By Justin W.


I walked into Alcoholics Anonymous at the age of twenty. By the age of twenty I drank a bottle of Royal Gate Vodka every day for over a year straight. I was ostracized from every place that I ever tried to hang around because my behavior was so terrible. I was never violent, but I am someone who  had doctors and psychiatrists ask me how I could think of the insults I thought of and, when I was drunk, it was a million times worse!

I drank in San Francisco because it was the only place left I could go to in my small world. My mother kicked me out of the house because I was having seizures, for five years undiagnosed as a kid, and I was just fired from the corner grocery store for what I said to a fellow employee. My mother told me “You need to drive a car and get a job or you are out of my house!” I was losing my consciousness, sometimes daily with partial complex seizures and everyone thought I was just making that up!

I was released from  a detention boarding school in Provo Utah and had only been in my hometown of Portland, Oregon for a year. I tried briefly to move in with some friends from boarding school, but the only time they could stand me was when I was high on acid and could not say anything to anyone for a good 12 hours. They said, “We got to keep him like this!”

I was working at Radio Shack in San Francisco when I was diagnosed with epilepsy by my Neurologist, Dr. Paul Garcia in 1998.  He said,”If you ever drink or use drugs again, you might have brain surgery or could die!” Dr. Garcia and I met at San Francisco General Hospital, which was a place I woke up all the time in my first year of drinking in this town. I woke up strapped down to a gurney three nights a week for my first years in San Francisco and I would quickly say to a nurse, “Let me go. I got to get to work.” 

The nurses would reply “Are you going to come back?” I would say “No.” They would let me go, then I would bust my ass, get home, take a shower, and get to work. It was helpful that I only lived a couple blocks away from Radio Shack at Noe and Market. It was right underneath the Tower Records. When I was working at Radio Shack, I was in the top ten in sales and #1 in customer complaints in the district! Cell phones had just come out and everyone wanted one. I was great at selling Sprint phones to anyone, but if anyone gave me any shit, I would just lash out with my tongue. While working there I would make anywhere from 4 to 6 thousand bucks a month after taxes! That was in 1995-1998. My uncle was not charging rent, so I would spend 60.00 bucks a day on weed, and I would buy a bottle of Royal Gate Vodka from the guy at the Arco station in the Castro. That guy at the Arco station sold it to all the underage kids he knew.  Then I would go to Collingwood park and hang out with the kids at Lyric. The Young, Loud, and Proud because I have always identified with being bisexual.

I would bring the drugs and alcohol, get them drunk and stoned. Then I would mouth off, they would beat me up, and I would go hiking all over town singing as loud as I could with my headphones and would wake up in the San Francisco General Emergency somewhere around three nights a week like I said.

I was a very difficult person. I still can be. It took me eight years to get sober after Dr. Garcia told me to quit. I was someone who ended up doing every drug there was and was a binge drinker and user for years while in AA. They had lots of business meetings about my behavior in AA as well. I was on SSDI at one point because I tried cutting my throat in Ozanam Detox. When I got to AA I could not read or get along with anyone. I am still part of the “sometimes slowly” club. 

AA made it so I got a job, learned how to read, and achieved two different college degrees, one in accounting and one in philosophy. I decided to get my philosophy degree because I loved Bill Wilson’s writing of the Big Book. Especially Appendix II. Today I do accounting for hotels and am trying to be a writer in my free time because that was a childhood dream of mine. I have been given a full life today. I am off government assistance completely. Today I see so many people who haven’t made it or are struggling.   I lived in those hotels in the Tenderloin.. I cry sometimes seeing people I did drugs with, digging through trash cans, stuck in their own reality. I haven’t tried killing myself or been arrested in over seventeen and a half years. 

I have a wonderful life where I am happy and happy is a state of mind. I have realized that my reality is nothing but what I perceive, and my mind is nothing but imagination because of a daily 45-minute 11th Step of Single Points Concentration Meditation. I can tell people I love them and can give anyone a hug today. Life is good. I see so much good in the world and have let all my old resentments go. I am working with my sponsor on service these days because happiness and love are about loving the other. I am seeing guys making it who I take to H&I meetings.  Also to places like the Father Alfred Center and that is a true gift. I am still awkward and weird, but I continue to improve myself and that is all life is about for me. The Law of Karma and the theory of evolution tells me something: the only thing that remains constant is change and I either learn or I suffer. Happiness is a state of mind and nothing else.

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