By Aleka C. 8/18/21
Ten years ago yesterday I took my last drink, or more accurately, my last ten or so drinks. That wasn’t really a “bender.” It was typical. What made that night different was that it followed my first-ever three weeks without a drink.
After years of attempting to moderate and control my drinking had proved futile, with the consequences piling up, I finally admitted I was an alcoholic, resolving never to drink again.
The next morning, I did what I always did: tried to remember the spotty details of the previous night’s debacle, shakily cleaned myself up, drank a bucket of coffee, and set off to attend to the day’s obligations.
Normally I would have felt shame and remorse, mixed with a sense of “pride” because I was, against all odds, “managing to pull it off.” But on that day, there was a new feeling that I couldn’t ignore: terror. I truly realized that my go-to personal resources—intelligence, resolve, and will power—were not enough when it came to alcohol.
Today, I am deeply grateful for that intense fear and terrible demoralization because it led me to seek help—first from a doctor, then from a therapist, and then finally, after six excruciating, dry months, from A.A.
As promised, A.A. (the program and the fellowship) has indeed given me “a new freedom and a new happiness.” I am free of alcohol and of the fight with my addiction, and that has, in turn, freed up all the mental, emotional, and spiritual resources I had previously directed towards that hopeless struggle.
The hollow “happiness” of the drink has been replaced by the solid and substantial happiness of sober friendships, the unexpected joys of service, and a new appreciation of the ups and downs of living, every day, one day at a time.
Earlier in my sober journey, I would sometimes wish that I had gotten sober sooner, that I hadn’t “wasted” so much time. Now, however, I recognize that rather than celebrating ten years today with a few dear friends, I could just as easily still be drunk, or dead, or in jail.
The reality is that I am powerless over alcohol: when I was drinking, I was never actually “managing to pull it off.” It was much more a matter of luck, privilege, and the compassion of others that got me through.
Similarly, today, I don’t keep myself sober by my own resources; a power greater than myself does—the program of A.A. and the fellowship—when I follow it and participate. So, I continue to do those things, “to keep coming back,” because the biggest gift of sobriety for me is that, in surrendering fighting alcohol, I have been granted true agency in the present moment.
I can live rooted in the reality of “what-is,” rather than in the “what-might-have-been” or “what-might-be.”
Aleka’s home group is Up to My Neck, Oakland, which meets on Saturday at 6:30pm.