Done Drinkin

In early june of 1989 I ended up at an AA meeting, against my better judgement I might add. I didn't know it at the time but I had been delivered into the loving arms of the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous by the God of second chances, and I was in desparate need of a second chance back then. And so my sober journey began. Since then I've laughed, cried, celebrated and suffered. But never alone. Here are some things I've heard around the rooms.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

A Pair of Chronic relapsers

I thought about Tim and Elena today. At a meeting a newcomer was totally baffled by his repeated failures to stay sober, even going to meetings. I met Tim when I was 6 months sober and he was even newer, and Tim was not getting it, In fact he was not staying sober and being a royal pain at the same time.Tim would stash beer in the bushes outside the church where we held our meetings, he’d call up drunk pleading for a ride to a meeting and not be there when I went to get him. Worse yet, he’d call up drunk for a ride, “This time I’m serious” he’d say, and when I got there he’d end up burning a hole in my car seat or some other equally annoying thing.

Finally after a couple of years of this he disappeared, and no one knew what happened to him, although we all suspected the worst. Then one night I was chairing a meeting and in he came, late as usual. I remember thinking to myself “here we go again.” And at the end of the meeting when we were giving out anniversary chips he got up and took a chip for one year. I about fell out of my seat. After the meeting I went up to him and said “You bastard, you went and got sober without my help!” Tim’s 13 years sober now and that whiny twit has blossomed into a real friend.

As for Elena, well she made Tim seem like an AA poster child. I remember going up to her one night after she’d relapsed yet again and telling her “Elena, you are unclear on the concept here, it’s one anniversary chip not 365 1 day chips!” She failed to see the humor in that. One night she showed up yet again, but this time her porch light was on, and Elena became a loved and valued member of my home group. Four years later she went to a doctor complaining of a sore back and was dead in 6 months.And then probably the most extraordinary thing I’ve ever witnessed in Alcoholics Anonymous happened. Elena, a woman who could not get sober, who despaired of ever putting the booze down, showed us how to die sober.

So I think of Tim and Elena a lot when I see a new person struggling. And if they let, me I tell them about my friends.

God Bless Us All

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

I'd Love to Hear From You

Your experience, strength, and hope sheds sunlight on my sobriety. Please click on profile, then email, or comment on any post.

God Bless Us All

In Preparation To Receive A Gift

One evening in January, 1984 I was sitting propped up against the wall of the apartment I had to vacate the next morning, a half empty bottle of scotch on the counter that I was fixing to finish when there was a knock on the door. My wife had left me and we’d sold all our earthly possessions and split the money, so I had $250. And I could take all I had left, put it in a really old beat-up car and have room for passengers. My life 16 years out of high school was not a testament to the American Dream.

When I answered the door, the husband of one of my wife’s coworkers was standing there. He asked me if I thought I might have a problem with my drinking. I remember looking at my sorry pile of possessions in a couple of cardboard boxes, looking back at him and saying No, now beat it.

By December of that year the wife was back, I had the best job I’d ever had, and I was living in a condo on the Gulf of Mexico with Gulf views from every window. My drinking was accelerating but try telling me I had a problem then when I was on top of my game, living life large.

Five years later the wife was gone again, this time for good. I had traded my seaside condo for a dingy room, and my life was filled with despair, fear, vodka, and thoughts of suicide. When I look back on it I sometimes feel that I’m watching a movie of someone else’s life, or it was all a bad dream. The life I’ve been granted in sobriety stands in such stark contrast to my active alcoholism that it couldn’t be just one life. And had you known me at the end you would have said “That poor wretch is going to die.

”When I was just three months sober I heard a man share something I’ve never forgotten. “I was laying in a gutter one rainy night, again, ankles oozing pus. And I’ll never forget the disgust on the faces of the people standing over me. What no one knew at the time was that I was in preparation to receive a gift.” He was 22 years sober at the time.AA doesn’t give up on anyone, and there’s no case too difficult for God.

God Bless Us All

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Angels, Slightly Scruffy

I did not arrive in AA based on the power of my resume, nor did I come to AA looking to fill a sudden lull in my social calendar. What happened was I was bleeding from the bowels, throwing up blood, and shaking like a leaf. I had no food, no shelter, and no transportation. I was unemployed and unemployable. So in early June of 1989 I had become a man in desperate need of angels.

I suppose had I lived a Mother Theresa kind of life my angels would’ve had white robes, halos, and harps. But that’s not the way I lived, so I got the members of Alcoholics Anonymous. And although you are a rather scruffy bunch, perhaps the largest group of malcontents and social inepts ever collected under one roof, you are angels indeed.

