It was obviously necessary to raise the bottom the rest of us had hit to the point where it would hit them. By going back in our drinking histories, we could show that years before we realized it we were out of control, that our drinking even then was no mere habit, that it was indeed the beginning of a fatal progression.
I was fortunate in that I realized practically right away that I was out of control, that it was no mere habit, and that it was the beginning of a fatal progression. Very fortunate. Even though I realized that, and sought out AA on my own, it still took me years to internalize it to the point where I could stop drinking. But I never really had a time of good, carefree drinking. I’m jealous of others who did, sometimes, but really it’s only appropriate, since I am an alcoholic.
And, because it’s on my mind, I’ll record here that I remember as a child hearing my uncle throwing up and heaving in the bathroom in the middle of the night. I knew he had a problem before I even knew what such a problem was.
It’s striking to look back and see that the post about my uncle followed the post about my father.
I’m waiting now for his funeral. After that I hope to see his first grandchild.
An interesting (to me) aside. I asked my mother last night what killed her grandfather, my uncle’s grandfather, and she said he was hit by a train. Drunk? I asked. Suicide? She said well, maybe.
I have that memorized, because I’ve listened to it and read it thousands of times.
My uncle died. I’ve known he had a drinking problem since I was a child and he was a teenager. He was at the scene of my last drunk. My last witness.
I’ve known for years that I should talk to him, tell him that I’m in AA and how wonderful it is. When I did finally call I think he was already dead. Alone in his house, the house where I had my last drunk, while the answering machine recorded my voice telling him to call me when he gets a chance. Too little too late.
My father would have been . . . I don’t know how old today. Nearing 80 I guess. But he died at 33 from alcoholism. My first thoughts about this today are that 1) that’s part of what saved me by getting me to seek help so young and so early in my drinking and 2) if there are degrees of alcoholism, and if they are hereditary, I believe I inherited severe alcoholism. My third thought is that I have, hopefully, broken the chain. Oh my goodness how I hope that. Both of my kids drink, and it frightens me. They’ve both gotten into trouble with it, though not, to my knowledge, lately. No question they both function at an incredibly higher level than I ever did, drunk or sober. They have no idea this is their grandfather’s birthday. He plays no part in their lives, expect for the questionable genes he’s passed down. We’re all short.
In my little world, the insurance man comes tomorrow to tell us if insurance will cover any of the damage we’ve had due to a leaky pipe. We’ve had the plumbing fixed, some cabinets dropped, and we have a mold estimate. I’ve been with the same insurance company since I was 16. Every car and every house, and never a claim. I really hope this is covered.
But if it’s not, I’ll be OK. AA taught me that and though I know I haven’t experienced it yet, I’m pretty sure it is true.
I struggle with what to write about change, because I struggle with change. It’s a worthy topic at AA meetings, I think, because we all to some degree have trouble adjusting, even to good changes. Change means to become different, and I like almost everything to stay the same. Nothing does, and so my struggle.
I would have been happy to always live in my hometown, to always work at my first job, to live in one house as an adult. Instead I’ve moved many, many times, from one coast to the other and back again, and in between. I like where I live, and this is where I’ll stay for quite a while to come, mostly because of Carole’s job, which is a great job that pays really well and exists in this place. I’ve lived in this area for 15 years, 10 years in this house and that’s the longest I’ve lived anywhere practically since I was born. Writing this, I remember moving as a kid, from one end of town to the other and back again. That made me different. Everyone else (so it seemed and was mostly true) stayed put, with their mother and father and siblings. That’s not what my life was like.
So now I know that I should embrace change, and sometimes I actually do. I know I should make peace with it in order to be at peace at all. I know that so many changes are for the better and I should welcome them. I know that I’ve been blessed with imagination and optimism and other tools I can use to cope with and welcome and actually affect changes in my world. I know that even sad changes often lead to new happinesses, and if not that at least the sadness will abate somewhat with time.
AA is where I hear other people struggle and make peace. I get to hear about people who struggle more with sameness, always wanting something different, wanting everything to change. It’s where I learned to appreciate what I have, to remember that it’s all temporary, to live in the now. Even as now is changing, has changed.
Wednesday night, we had water in the kitchen. Thursday, the contractor who redid out bathroom last year opened the ceiling. Friday, a plumber gave us an estimate. Saturday, a plumber came and fixed the leak. Saturday, a young man with a mold company waved he gauge around the whole house and said the cabinets should be replaced (among many other things). Today is Sunday, a day of rest?
Through all this, the insurance company has been telling us that it may or may not be covered, and that it may be more than a week until we know.
Today, Sunday, I flipped my saying of the week from “That which does not kill me makes me stronger,” to “So, if you think you are standing firm,be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
So yeah, not that I can’t bear it. Luxury problems, for sure. The repair will take time and money, and I know that compared to many (most) people I have an abundance of both. The feeling of scarcity that came down to me from my grandparents through my mother may not have really existed for any of them, and certainly hasn’t for me. One step at a time, we’ve come through this very quickly and even though there is a gaping, moldy hole in the kitchen, the kitchen and the bathroom are fully operable. We have a contractor, plumber, and mold guy we trust (though the insurance company is questionable at this moment). We have a gratitude list that stretches to infinity and a broad, broad view that tells us this is most certainly the small stuff.
It is a tremendous satisfaction to record that in the following years this changed. Alcoholics who still had their health, their families, their jobs, and even two cars in the garage, began to recognize their alcoholism. As this trend grew, they were joined by young people who were scarcely more than potential alcoholics. They were spared that last ten or fifteen years of literal hell the rest of us had gone through. Since Step One requires an admission that our lives had become unmanageable, how could people such as these take this Step?
For anyone who doesn’t follow my details, I was 16, almost 17, when I went to my first AA meeting. I called AA on my own, because I knew I was in trouble. I achieved lasting sobriety when I was 21, almost 22. For years, I was almost always the youngest person in the room at meetings. At times, it was hard to relate, for sure. I hadn’t yet acquired a family, a car, or a job to lose. But I was more than a potential alcoholic. I was quickly, after I first started drinking, the real, full-blown thing. That doesn’t happen to everyone. It happens to hardly anyone. But it happened to me, and I’m grateful.
Back then, I knew on some level that I was an alcoholic. I had a very shallow understanding of alcoholism, but my father had died very young from it, so I knew there was that. I knew that I quickly broke the rules I had set up to, for example, never drive drunk. I didn’t know then that the very setting of rules proves the alcoholism. Normal drinkers don’t do that. And I wouldn’t have lasted another ten or fifteen years, not at the rate I was going.
That’s just my experience. It doesn’t match the experience of most people in the rooms, but it does match some. One of the wonderful things about AA. My life became quickly unmanageable, and when I say I’m grateful, it’s because I’ve gotten to spend so very many years sober in AA.