God, grant me the serenity…
Hi, my name is Jessie and I'm an alcoholic. I sat at an AA table with a woman a couple of days ago who was celebrating her 34th year of sobriety. As always when I hear about people who have been sober and in the program that long, I listen intently to what they have to say. This woman was full of wisdom and I clung to every word she spoke. She said one thing in particular that really struck a chord with me. "Learn your story. Figure out how you came to be the alcoholic that you are." I guess I hadn't really thought about it. It seems like we all know that things eventually got to the point where we were powerless over alcohol and our lives had become unmanageable, but how we got there was often a mystery. Well, I think I learned my story.
I didn't really start drinking until I turned twenty-one. I mean, I had a couple of drinks here or there, and one time I got black-out drunk at a college frat-party when I was nineteen but drinking was never something I actively sought out. When I turned twenty-one, though, things changed. My twenty-first birthday is very vivid in my mind. There was an awful snowstorm that day, plans got changed, but it didn't stop me or the people I was celebrating with from drinking. We started at noon, and by 9pm, my mother was quite literally passed out on a bar table. I was so proud that I was able to outlast her that night. From that moment on, I was an alcoholic.
It started off slowly, having drinks on Friday nights at the local bars and occasionally on the weekdays with my dad after work. Then we started drinking together most days. That's how I learned to drink – with the guys, the men who had been drinking for thirty years. I didn't see it as a problem when I was able to keep up with their experienced drinking when I had just turned twenty-one. Looking back on it now, though, its ridiculous.
In the fall when the college semester started back up, I took classes for about a week when I decided it just wasn't going to work out. By then I was already an alcoholic and I didn't want to take time away from drinking to be in class. I was paying for classes myself so I quickly withdrew while I could still get refunded, but I never told my parents. They thought I was going to class on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 3-9, when in reality, I was sitting in a bar getting drunk. For three months this went on, me sitting in a bar by myself, getting completely wasted. I would get completely wasted, and I would drive thirty miles home. By the grace of God I never got pulled over, got into an accident, or killed anyone or myself. I'm thankful to God every single day for that miracle.
Now, of course, I wasn't by myself. I was usually surrounded by a bunch of guys in their fifties and occasionally their wives because those are the people that are in bars drinking before dark. At the time I didn't think it was unusual at all, but it was completely outrageous for a twenty-one year old girl to be sitting at the bar with all of those men. Rarely did I feel strange, but there were a few times when I got terribly uncomfortable in the bar with all of those men, particularly when one or two of them would have too many to drink.
On one particularly cold night I was getting ready to go out to my car to go home for the night. One man at the bar said to me, "Come sit in my car, its already warm, while you're waiting for yours to warm up. Its too cold to be driving home without letting your car warm up first." I insisted I was fine and that it was no trouble, but he gave me the same speech again. Drunk and not wanting to cause a scene (avoidance issues have clearly always been a problem for me,) I agreed to wait with him because it seemed like the easy option at the time. It wasn't. The night could have been much worse than it was, but that's not to say I wasn't terrified about what was going to happen to me. To make a long story short, it took me almost a year to go back into that bar/restaurant again after that night for fear of running into the man who tried to rape me.
You would think that an incident like that would keep me from going into bars alone and drinking again, but it didn't. I just found other bars closer to home, ones where I knew more people and where I had less of a trip to make if I got too drunk. I learned my lesson and tried not to make conversation with too many people, instead focusing on drowning out my pain and depression with alcohol. It worked, or so I thought.
Weekends were the worst times. With my parents both being alcoholics as well, we spend a lot of time at the local bars drinking much more than any of us had the right to. Each weekend I would spend two nights drunk, and two morning hung over. Of course you think its fun when the alcohol is coursing through your veins and you're feeling the pleasant buzz from booze, but in retrospect, it was awful. Thinking of all the time I wasted because I was drunk or hungover makes me so grateful to be sober.
When I moved out of my parents' house, things went from bad to worse. I had a bar within walking distance, one that served hard cider on draught at two dollars cheaper than every other bar in the area. I was in Heaven. Each day on my way home from work I would stop, have five or six tall, 22 ounce drinks, and go home. My sleep schedule became erratic, I was anxious all of the time, and more often than not I went to work with a raging hangover. I noticed that my relationships with my friends were starting to be affected by my drinking, but I didn't care. That's what happens when you're an alcoholic – you just don't care about anything but the alcohol anymore.
I felt at home in that dingy corner bar. I liked the people and the staff, and especially the cheap drinks. On Fridays they had (have,) karaoke, and I would find myself staying at the bar until often three in the morning, closing it down. I would sleep all day on Saturday, wake up, take a shower, and do the same thing all over again. I was wasting my days, my nights, and my weekends, all to have a drink. I was wasting my life.
Thank God for everything. There's only so many times I can tell the story of the woman who really opened up to me and made me see that I am an alcoholic and that I need help. Regardless, I wouldn't be here on this journey without her. She's the one who helped me to see, by sharing her own story, that I am powerless over alcohol and my life has become unmanageable.
Learning my story has helped me learn about myself. I'm finally connecting dots that became scattered and clouded by a fog of booze. So much of my young adult life was lost to alcohol, but I'm very grateful to wake up everyday sober, with a clear mind, and with a goal of sobriety. I'm grateful to be making this decision on my own and that its not something that was forced onto me by courts or law of family. I don't think I would succeed in my sobriety if people were forcing me to do this. I'm grateful for AA and the fellowship, for the open and honest conversations and the integrity of the people in the program.
Our Father, who art in Heaven…
I'm very blessed to be here with all of you on this 17th day of sobriety, and I look forward to many more.