Within two weeks of attending meetings I had food, shelter, transportation, a job and some walking around money. Anyone who had witnessed this incredible improvement in my life would have seen the transformative power of the fellowship at work. I, on the other hand, arrived at the conclusion that AA wasn’t working for me and I decided to get drunk. And I had this epiphany at an AA picnic. Along came an angel cleverly disguised as an old Scotsman, sober just one year after a relapse, who proceeded to jaw my ears off for an hour or so. I remember thinking that as soon as I could dump this bore I was headed to a bar. He droned on and on until finally I said I had to run, and as I left the park I knew that if I turned left I was going to drink, turn right and I was going to a meeting.

Had David not talked so long I would have had too much time before the meeting to think, but instead I found myself pulling into the parking lot of the AA clubhouse that still houses my home group nearly 17 years later. Over the years the Good Lord has intervened subtly in my life again and again, for purposes that only became clear later. Sometimes I’ve been in places I had no intention of going just hours earlier, and been someone else’s angel. I’ve greeted a newcomer at his first meeting who twelve years later became my angel during a dark, dark time in my sobriety. And so today, when I greet someone new, I think to myself, are you the one? Are you my new angel?

God Bless Us All

Sought Through Prayer And Medication/Audio

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Superstitions Traditions And Set Ideas/Audio

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Friday, May 26, 2006

Superstitions, Traditions, And Set Ideas

I was about a year sober when a grizzled old timer growled out in a meeting, “It takes 5 years in AA to get your brains back, and 10 years to learn how to use them.” I remember thinking to myself, “You must be pretty damn slow ‘cause I’m getting this deal.” By the time I was 8 years sober I was praying he was right! I had arrived in AA with a view of how the world works formed by the life of insanity, despair, and delusion I had been living. It was all wrong, and if I was going to survive I was going to have to discard the mental and spiritual baggage I had arrived with.

But how do you rid yourself of superstitions, traditions, and set ideas that in many cases you don’t even know you’ve got? How do you let go of old ideas absolutely, when all you think you’ve got is a drinking problem? My first home group was infested with old timers, and I remember Bill G, whose story was in the 2nd Edition of the Big Book (“He Sold His Shoes”) telling me that all I needed to be able to do was count the fingers on one hand. Don’t drink, go to meetings, read the book, clean house, and help others. Of course I wasn’t looking for so elegantly simple a solution at the time, but today those suggestions keep me sober.

I no longer think of AA as group therapy for a drunk on a budget. Rather, we are a fellowship determined to do God’s work, a work we are uniquely suited for, work that restores the sufferers to God’s creation. I believe that God smiles when we reach out to the newcomer, when we carry the message of hope and redemption embodied in our 12 steps.

God Bless Us All

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Sought Through Prayer And Medication

Lord get me out of this one and I swear I’ll never drink again! So many of my friends tell me their foxhole prayers, and their subsequent forgetfulness regarding their hasty pledge. I don’t remember ever thinking I had better stop. What I remember was trying to moderate my drinking, praying to the wife of my understanding, “Baby, I promise to cut down on the booze and show up at home on the same day I left. Really, it’ll be different from now on!” Then….one drink and I’d be in motion again, getting drunk in Miami, coming to in Seattle, and weeks later someone would find my car in Toronto when I’d been searching for it in Phoenix. Living drunk is exhausting.

Today the 11th Step is the rock of my daily life, a constant guide through good times and bad. And the 11th Step prayer is a precise measure of the level of my acceptance of the permanent and legitimate satisfactions of right living. When the deal inherent in the 11th Step prayer feels good, when giving rather than receiving, loving rather than being loved feels right, then all is at peace in my world. When my attitude is “Yeah right, but what about the cash?” I know I’m off the beam, restless, irritable, and discontent.

One of the great promises in our literature guarantees spiritual progress, not just at the beginning of our sober journeys, but for as long as we embrace the principles of the 12 Steps as best we can in our daily lives. What a precious gift that is for a drunk like me, who came to the rooms just trying to put a few fires out.

God Bless Us All

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Pink Clouds

I was at my home group the other night when for the second time in as many weeks, a newcomer shared that someone had told them “Oh, you’re just on a pink cloud.” Frankly that just frosts my butt when I hear that. We have a responsibility to the new man or woman to lift them up, to encourage them to stay the course, to inspire them with hope that a better life lies ahead. Then some grouch comes along and stomps all over their newfound joy. ARRRGGGHHHH!

If there is one trait I’ve found consistently in the old-timers I’ve been privileged to know, it’s their abiding love for the sober life, their fierce passion for recovery. Their pink clouds.

I got this email today from a friend in the Florida Keys:

Hi John,
Always good to hear how it was....but this is how it is now.
Today I went out boating and snorkeling with a friend in AA. We snorkeled lots and talked about how beautiful it was to be sober and enjoying a storm coming in. I speared a hog snapper for dinner...and I thank the fish Gods, the AA God and just thank God for sobriety!
AND I get to take a new person to the 5:30 meeting.
Does it get any better?


