by John W
I had a drinking problem long before I was ever able to honestly admit that simple fact to myself. So many times, too many to count, I would stare at myself in the mirror, reliving the events of the previous 24 hours and wonder why that face staring back at me had done those things. I mentally could not connect the fact that the face into whose eyes I peered was mine. That face at which I stared, who had driven into oncoming traffic in a blackout or had just been released from incarceration following an alcohol-related traffic stop, was not me. It was just a reflection of that person I did not want to be — but was. I could not be honest with myself about that harsh reality.
When big-time marital discord drove me towards a solution rather than a drink one day, the thought of attending a 7:00 AM meeting as suggested by that anonymous voice on that anonymous 24-hour a day hotline, seemed a half-baked idea that was equally only coolly received by me. That the location was on my route to work and barely five minutes from my home was small consolation.
Only illusions of Snoopy as the WW I Flying Ace and his Dawn Patrol comics character succeeded in bolstering my efforts to make that meeting despite its ridiculously early hour. Since this was the only meeting I attended for the first two months, I did not know that their practice of not reading How It Works was unusual. I had my own Big Book, to demonstrate to my spouse that I was working the steps. But having a Big Book and reading it were two very different things.
Picturing Snoopy as the WW I Flying Ace bolstered my efforts
The result was that I failed to grasp the principle of honesty which was fundamental to the start of my recovery. While I had been honest about starting to attend daily meetings, an admission needed to stave off (at least for the moment) divorce court, the little asides about having a sponsor, working the steps and not drinking between meetings were all false. I am sure it was no surprise to those who tolerated my occasional complaints during the meetings, I had tried to remain anonymous you see and this included saying nothing to anyone, that I was not getting the benefit of How It Works. For me this time could only be described as my continuing journey through Hell.
Thankfully my miracle, and the hope for those who follow, coincided with my first honest statement about my drinking. At the time I did not know of this coincidence. It was later pointed out to me by someone who heard my story several months after I got sober. She observed that is was immediately after I had, for the first time, honestly told my 7:00 AM group that I was a newcomer that my fortunes had begun to change for the better.
I finally hung around long enough after the meeting to talk
Men in the meeting started to reach out to me to share their experiences and I finally hung around long enough after the meeting to talk to them. They talked to me about the difficulties I was facing as a newcomer, how best to confront them and how to stay sober when doing so. I was inspired by one woman’s tale about getting sober only because she wanted her children back in her life, a dream I had. She was able to explain the uphill battle before me and that, even in rejection (which I was to experience like she had), I could stay sober. One old timer after kind, but daily, quizzes about whether I drank the day before, gave me her 16 year chip so I could “lean” on her sobriety when I needed to. Sadly, cancer took her before she could get 17 years, but I have her chip in my pocket, cuddling mine for the same time, reminding me I am never alone in my daily struggle.
In the 20/20 vision hindsight provides, it is now easy to see how the principle of honesty was the key to my salvation. Without it, my lies to myself about the effects of my drinking and the people it was harming, prevented me from effectively taking my first step in recovery. Thereafter, the rigorous honesty my sponsor has schooled me in over the years has often been a real challenge. I would not be honest were I to pretend the case to be otherwise. However, with the aid of my higher power, I have been developing a better sense on when I should just keep quiet and exercise that restraint of tongue and pen. In such moments, I have found that, at worse, I may be only considered the fool, but when I rashly or imprudently open my mouth, as is my bane, I invariably remove all doubt. As for How It Works, I have come to believe it was no coincidence that the founders of the program which saved my life mentioned honesty three times in the opening salvo – they were just relaying the honest truth of their recovery.