I don’t know about you, but I didn’t grow up in a family where we discussed our fears. I never went up to one of the kids in the neighborhood and said, “I’m feeling a little fearful today.” I learned to keep my fears a secret from everyone, even lovers and best friends. I tried to outrun my fears by doing more, making more, having more. The fear of failing created more fear, but instead of feeling my fear, I drank against it. The more fearful I felt, the more I drank. Toward the end I was getting drunk twice a day to keep the fear at bay.

Then the worst possible thing happened. The anti-fear medicine stopped working. Oh I still got drunk alright, but the booze no longer took the fear away. I felt the fist of fear in my gut even sitting in the bar with my lower companions during “happy” hour. For a few months I woke up in fear and turned out the light in fear until something inside of me let go. I experienced a moment of clarity and a few days later I stumbled into my first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. I was taken by the honesty of the people who shared. I identified. I felt safe. I didn’t know it at the time, but my journey from fear to faith officially began that day.

Fear still creeps in.Yet for twenty plus years I’ve watched other alcoholics walk through terminal illnesses, deaths of love ones, financial ruin and all manner of other catastrophic life events -- all without picking up a drink. By watching my AA brothers and sisters live life on life’s terms I gained the faith that I can too. This faith carried me through many dark, fearful days. Today, by taking the actions suggested, I have a faith that works under all conditions.

The most important anti-fear instruction in the Big Book to me is “ask him in your morning meditation what you can do for the man who is still sick.” I’m often relieved of fear just by picking up the phone, calling another alcoholic and talking about them. Today I have a small group of AA friends who I love and support. I make it a point to stay connected. My peace of mind depends on it.

Living in the Solution

Thanks to the grace of my higher power and the program and Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, I have traveled from a life filled with problems to a life filled with solutions. 

The Bedevilments on page 52 of our book describe what it was like for me before AA.  I was having trouble with personal relationships. I lived with the loneliness I believe only alcoholics truly understand. I was filled with resentment and simmering anger. I was taking Prozac. I was unemployed and running out of money but unable to muster up the energy to look for work. I woke up every morning with an ache of fear in my gut. I wasn’t any real help to other people because I didn’t really care about other people unless they had something I wanted. I had no energy or enthusiasm for anything other than drinking and using. I was dead inside.

Then Grace happened. I saw some truth about what I had become. Grace gave me the power to stand up to ego and reach out for help. Grace supplied the willingness to do everything suggested. Grace allowed me to experience the joy of recovery. It is grace that my relentless efforts for money, power, and prestige fell away. Today, being of service to others, both in and out of the rooms, is the primary motivation of my life. It’s all grace.

I am a completely different man than I was when I began my journey in Alcoholics Anonymous. Today I enjoy rich personal relationships. I am healthier than I’ve ever been. The fear is gone. I have enough of everything I need to live a useful, contented life. I am comfortable with who I am. I feel and express a full range of human emotion. Problems still crop up, but since solutions show up effortlessly, I no longer worry. Today I have the faith that no matter what happens I’m going to be okay as long as I continue to do my part.

I am so grateful to be alcoholic. There is no way I could’ve traveled from where I was to where I am today without having a disease that was going to kill me unless I treated it spiritually. I used to jokingly say if you had my life, you’d drink too. Today, I say if you had my life, you wouldn’t drink either.

It's All About Me

I needed every single experience in my life to get to where I am today. The good experiences, the bad experiences and the downright miserable experiences. I needed to drink every drink, take every drug, and tell every lie. I needed the two drunk driving arrest with nights in jail; the divorce; the bankruptcy; all arguments with loved ones; the stupid decisions; the job losses; flunking out of college; and all the rest. I couldn’t have done with one less of anything.

Today I’m grateful for all the pain I suffered from these experiences because I know I needed them to grow and change.

I try to share what it was like, what happened and what it’s like today.  I pass on the touchstones of my recovery. I share about the first time I admitted I needed help, about my moment of clarity, about what my pink cloud felt like. I share about the relief of having the obsession lifted clean out of me. I share about my first meeting -- about feeling like I had finally found my way home after a long journey. I share that I wasn’t sure I was an alcoholic until a man said that once he took that first drink he never wanted to stop. I thought, “Yeah, that’s me. I never want to stop either.”

I was taught to start out talking a little about my drinking and my feelings of guilt, shame and remorse about the people I hurt with my drinking, including myself. I never want to forget what it felt like to be me in those last few years as the disease dragged me down. The frustration of failed relationships, the terror of running out of money, the insanity of believing a new job was going to fix everything. I share about feeling paralyzed to take any positive actions to look for work or even to clean my apartment.  I don’t drone on and on in a never-ending drunk-a-log, but the newcomer needs to know that I drank alcoholically, suffered consequences, but kept on drinking anyways. Unless an alcoholic can identify with my drinking, he or she won’t pay attention to my solution.

I believe Alcoholics Anonymous works on the principle of enlightened self-interest. I benefit every time I share. If anything I say helps another alcoholic, it’s icing on the cake. I can’t get anyone sober, but sharing with others is absolutely necessary for me to stay sober and grow. It’s all about me.

Spiritual Awakening

I was getting ready for bed on April 29, 1994 when I realized I hadn’t taken a drink or thought about a drink all day long. I found this curious because I had been drinking for 30 years and for the past eight months, while unemployed, I have been getting drunk twice a day. Now, the thought of a drink was nowhere to be found. What had happened to me?

Earlier that day I had signed up for an outpatient treatment center, but I could not connect the dots, so I wrote it off as coincidence. But after a few months of not drinking and going to AA meetings it became clear what happened. I demonstrated my willingness to be changed by signing up for treatment and the universe responded by lifting the obsession clean out of me.

This experience was my first taste of spiritual awakening. It became the centerpiece of my faith which has grown throughout the years. Mine is not a blind faith. It is a faith born of my direct experiences walking through the deaths of loved ones, job losses, financial issues and physical challenges. Spiritual awakening gives me the ability to see firsthand the power and love of God working in my life.

Today I’m sure from the bottom of my soul that if I continue to do my part, God is ready, willing, and able to guide me through any life challenge no matter how great. This I believe is a faith that works in all conditions.