She’s approaching 20 years sober and if that’s not a pink cloud it’ll do until a real one comes along. Our literature talks about having our head in the clouds and feet firmly planted on the ground, and we don’t help a newcomer with foot planting while we’re busy knocking their head out of the clouds.

God Bless Us All

Monday, May 22, 2006

This Too Shall Pass

I found this story on a British AA site.

A king called all of his wise men and counselors together for a meeting. He addressed them and said, "I want you to go and think, read, and research. Consult the wisest and most learned men in the land. Spare no expense."

"I want you to find the ONE statement that will get me through all situations in life. Whether I am on top of the world or in the pits, find that statement." "I don't want to learn long and complicated philosophies. I want one simple statement. Find it or write it; I don't care, just bring me the statement."

The men left and consulted for months. They finally returned and handed the King a scroll. The King unrolled the scroll. On it was written four words.

"THIS TOO SHALL PASS" That was it.

The wise men explained. When you are on top of the world, that is but a fleeting
moment, things change, always remember, this too shall pass. When you are in the pits, all nights are followed by day, at your lowest moments remember also, this too shall pass.

All external circumstances and material things change, so matter what your circumstances, remember,”


When I read it I wrote the woman who posted it, telling her how much it had touched me, that I so clearly remember early on how I believed that the pain I was feeling right then was going to last forever. And she replied,

I so agree about that story, it was how it was for me as well, it was very hard to understand when even after I had quit drinking I was still unhappy and confused for a time. And more than a bit angry! Emotions were so very raw during that early time, and exaggerated as well.

Gradually as I worked the steps and prayed and made the changes to my day to day life, things evened out, but man alive what a ride till they did! I'm grateful that you're done drinking too, my friend. Thanks for taking the time to let me know you found what I shared helpful, it makes a world of difference, helping each other is what it's all about.

In Fellowship,

Why Me?

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Why Me?

I was holed up in a rented room, with a blanket taped around the only window. And when the dawn came there’d be a little light trickle in around the edges and I’d wonder why I was still alive. People died drinking the amounts of booze I was doing, why couldn’t I?When I’d come to in the morning I’d pour a tumbler full of vodka sitting it on an end table in my little hovel, and then I’d get down on my knees to sip that first drink because I knew that I’d spill it if I tried to drink it the normal way and alcohol had become the most precious substance in my life.

It wasn’t supposed to end up this way. I was raised in a pretty normal family, not quite Ozzie and Harriet but close. There was no booze in our house, no physical or mental abuse. Dad worked and Mom stayed home with my sister and I, and we went to church a lot. During high school I was good at athletics, mediocre at class, and while I didn’t have a lot of friends I was by no means a loner. After I got sober and heard all the stories of horrific childhoods I used to wonder, why me? I could see how a kid raised in total chaos would turn to booze, but what was my excuse?

Today that’s no longer important. Some times I think newcomers seem so anxious to know why they drank because they believe if they knew they could fix it and safely drink again. I don’t need to know why I’m an alcoholic, I might have caught it from a dirty toilet seat for all that matters. What’s critically important is that I never forget what I am. If I can stay in acceptance of the fatal nature of my dilemma, I might remain inclined to work on the solutions offered me in our beautiful fellowship.

God Bless Us All

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Children of Chaos/Audio

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A Peculiar Mental Twist/Audio

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Children of Chaos

I didn't realise until years after getting sober just how turbulent my drinking years had been. While I was living those years what I was experiencing seemed normal. The continual cascade of failed relationships, getting into and then back out of trouble, lost jobs and unreasonable cops. It was just what went on in my life and I had no idea there was another way. I remember thinking after I had just gotten out of yet another trick bag, "I am really good at getting out of trouble". It never occured to me that in order to get skilled at getting out of trouble, you have to be in trouble a lot. Like any other skill, it only improves with constant practice.

For a long time I loved my alcoholic lifestyle, the scheming and scamming, always looking for angles and shortcuts, gaming the system. Rules and civil behavior were for peasants and losers.
But eventually all that remained was tension, fear, and unrecognized anxiety. And I arrived in Alcoholics Anonymous a child of chaos. I had been sober awhile and I heard a speaker share that he had spent his entire drinking career with a feeling of impending doom and it really hit hard. So I went up to him and told him that was the wayI had lived, "John" he said, "Do you know what that feeling of impending doom was"? "No" I replied, "What was it"? "It was impending doom".

Today I cherish the serenity that accompanies sobriety, the absence of chaos and drama. I was sitting next to a newcomer a while ago and she was complaining that there was nothing to do, that sober seemed really boring. I smiled. "You're not experiencing boredom, it's called calm".

