Leave the Door Cracked a Little Bit
This year marks my 27th year of continual sobriety. On September 9th, I will celebrate not drinking since I was 27. I will have NOT had a drink for as long as I had been drinking, but was I really an alcoholic?
<hair-splitting side note>
Being an alcoholic minded person who argues every point, I will note that since I didn’t have my first ‘real’ drink of booze until I was 13, we can cut that down to only 14 years of ACTUAL drinking!
</hair-splitting side note>
In the past 27 years, I have had varying degrees of success and tragedy in my life, mixing equal parts wonderful joy and crippling depression. I have experienced loss and found love. In short, I have lived a pretty average life for an American 50-something man. Through it all, I have not found a reason to have a drink.
Sitting in my position, a person can easily bring himself to a point where he TRULY in his heart does not think it was that bad. Success in life (as measured by the fact that I have not died yet) gives you a skewed perspective that whispers the false narrative that your life drinking wasn’t nearly as horrific as you once made it out to be. Certainly now, with advanced wisdom and calm, a man in my position could handle a beer every now and then, right?
Was I Really an Alcoholic?
There’s a passage in the Big Book that takes me back to my “jumping off point” back in 1994. How many times did face the Four Horsemen of Terror, Bewilderment, Frustration, and Despair? If I’m honest, almost daily.
I don’t need to live in the past, it does me no good to wallow in self-pity about things I did or didn’t do then. That said, I’m going to keep the door cracked just a little bit to not forget where I came from.
The Life I Choose: Being an Alcoholic
Over the last 27 years, I’ve had loss and love. I’ve experienced joy and happiness in ways I could never imagine possible in my young life. In sobriety, I have plumbed the depths of depression to find myself in places even worse than when I was drinking.
In short, I’ve had a pretty normal life for a person in my situation in life. I’ve rolled with the punches and made it to a point where I actually like who I am and what I am doing. Could it be better? Absolutely! Could it be worse? Most definitely.
The question I have to ask myself, “Would I have been here if I had continued to drink all those years ago?” If I am rigorously honest, the answer is obvious. I would have been dead long ago had I kept on the same trajectory.
Through recovery, I found a new way to approach life. Today I live life on life’s terms, not my own. I turn things over to the ‘universe’ as I understand it, rather than sit and ruminate troubles in my brain. I find gratitude where I can, and try to keep my side of the street clean to help others.
It is not a hard choice. The alternatives were not appealing. This is the life I choose.
The Power of the 12th Step
When I begin to waver from my commitment to sobriety, my ‘universe’ generally puts something in my path to remind me how it once was.
I am not a AA proselytizer. In my understanding of alcoholism, there is nothing I can do to help another person find their way to the 1st step. My commitment to the program is that I am there when that person reaches out to me for help. I carry the message that hope and healing are possible.
Through my example of short-term sobriety, I show the newcomer that all an alcoholic needs to do is make it one 24 hour period at a time. I demonstrate through my long-term sobriety that peace is possible even in the midst of chaos.
Carrying the message to those at or near their 1st step keeps me humble. “There but for the Grace of God…” is never more apparent than when I am talking to a person trying to sort through the insanity they find themselves in. Helping them truly does help me as much or more than it helps them!
The Answer to the Question
“Am I an alcoholic, even though I have not had a drink in almost 30 years?” The answer is the same as it was when I walked through the doors all those years ago: If you have to ask, you probably are.
At the end of the day, it does not matter much. Life is pretty good and I intend to try to keep it that way. Why would I change anything now?
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