on out is absolute abstinence. That means exactly what it says, and there are sound reasons for it. An alcoholic cannot handle one drink, one drink will mean fifty. You cannot have A beer, A glass of wine, or anything with alcohol in it. Step one defines whether your alcoholic or not; the only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.
There is no safer refuge than church. If you think you have a drinking problem talk to a Pastor, ask for help, for you cannot win by yourself. Attend an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting; you need feel no shame there. You will meet men and women with the same problems you have. When at a meeting you could very well have a district attorney on your left and a dentist on the right
Let us consider, for a moment, teenage drinking. Oh how I love those wonderful commercials on television, magazines and movies. It is chic to drink is the message. Beer flying everywhere, wine, whiskey; Talk about having a good time? Then, at the end of the ad, comes the disclaimer “Drink Responsible”. This means to be accountable for your actions. HOWEVER as I drink, the alcohol dulls my brain rendering me UNACCOUNTABLE for my actions which is the marketing oxymoron.
Confessions of a Teen Alcoholic
The beginning was innocent in appearance – merely a bottle of my father’s beer, in order to calm myself before the big exam.
My first drink, an experiment recommended by a friend in the senior class, was meant only as a last resort – I needed to pass this test, you realize. Ah, but how that amber liquid metamorphosed to pure silk in my mouth, sloshing down my throat at first, quickly changing to a tender caress. The first sip, followed by a second, and a third, and so on in rapid sequence. I proceeded to another bottle, just as possessed of tranquility as the first. When my temples throbbed with the excruciating intensity of a thousand bass drums the subsequent morning, the lucidity gained from the previous night’s feast with Bacchus had somehow slipped from my grasp. I failed the exam, so piercing was my headache.
Upon arriving home, I made my way directly to the liquor cabinet, in the hopes of discovering a tangible comfort to assuage the misery brought on by my scholarly defeat. A mostly filled bottle of bourbon sat in the foremost corner of the cabinet. I swallowed it all down that afternoon, and was left with an empty decanter – which I stowed away in the cellar, lest my parents know of this new found pastime – and a somewhat intriguing sense of inebriation. Days, weeks, months passed, and I found myself indulging in alcohol much more often, for a myriad of reasons. One day, I had a terrible quarrel with my girlfriend – a bit of Jack Daniels put that unpleasant situation out of my mind. Once, I had a rough time with my coach at soccer practice. Not a problem, simply gulp down a few glasses of mother’s Bordeaux.
The more time I spent with my dear friend John Barleycorn, the more difficult it was to be away from him. The cravings grew to the point where I needed a drink to get myself awake in the morning, while another was necessary to last through my afternoon classes. Alcohol was the focus of any social activity, it was my entire life, and yet I would not admit it. I hid my addiction every moment of every day, storing empty cans and bottles in the attic when there was not a single inconspicuous space left in the basement. I covered the redness of my eyes with mirrored sunglasses, in spite of the fact that most of my day was spent indoors, far from the reaches of the Phoebus’s searing glare.
When I slapped my girlfriend in a drunken rage, I lavished her with purple hyacinths in an attempt to illustrate my sorrow. She refused my gifts, begging only that I stop drinking. No, that was not possible. Alcohol was all that was important. I believed this with my entire being until, foolishly, I went for a drive while I was still intoxicated. My car swerved through the streets until it came to a skidding halt at the feet of a girl no older than thirteen. She was profoundly frightened, shaking uncontrollably, but unhurt.
After the police took their report, and my parents bailed me out of jail for drunk driving, I sat in my bedroom, tentatively dialing the phone number of Alcoholics Anonymous. I spoke with a counselor there for at least an hour; upon hanging up, I reached for my book of Shakespeare, which I had neglected since the drinking began. Opening up to the middle page, I read these words: “O God, that men should put an enemy in their mouths to steal away their brains! That we should with joy, pleasure, revel, and applause transform ourselves into beasts!”
TWELVE QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF
#1… Do you drink to relax?
