Grateful Archives

My name is Peter and I am an alcoholic. I am part of the fellowship—one among many—but I am one. Telling my story seemed like a mountain I would never be able to climb. I dedicate my story to the many spiritual seekers who have touched my life in many great ways. These people have become my teachers. I am indebted to the fellows in my home group, Miracles in Progress, in Würzburg, Intergroup Bavaria, Continental European Region, the General Service Office in York, and to the fellows of A.A. Great Britain and A.A. Worldwide. This is in appreciation of their tireless efforts and for their inspiration in making possible a way of life for alcoholics everywhere to recover from alcoholism.

I have decided to tell my story, to share my experience, strength, and hope with others by not beating around the bush in bringing my story to light —something very difficult for me as a man.

I have recovered one day at a time since August 25,1999. I just didn’t know where to begin. I waited and waited and waited. Procrastination in its best form. Suddenly, the thought came to me: why not do something about it?  It was time to realize that I had come of age and make use of my past. When I was at boarding school, I quite often disturbed the lesson. I would be told to write out 100 times: “I should not disturb the lesson,” and “Look, listen, be quiet and learn what the teacher is explaining.”

What it was like: I had my first contact with alcohol when I was eight years old. In boarding school I was assigned to serve as an altar boy. I had to prepare the wine and the water for the priest’s ceremony. The smell of the wine attracted me somehow, and I realized that the priest was always much friendlier after the ceremony. There must be something to that wine, I thought. One day I put a few drops of it on a spoon and tried the wine. Just as I was lifting the spoon to my lips, the priest walked into the sacristy. The open bottle of wine was there right next to me on the table. He disapproved of what I was doing and from that day on, I was no longer an altar boy. I had lost my service position. That said, the few drops of wine had given me a nice, wonderful feeling in my innermost-self, taking away any worries I might have had. The heck with it – I was free from being an altar boy at last!

When I was at home over the school holidays, I experienced what happened to my mother after a long day of work. She poured herself a glass of cognac and asked me to give her a few moments of rest. She sat on the couch and proceeded to drink slowly, taking small sips. Finally, she looked up at me and, with an exclamation of delight, hugged me. At this very moment, I had the best mother I could imagine.

One day I tried my mother’s cognac when she had left the room. There was a small amount remaining in the glass. That wonderful feeling in my innermost-self came over me again.

In my time as an apprentice electrician I was never able to do what my colleagues did when we went out for a drink after work. They would drink one or two beers and then go home. Not so with me. I drank my first beer much faster than they did. That feeling again. I would order the second one much faster and was able to talk much better with them. When they left, I stayed in the pub. The abnormal physical reaction to alcohol had set in. “One drink leads to another.” After three and a half years, the time for my final exam had come. I was afraid that I would not be able to pass it, so I went out the night before and drank. That miraculous feeling of being without fear took the place of my worries. The result was that I had a big hangover and failed. I was given a second chance to repeat the exam after six months. I made the same mistake again and went out the night before. Failure again.

Serving with the Federal Boarder Guards for 12 years brought me back to sanity in some ways. Good orderly direction through orders is what I was given, but I realized that there were a lot of cravings I was unable to deal with. The day finished and “Johnny Walker” arrived. I served at the embassy in Moscow for one year, and that is where I learned how to drink vodka. What an experience! While there at the translator and interpreter school, I had more lessons in the pub next to the school than in the school itself. But I passed the exam despite having gone out drinking the night before. What progress!

I got a job in the hotel business. Alcohol had become my higher power. I started acting aggressively toward colleagues and toward society, too. In the end, I was called to order several times because I came to work completely drunk. Two written warnings did not help at all. I just kept on drinking. One day, I could not stand that way of living anymore and had the completely insane idea that life as a “skid rower” would be much better. I ended up in the gutter. I handed in my notice before the hotel management did it for me. In August 1999, even the skid rowers could not bear me anymore. They chased me away. All by myself and with a bottle of booze, I stumbled and fell flat on my back. Not able to move anymore, I cursed the world out and wished for the end.

I fell asleep, and when I woke up again, it was nighttime.  The thought came to me to finally ask for help. I was able to get on my knees again and crawl to the person’s house who had offered me her help, should I ever be willing to accept it.

What happened: She took me to her doctor the next day. He recommended that I attend an information meeting about alcoholism on the addiction ward in the psychiatric clinic in Munich and admit that I have a problem with alcohol. I was afraid to go there by myself. My girlfriend offered to go with me. When we arrived, the room was already filled with people. I decided to give it another try some other day.

