Three days before I walked into my first AA meeting I was getting ready for bed when I realized I hadn’t thought about a drink the whole day. I found this very strange because I’d been staggering off to bed every night for the past ten or twenty years. And for the past eight months I had been unemployed and getting drunk twice a day. And yet, there I was, 24 hours sober without the slightest desire to have a drink. What had happened to me?

The only thing I can figure is that I asked God for help without consciously knowing it. That day I had spent my last $3,700 of credit on my Visa card to enroll in a treatment program recommended by a therapist. I didn’t visit the therapist because I thought I had a problem with alcohol. The only problem I thought I had was a rapidly shrinking checking account and no job. I went to see her because I wanted her to verify that I was having a mid-life crisis like I read about in a book I had just bought. I wanted her to assure me that it was perfectly normal for men my age to feel lost, confused and without a sense of purpose.

Instead of co-opting my BS she told me some painful truths. She started off by saying “I don’t think I can help you Jeff. You are welcome to come here every week and pay me $80 an hour and we can talk about your life, but I don’t think it will do much good.” I was shocked, but it got worse. Her exact words are emblazoned in my memory. “From what I know about you Jeff, you don’t have an ounce of humility in your whole body, you have the emotional maturity of a thirteen year old, and your brain is so foggy from your daily drinking, you cannot hope to get any clarity on your life.” She said she couldn’t help me, but she had a friend running a treatment center up the street that could.

Then she looked deeply into my eyes like she was looking directly at my soul. “You’re in trouble, aren’t you Jeff?” Inside my head ego screamed not to admit anything to this woman. There was a pregnant pause until finally I whispered, “Maybe.” I didn’t know it at the time, but what I had done was admit I needed help for the first time in my life.

Now here I was, three days after the visit with the therapist, $3,700 lighter and ready to start treatment the next day. I floated on a pink cloud. It took me a few months in AA to discover what happened. That “maybe” and the subsequent commitment to treatment deflated ego enough for God to begin to work actively in my life. Before my first meeting, before getting a sponsor, before working the steps, before even saying, “My name is Jeff, and I’m an alcoholic.” The obsession to drink was lifted clean out of me.

Help is what I needed then. Help is what I need today. But waiting for pain to force me to ask for help seems like an such an inefficient way to go through life. I’ve found the softer, easier way is to continue to take the actions you suggested in my first week: meetings, steps, service. Over and over and over again.