by Gerald W

This is a phrase I have said at least a thousand times over the past five years, since entering into a new way of living through Alcoholics Anonymous: “I am an alcoholic and an addict and my name is Gerald.” And these words have changed my life. Every time that I say them I am reborn. Because it is through the program of Alcoholics Anonymous that I now have a life and not just an existence.

In addition to being an alcoholic and an addict, I am also African American, gay, and I have a depressive anxiety disorder. And I am living with HIV. These are my truths. Nonetheless, at some point in my life I used each of them as an excuse to drink and use. Until I realized there are no excuses.

I believe that the disease of alcoholism is both of nature and of nurture

My introduction to alcohol came as a young child when I tried to mimic what I saw on 1970’s television dramas. Whenever some catastrophe that took place (someone getting shot, a car accident, an avalanche), there was always someone standing by and the first thing they did was to give the distraught victim this stuff called brandy. This magical elixir called brandy seemed to make the victim more at ease and able to function and calm down after the trauma. So yes. At eight years old I tried the magical elixir and I hated it. I swore I would never drink it again. Well, that was the first of what would become a pattern of lies surrounding alcohol and drugs.

jumping into oceans when you can’t swim

I believe that the disease of alcoholism is both of nature and of nurture. I come from a long line of alcoholics. All of them participated in alcoholic antics: Playing chicken with trains while drunk, sleeping in the neighbor’s dog house, or jumping into oceans when you can’t swim (that was me), just to name a few. My journey into A.A. was not a graceful one, and I am not unique.

My higher power made it perfectly clear I could either change, and stop using drugs and alcohol, or I would die. This was demonstrated by my almost walking into traffic in what I termed a “walking blackout,” barely missing getting hit by oncoming vehicles. A loud voice in my head woke me just as I was about to step into the street. I call this voice my higher power.

My journey into A.A. was not a graceful one

I had to surrender to a power greater than myself. The practices and principles of A.A. have given me the opportunity to be of service to others that suffer with this disease. I no longer have to wake up not knowing what I did the night before, sick from the ingestion of poisons, remorseful, ashamed, demoralized and the like.

It was college where my alcoholism took off in leaps and bounds. This is where cocaine was introduced to the mix and this made partying a sport. Who can get the most wasted yet still claim some parts of their sanity? Not I. This is also where my promiscuous attitudes towards sex began. There is no doubt that I contracted HIV as a result of the behaviors directly related to my drinking and using. That was just one of the consequences of the deadly disease of addiction. I have learned in this new design for living that acceptance is the key.

Today I start and end my days by making an effort to be the best version of myself. This starts with thinking of others before I think of myself, and knowing that I don’t control anything. Don’t think, don’t drink. Thy will be done and  bless you all.

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