The following day I had an appointment with the doctor. He asked me what had happened and I told him the truth. He suggested that I try it again and go back alone the following week. I did, and on August 25, 1999, I was admitted for detox at the clinic. That evening, three fellows of Alcoholics Anonymous told their personal stories and about the fellowship.

I heard my story in three different versions for the first time. In each story, I found myself and for the first time thought that I could do what they had done – recover from this fatal disease of alcoholism. They also told us about the A.A. meeting just across the hall from the addiction ward that took place each Sunday. I went to my first meeting the following week. I did not understand too much of what was shared but I was given a pocket-size Big Book in German as a gift. “Keep coming back,” they told me, and so I did.

I kept going to meetings and asking questions. The answers were always given and are still being given. After five weeks of detox I had to wait eight weeks to enter rehab. I continued going to meetings, and it really is grace that I did not drink again. Meetings and the love, as well as the fellows’ understanding, kept me from drinking.

Spending four months in rehab, I learned about alcoholism and how to live a life without alcohol. I am grateful that I started following suggestions. I am also grateful that I met my wife who spends her life with me now. Both of us help each other. I call it a blessing. In the last week of my rehab program, I had to go through what is known as “reality training”. I was blessed I still had a place to live. A friend who had helped me in the beginning of my recovery had taken care of it. She helped me so much that my life became manageable again. I was given a second chance at the hotel where I had worked before. After getting out, I went to more A.A. meetings. One day, at the German A.A. Kontaktstelle (central office), I met two English sailors at a meeting who told me that there were meetings in English as well. Since 2001 I have attended meetings in English. My home group was the International AA group in Munich until 2003.

One fellow started a Back to Basics meeting in his house over the course of four Sundays where we had coffee, cake, and a lot of fun. I asked him to help me work the steps, and he sponsored me until he left Germany. In the meetings of the Munich AA Group, I started doing service. I set up meetings, made coffee, put out literature, and served as greeter. My sponsor gave me suggestions, and I followed them. He reminded me that I should only fulfil the work of the position I was in, because I was trying to do everything by myself. I was a people pleaser and just wanted to attract others so they would praise me for my work. I found many friends in the meetings. One of the best friends was Dolores R. (bless her heart). She was the archivist for Intergroup Bavaria (previously Franconia Intergroup) and for the Continental European Region.

She tried to turn me on to archives work. I had always said that I would not be able to perform this position. But she kept on trying until she passed away. In 2003, I left Munich and went back to Bad Kissingen. I started attending meetings at the Würzburg AA group Miracles in Progress until I met one fellow who suggested I come to Schweinfurt and be part of the AA group, Where Pigs Fly, there. It was my home group until the US army left the town.

Most fellows in the group were American soldiers. In the end, there were only a few of us left. A Swedish fellow and a retired soldier both passed away. Two more fellows went back to the United States, and one went to work in Italy. At last, I was sitting in the meetings all by myself. The meeting in Schweinfurt closed, so I went back to the group in Würzburg, which is now my home group. I started to do service work for Intergroup Bavaria, organizing our annual round-up in the mountains. I served as registration officer, coffee maker, and was on the clean-up crew. I also created a yearly bookmark and name tag.  In 2006, I shared my experience, strength, and hope as the opening speaker. It was in this moment that I finally let go of the thought that I would ever be able to control my drinking again. To be honest, I was never able to practice controlled drinking and this will never change.

The round-up’s theme was “Freedom from Bondage”. I really admitted that I am powerless over alcohol and conceded to my innermost-self that I am an alcoholic. One fellow who is no longer with us helped me by sharing his stories with me in the evenings while we were sitting on the patio and looking up at the mountains.  Finally, I was going in the right direction, and feel I am still on this journey to a happy destiny, one day at a time.  It really is a miracle that I have never drunk again. I am grateful.

I realized that the mountains in my life are not all that treacherous. There is always a solution. I must open my eyes, look, listen, and put what I learn into action. Each moment can be my teacher.

What it is like now: I am willing to record the history of AA in our region. I am willing to attend the annual meeting of Regional Archivists in York. I am willing to attend our next CER Assembly meeting in Varna, Bulgaria. I am grateful that it only took 24 points to share my story.

In fellowship and faithful service,

Peter S.

CER Archivist