This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending the 75th Texas State A.A. Convention in Austin, TX with some of the members of my home group and while we were there, we heard a speaker say this – and the identification (for me) was palpable…
“I caught alcoholism when I came to A.A.”
If you’ve ever heard me tell my story, you know that I did not come to Alcoholics Anonymous because I thought I had a drinking problem. I came because the Dallas court system had “invited” a friend of mine to go and he reached out and asked me if I would go with him because he didn’t want to go by himself. I immediately said, “Sure, I’ll go to A.A. with you. I’m not an alcoholic, but I’ll be happy to go with you.”
Before I jump into this, let me be very clear about one thing. I am now, FULLY, aware of the definition of the word denial…
Denial – the refusal to believe a doctrine, theory, or the like; disbelief in the existence or reality of a thing.
I simply wasn’t willing to entertain the idea that my life was falling apart because I drank too much. I couldn’t begin to believe that each time I drank, the consequences of each debauch were because of the Jack Daniels, Crown Royal, or Miller Lite that I was pouring down my mouth. It wasn’t that I wasn’t aware that bad things could happen to people when they drank too much – it was just I wasn’t willing to accept that this was true in MY case.
“I was so unique and so arrogant when I got here, I think God knew that He had to show me early on that there was nothing a drink would make better.” – Excerpt From Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th Edition, Page 336, “Crossing The River of Denial”, AA World Services, Inc.
I often say from the podium that “I had to come to A.A. for YOU to teach me what alcoholism was. I didn’t know I was eat up with it. I didn’t know that it was slowly killing me.” I had no idea what the truth of alcoholism was even though I had built my entire life around it up to that point. Like so many, I thought that I was immune to alcoholism because of who I was (or who I THOUGHT I was). I couldn’t be an alcoholic because I was too smart, was too well-travelled, was too intellectual… blah, blah, blah. I also wasn’t willing to accept that for myself because I came from an alcoholic home and was bound and determined that “I would never be like that.”
How grateful I am today to those who wrote it down so that I could be taught. I’m grateful today for the understanding I have that I was alcoholic long before I ever picked up my first drink.
“So we shall describe some of the mental states that precede a relapse into drinking, for obviously this is the crux of the problem.” – Excerpt From Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th Edition, Page 35, “More About Alcoholism”, AA World Services, Inc.
“The mental twists that led up to my drinking began many years before I ever took a drink, for I am one of those whose history proves conclusively that my drinking was “a symptom of a deeper trouble.” My emotional illness has been present from my earliest recollection. I never did react normally to any emotional situation.” – Excerpt From Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th Edition, Page 544, “Freedom From Bondage”, AA World Services, Inc.
I’m grateful that there were those who helped me understand that when I came to A.A., I was able to “catch” the real meaning of alcoholism and not just what I thought it was. It is not now, has never been, nor will it ever be about the alcohol I put in my body. It is about the insane thinking that had me believing things like, “this time it will be different,” or, “I can drink like normal people,” when the truth of the matter was, I simply could not process life on life’s terms the way it was being laid out for me. I threw alcohol at every single feeling and emotion I couldn’t deal with – and that worked for a very long time (until it stopped working). I had to finally admit defeat and admit that left to my own devices, I could not run my life on my own – I had to have the help of a God of my own understanding.
“He finally realizes that he has undergone a profound alteration in his reaction to life; that such a change could hardly have been brought about by himself alone.” – Excerpt From Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th Edition, Page 565, “Spiritual Experience”, AA World Services, Inc.
Today, when I hear someone say, “I caught alcoholism when I came to A.A.” – I now understand what they are talking about because that IS my experience too. Thank you to each of you who’ve helped me catch the real meaning of alcoholism so I can do as Bill W. suggested when he said that “our chief responsibility to the newcomer is to provide a clear and adequate presentation of our program.” May we all catch the real meaning so we can share it and save more lives today. A box of Kleenex and a hollow, “keep coming back honey, it will get better” simply will not work. I need to hand the newcomer a big book, my phone number, get their phone number, and help set them on the right path so they too, can become recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body and can be given a quiet place in bright sunshine.
In love & service (ILAS),