Audio by Kathleen C

by Bree L.

 At eighteen I started drinking while at San Jose State. There was a party with a big punch bowl. I drank avidly, blacked out, passed out and was carried out. I knew I wanted to do it again. Ironically, neither of my parents were drinkers, but both my brother and I became alcoholics. He died of the disease.

In 1965, I got a job in the lab of a major San Francisco hospital. This is where I did most of my drinking. It worked for me. I had trouble connecting and alcohol did the trick. In the Big Book there’s a saying, “Alcohol gave me wings to fly and then it took away the sky.” That hit me. 

On Friday afternoons at the lab, we’d begin drinking and then make our way over to our favorite bar. After six months working at the lab, two friends and I decided to buy around-the-world airline tickets, good for one year. They returned after two months, but I continued for the next ten. Alcohol was still in the fun stage, with only occasional problems. All this time while I was quitting and traveling and returning to work my drinking escalated. At one point I moved to Greece for a year. Soon after Greece, I hit a wall. I didn’t have a place to live but house-sat, cat sat, or couch surfed. I was in the habit of drinking until I passed out. 

I turned on my radio so I couldn’t hear the voices in my head

One day, I was getting ready for work when I felt a physical punch, like someone hit me in the gut. I realized I was an alcoholic but didn’t know anything about alcoholism. I didn’t consider suicide but didn’t see any way out and figured I’d drink until I died. I was drinking every day. I’d pull the cork out of the bottle and drink until I passed out. I had no boyfriend, didn’t get along with my mother, and had huge resentments. I was disconnected from co-workers. My insides and outsides had no connection.

My father died, which I saw as a total betrayal of the only person who loved me. I went to my boss and told him I was leaving. I went home to two more years of drinking. A wall poster at Langley-Porter announced a meeting for those who had problems with alcohol. I went and was the only person who showed up. We sat face to face, absolute strangers. He recommended A.A. I called a friend who wanted her boyfriend to go to A.A., so the three of us went to a Saturday night meeting. It was horrifying. The speaker was dually addicted to alcohol and heroin. People were loud and too abstract. The boyfriend said, “Screw this” and I didn’t want to talk with any of those people.

I figured I’d kill myself, but worried about my two cats

Things got worse. I turned on my radio so I couldn’t hear the voices in my head. I was paranoid and crawled around the floor to hide my drinking. I had no curtains. It got more bizarre. One day I woke up paralyzed and couldn’t move. As the day went on, I was able to move and by three p.m. was better, so I started drinking. I figured I’d kill myself, but worried about my two cats, so I took my house key and put it in an envelope to mail to the coroner. Then remembered if I died, the letter wouldn’t get mailed. 

I decided to give A.A. another try. If it didn’t work, I’d have a way out. I started going to a meeting almost every day for a year, still drinking. What I got in that year of sitting, listening and watching was hope. After one year I raised my hand and said I was a newcomer. A woman came over and said, “You look like you need a sponsor.” She asked me to go to a meeting and call her every day. She had a posse and we all went to Miz Brown’s Kitchen for fellowship afterwards. That kept me sober: a meeting a day, reading the Big Book, doing the Steps and calling my sponsor. 

At four years sober my mother was hospitalized, and I moved to be with her. I was struggling and resented the move. Then I read in Freedom from Bondage, “The only real freedom a human being can ever know is doing what you ought to do because you want to do it” (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 544). I saw my mother as a person with friends who loved her and knew I did too. Thanks to A.A. I exchanged a self-inflicted life of resentment and bitterness for a life of gratitude. My sobriety date is August 9, 1985.

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