"Real Bad" Alcoholic
© The A.A.
Grapevine, Inc. - 1979
the age of thirty, I knew I was an alcoholic, but it took
another ten years to find the way to the front door of
AA. Only the real bad alcoholics had to go to AA. After
six months of daily meetings, I knew I, too, was one of
those “real bad” alcoholics.
those first meetings, eighteen months ago, there was a
man who had a saying, “They told me when I came
thatAAhas a wrench to fit every nut that walks through
the door.” That seemed humorous at the time, but
it couldn’t apply to me. Today, I’m grateful
there’s a wrench to fit every nut that walks through
the door, because I sure need awrench to fit me.
years in the seminary, followed by twenty years of daily
church attendance while I was building a seemingly prosperous
business, made me a tough nut to crack. Sure, I was an
alcoholic, but not such a bad case. Hadn’t I quit
drinking seven years before coming to AA? It didn’t
seem worth mentioning that in the meantime I had learned
how to get drunk on pills.
Twelve Steps are the key to getting that wrench to work
right. If the Steps won’t do the job, nothing ever
will. I have tried enough other programs of recovery -
spiritual, psychiatric, Oriental, mystical, and just plain
commonsensical - to know they don’t work for me.
AA is the last resort for someone who has finally reached
the desperation of a drowning man.
on in AA, I thought I had a dual problem, alcohol and
drugs. After so many years without a drink, the drink
problem seemed to be solved. It took a while to realize
that a handful of pills had the same effect as liquor
- oblivion. One day, it dawned on me: The pills had been
a substitute for alcohol. It was ridiculous to come out
of a three-day blackout from tranquilizers and pain pills
to pat myself on the back because I hadn’t taken
a drink- at least, as far as anyone could tell. There
were no empty booze bottles.
long as I accept in my innermost heart that I can never
again drink as normal men drink, I know I belong in AA
and must apply the Steps daily in order to live without
alcohol. I cannot use any drug or medication that affects
my mind or my emotions. Such drugs and medications will
lead me back to alcohol and death or insanity. My reprieve
is just for today, and only if I maintainmy spiritual
is not easy. I used to be an “expert” on spirituality.
Today, I am like a confused child, trying to learn about
true spirituality. In the first four Steps, I have come
to see how I deceived myself into thinking I had a strong
belief in God. People who believe in God don’t do
the things I did. Today, all I can do about spirituality
is go to meetings and read the Big Book and try to take
the Steps and ask God for help. The rest is up to Him.
I used to boast about being an alcoholic who had quit
drinking. One day, I bragged to someone who was in AA.
He dismissed my feat casually by saying. “Oh, you’re
just a dry drunk.” That was no compliment. Soon,
my friend zeroed in with an invitation to a meeting. I
went as a favor to him, or so I thought. For the next
seventeen months, it was one meeting or more nearly every
the disasters that have taken place since that first meeting
were ready to happen. It was as though I had made a snowball
high on a hill, and during the last eighteen months, I
have watched it grow and grow as it rolled slowly down
the hill to crush me. There were times when it seemed
the snowball might melt or roll off to the side, but it
didn’t. Today, I’m glad it didn’t. There
may have been no other way for me to learn what I needed
to learn. Perhaps the final crushing blow has come, and
I have hitmy bottom at last.
problems are of my own making. One of the high points
of my life is the day I began to understand that phrase
from the Big Book. Knowing my problems are of my own making
helps me to accept with some peace of mind the consequences
of my own actions.
am still finding out how sick I am. That discovery process
has been frightfully painful, but I am grateful for it.
There is no chance at recovery till a person sees how
badly he needs recovery, and how hopeless it is for him
to try to recover on his own.
the beginning, people used to say. “Keep coming
back. Things will get better.” I kept coming back,
and things have gotten better, but not in the way I thought
they would. I am definitely not more successful in all
areas of my life, as I thought I would be. When I cam
to AA, I had a fine job, a lovely, sophisticated wife,
a new $10,000 automobile, and a charming place to live.
After a year of sobriety, I was without wife, job, car,
or money, and was saddled with a hopeless pile of unpaid
debts. As if that was not enough, after seventeen months
of sobriety, as a result of certain actions before coming
to AA, I became a guest of the United States Government
as an inmate in the psychiatric unit of a maximum security
Federal penitentiary. All of this had to happen forme
to see how hopeless I am without the minute-by-minute
help from aHigher Power.
things better for me today? I didn’t have to drink
today. I have hope. There is light at the end of the tunnel,
though it sometimes is faint. When that light dims, there
are all those sober drunks in AA. They are living, breathing
proof that things do get better for those who work the
Steps and are willing to wait.