A Journey Begins with One Step
Hello, my name is Adrienne, and I am an alcoholic.
Before we get into the heart of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, I must tell my story because in the end that is all I really have to offer you.
I come from a family of alcoholics as so many of us do. Alcoholism is a family disease and where you find one, you will usually find many. My Mom was an alcoholic who really only drank in an out of control fashion for a few years. When I was about 9 years old, by the grace of God and the working of the Holy Spirit, my Mom was led to a rather new group called “Alcoholics Anonymous”. She took her sobriety seriously, and for years she was on jail duty, receiving calls at all hours of the night to come to the jail and talk to someone in the drunk tank.
My Father was probably what we in AA call a “dry drunk” - someone who exhibits the character defects usually associated with an alcoholic, but without the outward manifestation of excessive drinking. Since it is against our tradition to breach someone’s anonymity without permission, it is sufficient to say that my family harbored more drunks than sober folks.
I was raised not only with a fine Catholic education through the 12th grade, but also with the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. As I tell my fellow drunks, “knowledge is not always protection against alcohol.” In the book, “Alcoholics Anonymous,” it says, “Remember that we deal with alcohol, cunning, baffling, powerful! Without help it is too much for us. But there is One who has all power. That One is God. May you find Him now!”
Sparing the readership all the gory details, this is my story. I had my first drink around the age of 15. There is no doubt that I did not relate to alcohol as my friends did, but that was something I would not learn until 30 years later. I continued to drink through college because that’s just what we all did. We worked hard, studied hard, and partied hard.
After college, I went on to many different professions – all of which were chock full of party-type people. Without being aware I was doing so, I surrounded myself with people who made it possible to drink without being conspicuous. There were also periods of time, sometimes years, when I didn’t drink very much at all. But like all alcoholics, I had one goal and that was to get drunk. Reaching the goal sometimes required a few months or even a few years, but sooner or later that’s what was waiting at the end of the road.
I met my husband in my early 30’s, and during the first 5 years of our marriage, we cared for my Mom who was dying of cancer. During that time our drinking started to escalate ever so slightly. My Mom, who had always been my 12th Step rock, died when I was 36 and the drinking cranked up at an alarming rate.
Too often, a non-alcoholic visualizes alcoholics as those folks lying about on the streets or sleeping at a shelter. For some, that is indeed the reality of their disease. For the majority, it is not. Most of us are your neighbors, co-workers, and friends. We don’t miss work or get arrested. Women can be particularly good at hiding this affliction.
By the time I was 44, I had a suspicion there might be a problem. I started to do all the things we drunks do to find a way to keep drinking. I switched brands of gin and set limits on when I could have my first drink each day. I even decided that maybe I should only be having one martini every day. The fact that my glass was the size of an industrial mop pail didn’t ring any bells. How could I possibly have a problem since I was only having one drink?
My husband had a very high profile student that had flown in for a week of intense guitar lessons. Since the student was spending so much money, I decided that at least one nice home- cooked meal was in order. I was home alone preparing ribs in the pressure cooker and having my “one” drink. The next thing I remember was waking up the next morning. I had no recollection of cooking those ribs, and had no clue if I had cleaned up the kitchen or even how I had managed to get myself to bed.
I knew at that very moment that I had a serious problem and I needed help. When I got to work my first call was to the AA main office to find a meeting. The next day, July 21, 1990, I attended my first AA meeting and have never had another drink since.
Was I sober? Absolutely not! I stopped drinking in order to get sober. Through the grace of God, the Catholic Church, and the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, I embarked on a journey of conversion and have remained alcohol-free one day at a time. Was my drinking accompanied by the ugliness and desperation that goes with all out of control drinking? You bet! But those details will remain between God, my confessor, and myself.
All journeys start with a first step and our first step is:
We admitted we were powerless over alcohol…that our lives had become unmanageable.
"I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out."
Maybe alcohol is not your problem. Maybe it is food, sex, a deficiency in charity or hope, or any of the myriad things that destroys our spiritual life. Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans that we can do nothing without God.
Disclaimer: I can’t make decisions for others or tell anyone what they must do to improve their life (other than not to drink.) I can only tell my story and hope someone will receive some benefit. If you are one of those people who harbor antipathy towards the organization of Alcoholics Anonymous please feel free to not visit.