Alcoholism: A Disease of Perception
By Rick R.
Alcoholism is often referred to as a disease of perception, and oh how I find that statement to be true! Like most alcoholics, early in my drinking days I did not have a problem. I was single and had no one to answer to. It was perfectly normal to go from work directly to the bar room and spend the evening pouring alcohol down my throat. It was fun and I did a lot of foolish things in those days.
As my tolerance for alcohol grew, I developed a pattern of drinking where I could open a bar at 6:00 a.m. and close it at 2:00 a.m. and you could not tell I was drinking—if you did not smell the alcohol on my breath. I reached the pinnacle and that only lasted for a while.
Next, I developed a pattern of forgetting what happened the night before (blackout drinking). Then people started telling me about the things I did the previous night. It was not flattering. Normal drinkers do not have those kinds of experiences.
Then came the DUIs, the nights in jail, the wrecked cars, the broken knuckles, married and divorced, and—I could go on forever. When I was in the throes of this disease I was living by the dictates of my EGO. To bolster my pride, it told me I did not have a problem.
The progression of the malady varies in each individual due to environmental issues. Some people drink into their 60s and 70s before they come to Alcoholics Anonymous. Waking each morning to face the hideous four horsemen of Terror, Bewilderment, Frustration and Despair, is not a problem normal drinkers face. For me, alcohol seemed the solution to my problems. To abandon it was horrifying. My perception was if I quit drinking, I would spend the rest of my life waking up in that emotional pit.
I did everything in my power to deny my condition. As the progression wore on, one by one, I was running out of options. The drink could no longer mask the deception of it all. I was backed into the corner of life and now, what can I do?
On October 15,1969, my desperation outweighed my denial. I called the telephone operator and asked for the number of Alcoholics Anonymous. The lady gave me the number of a local A.A. club, held in a little house about six miles from my apartment. I showed up there and was greeted by three people sitting on a bench in the front yard. Within 10 minutes of talking to them and seeing the compassion and empathy in their eyes, I lay down on the grass and covered my eyes with my forearm. I thought to myself “Thank God, this nightmare is over.” And it was. I have never drunk, nor wanted to drink since that moment.
I was 28 years old at the time and most of the members of that group were over 40 years old. They referred to me as the fortunate one, and I was. From that moment on, I have done a 180 degree turn in my thinking and embraced the program of Alcoholics Anonymous in its entirety. My life has evolved into a life of peace and serenity I could not have imagined when I showed up on that lawn in 1969. Right now, as I am trying to explain this miracle, I am wiping tears of joy from my eyes just thinking about it. Go Figure.