by Carina H.
I entered the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous a few months before my 22nd birthday. I did not come to AA knowing that I was an alcoholic or that I could not control my drinking and that I was powerless over alcohol. I also had not lost a family, a house, a job, a car, and all those other things I thought you had to lose to be a “real” alcoholic. But something was terribly wrong in my life. I felt lost, lonely, frightened, empty, and dead on the inside.
When I started drinking, though, that was different. I began to really drink at the age of 18. From my first drunk on I loved what alcohol did for me. Drinking gave me confidence. It turned me into an adventurous, witty, and funny young woman who could do anything she wanted. Drinking made me finally feel like myself and most importantly, it took away all my emotional pain, the constant noise in my head, and the feeling that something was awfully wrong with me. When I drank, life was okay.
At some point, however, I began to notice that alcohol had lost its marvelous effect on me. I would go out and drink, get drunk, and know that by now I should be feeling something. But I was not anymore. All those horrible feelings and this crazy head were still there, and even worse, instead of getting relief from it, they only grew stronger. Desperately trying to get back that sense of ease and comfort I got from drinking, I began doing more and more things that I had told myself I would never do.
After a particularly horrible night I found myself sitting on a bedroom floor and a voice in my head suddenly said, “Something is terribly wrong. Ssomething awful has happened and this is not what your life was supposed to be.” Shortly after this night I had another experience like that. As I was staring into a bathroom mirror one morning, out of nowhere, deep inside of me, something said, “You are an alcoholic”.
I got to my first meeting confused, frightened and not knowing what else to do. I did not really understand anything that was shared that night but I felt there was a level of friendship, a love, and an understanding amongst the people in these rooms that made me think “whatever they have, I want this”. So I kept coming back to meetings, day after day.
The personal stories people shared allowed me to learn that I suffer from a physical, mental and spiritual disease. I identified when people talked about their mental obsession with alcohol, and once having taken a drink not being able to stop because of a physical craving for more. I identified when people shared about their crazy minds, and about the selfishness and the self-centeredness that drives their thinking. And I also identified when people shared about that “hole-in-the-soul” feeling, and that alcohol used to take all this away. I realized that alcohol had always been my solution to a disease that lives within me until the solution stopped working.
But luckily for me, these AA members did not just help me to identify but also showed me a solution: a spiritual program of action. Absolutely convinced that I could not go on living anymore the way I was, I was willing to try anything. I asked another sober woman to sponsor me and she took me through the Twelve Steps of AA. She told me to get a home group, to start doing service and to call people who have less time than I had. Now, these are all actions I would not normally do and I could not see how they would keep me sober. But it worked. And not only did I stay sober, day after day, I also began to feel hope. My crazy head began to calm down and I began to feel that I belonged somewhere and that I had a place in this world.
Through the 12 step program, I was given another shot at life and I no longer had to live with this horrible pain only alcohol could still. AA has introduced me to a way of living I did not know existed or that I would even want. Besides the externals that have come into my life as a result of showing up for my responsibilities on a daily basis, AA has opened me up to the world out there and the people in it. I feel that the greatest gift for a self-centered alcoholic like me besides being relieved of the obsession to drink, it to be relieved of this horrible obsession with self that made me drink in the first place, and to be able to help someone else. Today I can participate in the world, knowing that I have a primary purpose and that I no longer need alcohol as a solution to my life. This, however, is only possible as long as I use the solution the AA program offers me.
This means that I am an active member, doing service in my home group, in our intergroup and also for our region, and I take other women through the steps. Participating in AA in these ways is crucial to my recovery, as it not only helps me to stay sober but I get a chance of paying back this gift of sobriety and life that has been given to me. AA and sober members were there for me, not only when I first needed it, but continuing on into today. So now it is my turn to be there for a newcomer who needs AA and to give them the same chance of recovery that I have had.