By Doug H., Oakland

First, let me write, my name is Doug and I am an alcoholic. It’s funny, but I don’t think I’ve ever written that before, although I’ve said it thousands of times—another surrender, another admission, another entry into the human race. I’m an alcoholic. What exactly does that mean? It’s simple: I used alcohol to solve my problems to the point that alcohol became the problem.

“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.” That “had become” says it all for me. It came first. Sure, I drank a hell of a lot, but I thought I had gotten a handle on it. You see, I was six years dry before I walked, sweaty and shaky and furious, into my first AA meeting and then admitted I was an alcoholic. After I said it, I knew it was true. Up to that very point I could never have imagined saying anything like that. I was trapped in the bottle that I had left behind six years before.

By 1987, at the age of 34, I had had enough. I had my last drink on Halloween night, 1987. But another kind of trouble ensued.

I remained dry for six years. I now marvel at the dry drunk I was then. Was I powerless over alcohol? Sure. I knew if I drank, the consequences would be horrendous. So, I simply didn’t do it. “Simply” did I say? Hardly. I lifted weights several hours every other day; I ran up to fifteen miles; I swam two miles every couple days; and I cycled hundreds of miles a week. Did I say simply? I was simply alone. But the key was life was manageable by my will.

  Or so I thought.

In 1994 my housemate in San Francisco was killed while drinking. This was something I couldn’t manage on my own. He was the only person I “let in.” Like     a son to me. I looked for people to blame, and in my “sober” thinking, I came up with someone. I planned to do them harm. I was walking by the Mission Chapel on Dolores Street and something compelled me to go in. So much for my willpower. I went in, got on my knees and began on the first step. “If there is a God, I need help.” The very person I was going to harm offered me the solution on a slip of paper not more than a half hour later. It simply read: “AA.” I went to my first meeting that night (something I would never have consented to right up to that moment) and admitted I was an alcoholic. Thus began the journey for me, and the end of attempting to do what I couldn’t do for myself, which was be part of the human race. I took that first step and began for the first time, since I started drinking, to walk away a free man.

AA has done for me what I could not do for myself—one day at a time.

Doug’s Home Group is Up to My Neck, Saturdays 6:30 pm, Oakland