I don’t remember so much of what went on. I was in my fourth year of college and my sixth year of AA. I had, at one time, achieved 18 months of sobriety, never more than that. I had been hospitalized and drunk and humiliated more than once in front of my mother, my best friend, and countless members of AA.
I was a drunk dialer. This was before cordless phones and before caller ID. I had had my own phone in my bedroom from about the time I was 16. I would often get drunk and call people. Lots of people. And be incoherent or sad. One AA friend once remarked sadly about me when I was drunk yet again, “It doesn’t even make you happy.” Such was the insanity of alcohol and me.
On the night in question, which I think was April 30, 1984, for the first time, I drunk dialed my grandmother. After talking to her in a hysterical manner for I have no idea how long, I set out for her house in the middle of the night. She lived about 30 minutes away down one of the major highways of the world. I remember, like that other time, coming to and swerving, blacking out, then finding myself further down the road.
My grandmother lived in the city, and her neighborhood had gone down hill a bit. She lived alone, and she had bars on her windows and an alarm on her house. Once someone had tried to break in while she was home. When I got there, by total chance that I didn’t get arrested or have an accident, I rang her bell, and she didn’t come to the door, probably afraid to.
I drove up a few blocks to a pay phone. She lived in the city and there were actually pay phones on street corners. I called her and told her it was me at her door, and to open it. As I went back to my car, a teenager asked me if I had any money. It is again, only by luck that I escaped these situations unharmed. I certainly took ridiculous chances with my safety.
My grandmother let me in, and I began a drunken rampage of the emotional sort. I cried and boo hooed and cried some more about how terrible my life was, all the way from before I was born until now and way into the future, maybe even after I was dead. I kept her up most of the night in this manner.
In the morning, the part of the morning where the sun comes up, my uncle arrived. He had taken over my grandfather’s business and kept it located in my grandmother’s house so that he visited her twice a day, before work and after. I swore them both to secrecy about my performance, and I got back on that highway to head for home.
I remember the day as very sunny and bright. I was living with my mother again after having moved out to be with the guy, then back in when he went back to his wife. I was 21 years old, and I would be 22 before the month of May was over. I was in my fourth year of college, and my grades were dismal. I had failed classes and dropped classes and so I wasn’t graduating on time. But, that May, I had just two classes to go until I earned a degree, such as it was.
I believe that I pondered these things as I reached the top of the stairs at my mother’s house on my way to my bedroom. The sun was very bright, and I think the room was even painted yellow. I thought about my future. I wanted, more than anything, to have kids and to be a stay at home mom. This seemed unlikely, given my current condition. I didn’t think I could work and hold down a job and support myself. I didn’t think my mother would go on indefinitely supporting me, especially not if I was drinking. I even thought about jail or a mental institution, and honestly, it scared me that in those places, I would not be in charge of my own drugs. I had no faith that the powers that be would give me enough drugs to make living bearable.
I thought about suicide from time to time, and I was afraid of death. Knowing that I will die one day made me usually not want to do it right then. It would come, there is no stopping it. The dilemma I had faced when I drank after my first sobriety, that of drinking or dying, wasn’t viable anymore. It hadn’t been then. I couldn’t drink. I couldn’t hold it together enough to function when I was drinking. I couldn’t stop drinking. I wasn’t capable.
I engaged in a train of thoughts that is so common to many blessed alcoholics. My trap door had, as they say, become a trap. I realized that I was one of the “unfortunates” who cannot get it. Despite six years of AA, I could not stop drinking. I could not see how to stop. I had tried everything and then some. Now I could not see how to continue, either. I had tried every way I had heard about and read about to stay sober. I had tried every way I had heard about and read about and thought up using my own very determined mind to drink. I had made it far – through high school and now college. But my future was blank. I think the fact that I had now humiliated myself in front of my grandmother added to the bottom, the hopelessness, the deflation. The end.
This is one of the most important things I have to share with alcoholics who still suffer. My descent was rapid, comparatively, I was not yet 22. I really think I passed through all the stages, though, just very quickly. I don’t know if alcoholism is inherited, and if there are “degrees” of alcoholism. For myself, I believe that if there are, I have “severe” alcoholism. Remember that my father died from it when he was just 33. That’s young. Apparently he was very bad also.
The paradox, the bottom, the miracle. It was by feeling in my soul that I was hopeless and could not stop drinking no matter what that enabled me to finally stop. The light that I saw was not of the Bill W variety, and the realization did not come upon me suddenly. What I saw was the bright, regular sunlight and the impossibility of my situation. I was not rocketed into the fourth dimension. I think maybe what happened is I finally put the key in the lock.
I saw that my situation was impossible. I couldn’t stop drinking, and I couldn’t continue. I made a conscious decision right then to stop drinking just for a short time. I felt I could do that. I had done it many many times before. I knew I couldn’t stop for long, and I wasn’t even going to try. I was going to stop drinking for a short time, and during that brief period of sobriety I would figure out how to continue on with the rest of my life. I thought I might find a psychiatric drug that would make living bearable for me without alcohol. Or maybe I would end up institutionalized. I didn’t know, but I knew that I couldn’t work things out while drinking. So I would stop for just a short while, until I figured out how to live while drinking in some way I hadn’t tried yet. Or something.
I like to say that I still haven’t figured it out, 24 years later, and so I haven’t yet begun my life of successful drinking or perhaps successful drugging. When I hear the AA expression, “Don’t quit before the miracle,” this personal miracle of mine comes to mind: I no longer want to figure it out. I would not take any type of solution that would render me able to drink without consequences, or that would take away my alcoholism. I think that maybe this is part of that “fourth dimension.”