by John W

It was only after attending meetings for months, getting sober when I was finally ready to agree with my higher power that my time had come, that I first heard about hitting bottom.  I did not realize until beginning to work the Steps with a sponsor, that this was something any alcoholic needed to come to grips with if recovery was to become a reality.  While the road to getting to my bottom had been tedious, painful, full of drama and almost killed me, as was so with many whose stories I have heard, my path was also long, it took years.

The Big Book has stories like “They Stopped In Time”

The Big Book has stories such as “They Stopped In Time,” of those whose last address was not c/o Skid Row, Anytown, USA. While I did not hold out to that bitter end or one of asylums or institutions, I was on the express jitney heading in that direction. The worst part about that ride was that although I sensed I was going in the wrong direction, I was in complete denial as to why that was so. My hard work at my career and my success at it, clothed with the usual trappings of a lovely family in a nice home, in a congenial, desired neighborhood, all belied the truth.  

My world was becoming smaller and smaller, my friends less and less, my successes fewer and farther in between.  Those about whom I cared the most, seemed to want less to do with me.  When I shared these observations with my sole confidant, my bartender, he (or she, didn’t matter, whoever was pouring would do), they would nod their understanding, remind me of my lovely car in the parking lot and the house, no longer home, to which it would take me, and say I had it good.  To highlight their point, what usually followed was the offer of a proposed trade: Their jalopy for my car, their studio for my house.  I’d laugh, they’d laugh, another drink would be poured and we would turn to solving the problems of the world, again, before I rolled out for my house, late – again.  Had this been a monthly or bi-annual deal, one might say it was just the right of an upstanding man to enjoy his fancy, to take a well-earned opportunity to blow off a little steam.  In my case, since this was just the tip of the nightly drinking iceberg, literally, and it had been so secretly for years, I was on a back hoe digging to the bottom. This would have been clear to anyone who knew the truth of my situation, anyone that is but me.

So my disease took me to a bottom, that place of incomprehensible demoralization of which I had heard tell, in which I was ensconced and of which I knew zipola. I had come to that line, that level of pain at which the alcoholic must step and I was helpless. I was powerless, I had no power. I could not stop drinking and I was on the proverbial Highway to Hell. There is an old saying: When the student is ready, the teacher shall appear.  The court’s order throwing me out of my own house was the teacher’s calling card. 

On a beautiful summer, Friday afternoon I went to the only place I was welcome now: the Friday night Attitude Adjustment meeting

Later on a beautiful summer, Friday afternoon I went to the only place I was welcome, the Friday night Attitude Adjustment meeting. There, men in our fellowship, upon hearing of my woeful dilemma at meeting’s end, came to me to remind me there is a solution. With their shared experiences in that “meeting after the meeting” came the hope that I could rest my head that night, even if only on the sofa several of them offered, sober. Despite my weakening arguments that this should not have been happening to me, they helped me to begin laying the concrete foundation of acceptance of my bottom. I finally understood Step One and was ready to take it.   

On that newly dried foundation of acceptance, I had begun climbing the steps of sobriety and towards that spiritual awakening each spoke of experiencing on their journey. They also warned me to be wary of the “Squatters in My Basement.” Resentment, rationalization, self-pity and, the one sitting at the top of my list: Justifiable anger. They foretold each would be found lurking at the bottom, reveling in the loneliness of it. I was alerted to be wary of indulging the overtures of these squatters in my basement as each came with a price, each would bring me one step closer to a drink. These squatters wanted nothing to do with my recovery. They sought only to loop me back into the mire I had just sealed with the bondo of acceptance. I was to come to find out that these squatters, and others like them, wanted me there with them, isolated, afraid, powerless.

As sober days passed, as steps were climbed to escape the bottom, I learned I could not slam the cellar door upon it and throw away the key.  Like those men whose experiences and hope had buoyed me on that hot summer day now over a decade gone, I have seen how my road to the bottom could be an asset.  I have seen how my past, and my recovery in spite of it, could be a beacon, a lighthouse, for the next guy [or gal or person] to guide them to safe passage and a sober moorage.

Little did I realize at the time that those squatters were actually being of service to me. They forced me to ask for help and my higher power answered that plea.  My teacher appeared, our fellowship responded. With each anonymous member came hope and strength that I could live a sober, useful existence. With them they brought and shared with me the tools to build a whole new way of life.  So it is now my truth, that for these teachers and their lessons which I have been learning one day at a time, I will be forever indebted and remain so very grateful. 

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