I was 35 when I joined Alcoholics Anonymous to stop drinking. There were numerous attempts to stop drinking prior to this, with no success. At the time, I considered myself young, with a few more drinking years ahead of me. But my life was unmanageable. I was powerless over alcohol and in desperate need of help. One question kept taunting me though. Does stopping mean never having a drink for the rest of my life?
This is the thinking pattern of an alcoholic. The all or nothing approach. I couldn’t have one glass of wine, it had to be the whole bottle. Drinking in moderation didn’t exist in my world. So when it came to stopping, I had to eliminate drinking from my life. I was shutting the door on a lifestyle that had controlled and dictated my existence for far too long. In return, I received withdrawal pains, depression and loneliness that persevered for a year.
But still the question hung over my head like a noose, despite the fact that I was staying sober. I felt I was missing out on life, on enjoyment that others took for granted. I turned down invites to social get-togethers and parties, too afraid to admit the real reason behind it. I was ashamed of my drinking problem and even more ashamed of people finding out I was in AA. It seemed as if my future seemed bleak without alcohol around.
Working the 12 step program taught me not to predict the future. Not to imagine how a birthday, Christmas or New Year’s eve would be without a drink in my hand. To live in the present moment and just for today, I would not take a drink. I found my Higher Power in my first year of sobriety in the rooms of AA. Since I was never overly religious, I adopted spirituality into my life. The more spiritually aware I became, resilience unfolded, and my resolve to stay away from alcohol deepened.
Attending regular AA meetings helps me to stay grounded. It’s a constant reminder of how my life was before sobriety, and all the amazing things that have transpired since. I’ve had the best of times and the worst of times in those meetings. When my father passed on three years ago, it would have been so easy to have taken a drink to numb the pain. But I didn’t. Instead I prayed, confided in my sponsor, cried in meetings, shared my pain and picked up the pieces of my broken heart. All the while staying sober.
After nine years of abstinence from alcohol, I have the answer to that question. I can choose to drink at any point. Nothing and no one can stop me from doing so. The choice will always be mine, and the consequences too. I live for today. Today is beautiful without alcohol.