THE FIRST DAYS--AND THE LAST DRINK
First, a moment of prayerful silence for all our friends in harm's way in Texas and elsewhere.
I've been looking at my own daily log which a counselor told me to write. It was begun several days before I stopped drinking, before my first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. Had I not kept a written accounting then, my feelings, behaviors, and observations as a beginner, would have been lost. I'd have forgotten what a difficult time it was--34 years ago last March--for my wife, two young children, and me.
Because--just moments ago--I relived those early, first days of not drinking, I come again to the realization of the TRUE miracle which happened to me. I'm shaking my head now, wondering how in the world did I stay sober? Without my knowledge or desire, God brought me here to you people in AA, and you, and He, (and later, me) began the work of trimming. Layer-by-layer, one-day-at-a-time, the fear, the lying, the total selfishness, one moment, the huge ego, next moment, the deadening low self esteem, the 'attitude', the hatred, which was ME. The first phase of this took 15 years.
Why so long? Because I did everything wrong. Well, not everything--I stayed alive, and stayed sober! "All in God's time", is now my excuse for being an AA deviant, during those early years. Step one I took to heart, because there was no way I could NOT know something was seriously amiss, my life had somehow gotten all out of kilter. So much promise, and no product. I had met a catholic priest at 1973 Christmas midnight mass, as I tumbled down the altar steps, wearing dark glasses. While in 'protective' mode, I held high my violin and bow--with which I had been playing "Silent Night" as part of the pre-ceremony music. Yes, I was drunk out of my mind.
Father Owen, the non-alcoholic priest, as it turned out, was also the drug-and-alcohol-abuse-counselor at our County Health Clinic. He insisted, in 1974, that I visit him as a patient, twice each week. Each visit cost me the price of a quart of cheap Vodka. He "tapered me off" of alcohol , whittling my daily maintenance diet of vodka to one pint, only 16 little oz. Well, I never got used to that.
You might think that, as a bartender, I'd have had trouble staying sober during those darkest of my early days as a member of AA. Not a problem, I was too busy, and used the foolishment of my heavy-drinking customers as my guide to going dry.
Saturday March 16, I had the worst day of my whole life, fighting the urge to drink (remember, I was only 'allowed' one pint of Vodka), using sheer will power. It did not occur to me to ask God for help--He and I had been personally on the 'outs' for many years. I thought I might die.
And I SURE AS HELL did not fathom that two days later I'd have my last swallow of mind altering alcohol two minutes before midnight. Three days later would find me sitting in a room with 15 chairs and 20 drunks, 19 of whom were holding lit cigarettes in each hand! Cough, cough! Welcome to my first Beginners' Meeting! It was borring--BORRRRING! All they talked about was some steps. Who needs this crap. And cake and cookies--WAIT! Are those chocolate chip?
My journal entry for March 19, 1974: "Midnight--1st AA meeting over. Will try again next week w the non-smokers---they have GOT to be smarter! Still no drink, in day #2 now" (after midnight). They told me "One day at a time." I thought, "Bull Shit!"...and yet, in my log book, I SURE KEPT TRACK of 'how many days', 'how many hours'; EVERY day, EVERY hour! But I could not understand "One Day At A Time" coming from these people. They were so confident, so happy, so well-groomed, eating stale chocolate chip cookies and yesterday's doughnuts, drinking gallons of coffee. I slept a LOT, and dreamed a LOT. Dreamed of booze, dreamed of drinking it. dreamed of being very drunk. Woke up. Nothing! Still shaking. Still sweating. Still crazy. Still "tasting" the alcohol, even though I had not been drinking! My 'plan' was to enjoy ONE MORE drunk in June of 1974. My wife and children went away for two weeks to Cleveland, OH. I was FREE! FREE! Get me a couple of those sick AA girls I saw giving me the eye, and let's PARTEEEE!
Something kept holding me back from my plan. (Looking back,. this was the first "turning point" of which I was aware.) I, who had not made a personal telephone call in many a year--me, I--picked up the phone and dialed Tim F. It was 9 PM and he was at my house in a few minutes. I cried. I surrendered, in a fashion. And I knew I would never drink again, no matter what.
All this stuff is reported in my journal that year. It was still some huge length of time before I realized that NOT doing something is NOT enough. I had to DO something. That will have to wait for another day. But there I was, and here I am. God is not letting go of me, of that I'm certain.