#2…Do you drink when you get irritated?
#3… Do you prefer to drink alone?
#4… Are your grades slipping?
#5… Do you ever try to stop or drink less?
#6… Do you drink in the morning?
#7… Do you guzzle your drinks?
#8…Have you ever forgotten what happened?
#9…Do you ever lie about your drinking?
#10… Do you get in trouble when you drink?
#11… Do you get drunk when you don’t want to?
#12… Do you think it’s cool to be able to drink a lot?
If you answer yes to any one of these questions you have a problem.
Many proclaim it is not the first drink that sends you off on a death wish, but consider this: If you step in front of a train the engine, not the caboose, takes your life.
Praise the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, praise his holy Name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits; who forgiveth all thy sins, and health all thine Infirmities; who saveth thy life from destruction, and
crowneth thee with mercy and loving-kindness…. (Psalm 103)
Alcoholism is not a death sentence. Years of pain need not remain. The past is unchangeable, If you can not change the past then, a day at a time, build a new you. Being alone is a good thing, it allows you time to get in touch with your thoughts. Find a small flower and imbue its beauty into your thoughts. Do this completely alone. Each day replace unsupported thoughts with those of peace and serenity. Do not justify anger it is your disease lying to you. ACCEPTANCE is the answer; twenty-four hours at a time.
New people in AA lack calluses on their emotions. “Good morning” translates into “what the hell do you mean by that”? Telling the truth, in private, to freshly sober people is sponsorship. It is not a pretty site. Due to anonymity, I will use the name of Carl as my sponsor’s name. Carl is a redneck, tobacco chewing dung remover (he cleans septic tanks for a living) a large man who never lost bar fights.
“Dave, you don’t need to talk constantly; ya got to shut up and learn how to listen”; the words hit me hard. He is driving me home after a meeting. “Carl, it’s the way I am”. “And that is crap Mr.”, he replied. He continued, “Your mouth runs like a physic woodpecker with little to no sense”. “Listen, I’m a smart man Carl”. “Oh your a smart man; really Dave”? “Yelling out of the window, “Hey everybody I’ve got the smartest man in the world riding with me”! “That was embarrassing”, I murmured. Turning toward me, speaking in a deep growling tone, “If you want to get sober boy then do as I say”. “OK, I’ll try” I answered.
Pulling into my driveway he shut off the truck and tossed a book at my feet; “Try to pick that up Dave”. Reaching for the book, he grabbed my wrist, “I did not say pick it up I said try to pick it up”. “In this program you DO not try. The choice is simple, get sober or die, and you are going to get sober in spite of yourself. Now, you talk to damn much so take the cotton out of your ears and stuff it in your mouth; have a nice evening, I’ll pick you up tomorrow at six-thirty”.
I did not stop hating that man for nine months. Picking up my nine-month chip at my home group, returning to my chair, another member said, “Congratulations David, you’re getting better; I can now get a word in edgewise”.
The paving on the road to sobriety is broken glass, but walking it beats the alternative. Do not stare at the spot you fell. Triggers from the past influence the way you react to the present. Talk with your thoughts. When you find a bad one, realize it is living rent free in your head. Removing it allows the supportive ones to come forward.
Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty, their chances are less than average. There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest.
Our stories disclose in a general way what we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like now. If you have decided you want what we have and willing go to any length to get it….Then you are ready to take certain steps. At some of these we balked. We thought we could fine an easier, softer way. But we could not. With all the earnestness at our command, we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start. Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely.
Remember that we deal with alcohol….Cunning, baffling, powerful! Without help it is too much for us. But there is One who has all power…that One is God. May you find him now!
Half measures availed us nothing. We stood at the turning point. We asked his protection and care with complete abandon.
Here are the steps we took, which are suggested as a program of recovery:
1) We admitted we were powerless over alcohol…that our lives had become unmanageable.
3) Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.
4) Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5) Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6) Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7) Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8) Made a list of all the people we ad harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9) Made Direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10) Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly
11) Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him; Praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12)Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all of our affairs. .