There was something seriously wrong with me. I was deeply unhappy, afraid of the world, resentful of other people, and blamed everyone but myself for my problems. I wasn’t eating, I spent much of my day in tears, I was consumed by thoughts that the world would be better off without me… oh, and I was drinking. A lot. Funny to say in hindsight, but at the time, the drinking felt like a background problem. What my real problem was, everyone agreed, was that I was mentally ill.
So I went to therapy, I joined groups, I tried a variety of treatment centers, and I was prescribed a whole lot of meds. The doctors I saw gave me every diagnosis in the book. Mood disorders, psychosis, personality disorders, they tried it all. But nothing worked. In therapy and in treatment for mental illness, I learned coping skills and crisis survival skills and interpersonal skills. But it didn’t make a difference. I was lower than I had ever been and I felt completely hopeless.
In despair, I drank too much one evening and attempted suicide. The last thing I remember is lifting the wine bottle I was drinking from. I woke up in the emergency room. My husband had found me and taken me to the hospital. I was lucky to be alive but I didn’t feel that way.
So the cycle started again: I was shipped off to a treatment program for mood disorders. But something was different this time. In this program, before prescribing me any medication, the doctor asked how much alcohol I was drinking. When I told him about the blackouts and the cravings and the sneaking and hiding, he simply nodded and explained that none of my many medications could work as long as I was drinking so heavily. He also assigned me to a substance abuse group, where I met other people who struggled to control their drinking. Sometimes an outside speaker from AA would visit to share their story.
I was drawn to these speakers – they had something I wanted, a sense of serenity. The spirituality they talked about felt like something I had been missing my entire life. I couldn’t believe what they were offering: a life of fellowship, integrity, and spiritual connection. All I had to do was take the first step and admit I was an alcoholic.
I’ve heard others says the first step is the hardest, and that was my experience too. But it was also freeing to finally know what was wrong with me: I was a garden variety alcoholic. Once I was able to accept that, the program of action was crystal clear. I needed to find a sponsor and go through the steps.
I still go to therapy and take my prescribed medications, but it’s the program of Alcoholics Anonymous that keeps me honest and healthy. Every day, I make time to pray, meditate, go to a meeting, write a gratitude list, and talk to another alcoholic. And it’s these activities that not only keep me sober, but keep me sane.
Today I am a productive member of society. I have a good job, I’m a loving wife, and I take time to be of service to the program that finally pulled me out of a nearly fatal tailspin. Thank you AA, for helping me keep it simple.