It wasn't the way I drank or did drugs that convinced me I had a problem. After all, I drank like the people I was raised by and raised with, and I did drugs like the people I was around. Instead, four words in the book Alcoholics Anonymous I read on Oct. 2, 1988, convinced me. "Terror, bewilderment, frustration, despair. …" Real alcoholics who read this page would understand. The book said.
In that moment, I understood. Those words described how I'd been living since long before my first drink. Fear was the first emotion I remembered feeling in my life. No real reason for it. I was 4 when that first memory was filed in my brain. I wouldn't have even been able to name what I was feeling then. But it was fear.
Later came frustration that life was going my way. Like a kid on Christmas morning demanding more than my share, I was always unhappy, frustrated.
Bewilderment was what I felt when I thought about how smart I was in most things. I could learn anything from astronomy to biology and chemistry and physics. I could grasp history and politics. And yet this smart boy could only think of one thing to fix my life - end it. Eventually, despair was a dark place I called home.
Once I identified with the mental aspects of alcoholism, I looked at the way I drank and realized I'd never been normal there either. I blacked out the first time. The beauty was that now my condition had a name - alcoholism, and it had a solution, trust in God. Once I knew what ailed me, I had a way out. Hope came to my life for the first time that day.
The mental disease of alcoholism was what I identified with first and I'm glad. I'm one of the fortunate ones who could never blame alcohol or drugs for my problems. My mental illness of alcoholism long pre-dated my first drink and drug. I was never afforded the luxury of believing they were my problems and if only I were clean and sober my problems would go away. The act of getting dry and clean only starts the process of looking at the spiritual sickness that I must address every day of my life. The 12 steps must move from something I do to something I am. They are far more than a recovery program. They must become my way of life. They are the framework with which I approach every moment. With them I find a higher power that will restore me to sanity, that will make it possible for me to meet life on life's terms no matter what those terms might be. No fear any more. I have a life beyond my wildest dreams. The wonder is that anyone who wants it badly enough, who are willing to admit there life is unmanageable in their own hands whether they are drinking or not, can have it too if they are willing to do the work. Seize the day.