God Bless Us All

Friday, May 19, 2006

A Peculiar Mental Twist

The best description I ever heard of a normal drinker is a guy who can work all afternoon in the yard under a hot, sweltering sun then walk inside, open the refrigerator, grab a can of beer in one hand, a cola in the other, and drink the one that's coldest. I'd have never done that.

You'd think that after 17 years sober and thousands of meetings my thinking about drinking would've changed. I was sitting at a reception one afternoon, a few years sober, and a couple came to my table and as they were sitting down the wife was grumpily saying to her husband, "I told her not to put that much scotch in my drink!" And the husband replied, " That's okay, just let it sit while the ice melts." Several things immediately zipped through my mind. First, you can't put too much scotch in a drink. Next came the thought, this lady is mad at a bartender that I would have followed through the gates of hell (and probably did). And finally, real alcohol abuse is letting a drink sit while melting ice dilutes the scotch!!

I need to remember that I still have a peculiar mental twist regarding alcohol. Normal drinking holds no allure for me. Show me how to drink like a pig and pay no consequences, now there's a program I'd have signed up for!! Normal drinking is boring. As for me, I found a fifth of scotch and another man's woman enormously entertaining. Normal drinkers do strange things. They have a couple of drinks and then they might do it again a week or month later..... or not. And if they do get drunk the experience is so unpleasant they never do it again. Normal drinkers don't have to exert any effort to drink normally, and it never occurs to them to do something to control their drinking because their drinking is never out of control.

If I can remember that I don't think like normal drinkers I stand a chance to continue my sober journey.

God Bless Us All

Thursday, May 18, 2006

I'd Love to Hear back From You

Please feel free to make comments by clicking on the comments icon.....I'd truly value hearing about your experience, strength, and hope. Or email me by clicking on "view my complete profile" to the right of the page and then on email..

God Bless Us All

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Snatched From the Jaws of the Monster

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Snatched From the Jaws of the Monster

I had been drinking a 1.75 of vodka a day and at the end I was bleeding from the bowels,throwing up blood, and shaking so hard I couldn't get toothpaste on a toothbrush. I was homeless, without food, and unemployable. And totally alone. I had pushed everyone I could out of my life and the rest had fled for their own safety.

After proccessing this information, I arrived at the conclusion that I was suffering from a cash flow crisis, so I decided to scam my Dad out of some money. Again. And this set in motion a chain of events that delivered me to my first meeting of Alcoholcs Anonymous. I didn't find out till several years later, but my dad was in charge of the employee assisstance plan at his work, and while he wasn't a drunk, he knew where to send one. I'll never forget him sitting across the living room of the house he was going to let me use, yelling at me like I was 13 years old, not realising I wasn't nearly that mature. " You can stay here but if I find out there's booze in this house you're gone"! And then the really bad news..."You'll go to AA meetings or you're gone too"!

That night my dad did something not many fathers get to do, he gave life to his son a second time. Even though I arrived at my first meeting as the direct result bof a scam gone bad, the miracle happened for me and I haven't had a drink since. Destined to suffer an ugly death, snatched from the jaws of the monster, I ended up doomed to the good life.

God Bless Us All

The Insanity Defense

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The Insanity Defense

Over the years I've heard thousands of relapse stories and they all had one thing in common. Every relapse began with either a dramatic fall-off in meetings or they stopped going at all. I have a pet theory I'd like to tell you about. Most people believe that things get crazy if an alcoholic drinks again, which of course is true. But the book says that what actually happens is that the insanity returns and we drink again. We are in full blown relapse, beyond human aid, and we haven't picked up the drink yet.

I remember as a newcomer getting chills at hearing so many relapse stories in meetings, so I asked my sponsor "what's the deal with that, and what's the point of this if you drink again"? He told me to go up to those people after the meeting and ask them what they were doing before they drank again, and then don't do that. So I go to meetings. A lot of meetings. Meetings have become my personal insanity defense, and it's at meetings that I hear the things I need to be doing to stay sober. I've never had a clerk at the corner convenience store ask me what step I'm on, no one at Dairy Queen tells me to work the steps.

I suppose, altho I seriously doubt it, that there is such a thing as too many meetings. But there is for sure such a thing as too few meetings. The problem is, that number is a mystery, no one knows for sure how few meetings are going to get 'em drunk. So if you're going to screw up your meeting schedule do too many.

And finally, staying in the meetings is as much about responsibility to the newcomer as it is personal sobriety. If all those people who sobered up before me had taken a hike with their newfound toys, who would have been there to guide me at the start of my sober journey? Gratitude in recovery is manifested in service, and grateful alcoholics never descend into the insanity that precedes relapse.

God Bless Us All

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Service Gladly Rendered/Audio

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Stepping Out/Audio

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God As I Misunderstood Him/Audio

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Delusions Smashed/Audio

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