My Not-So-Secret Life 

At first it seemed that I was the person who was picked up and tossed around by an indescribable force of nature. Now I see that I have been the twister itself.

Sometimes, though, I imagine that I will absent-mindedly introduce myself this way at some other meeting, whether at church or in the community or anywhere. My secret will be out; my anonymity will be blown.

But really, what would I have lost? I'm not sure it's such a big secret anyway. And my experience might just help someone else.

By now, two years plus into recovery, I can tell my story more easily — not because it is so remarkable, but because it seems to have elements in common with the stories of people from all walks of life.

I began my drinking career my first weekend away at college. In the tradition of the school I attended, all the freshmen in my dorm gathered and drank, and drank, and drank. From there, I set my own pattern of working hard during the week and letting loose on the weekends.

So-called social drinking was my way to release the everyday pressures of life. For a lot of years it was fun.

Then it began to turn around and turn on me. Drinking itself became a pressure, or it added to the pressures I felt, but I could not get away from it. Even if I stopped drinking for six months or so, I would have my own little party and drink to celebrate my great accomplishment.

So when life threw me a real curve, I was set up for a fall, right off the side of the earth. Maybe that's not the best analogy, though. It does not go nearly far enough to explain the impact my drinking had on my family and others.

Think instead of being in the path of a big twister.

At first it seemed to me that I was the person who was picked up and tossed around by an indescribable force of nature. Now I see more clearly that I have been the twister itself, leaving so much destruction and disturbance in my wake.

Not all of this was because of the alcohol, but that certainly kept my life spinning faster and faster.

Finally, everything came crashing to the ground.

The day of reckoning started like too many others. I drank beer steadily from lunchtime on as I bounced from place to place. Scenes from that day run through my mind and none of it makes much sense. People stand out and experiences, too, but in a jumbled and foreboding way.

A man living under a bridge is still there in my memories. Another drunken street person, his eyes were so red, crying blood for tears. His name was Thomas.

At different points during that day, I was trying to help Thomas and the others under the bridge get food and clothing. It was a freezing cold day in January.

All the while I was drinking to their real misery and what I thought to be my own. I made it home that night, but I cannot say exactly how.

That day was the end and the beginning. Things had to give. I had lost control of my life, and I was about to lose everything that mattered to me.

The good thing to come out of this painful experience is that I started along the road to getting help for my problem. For that I am grateful each and every day.

My path of recovery has not been easy. I have tripped and fallen along the way. But I get up and try to keep going forward because I never want to go back.

My experience has convinced me that there is hope for every alcoholic. If there is hope for me, there has to be hope for everyone. And some of the things I have seen happen for others in recovery are truly the stuff of miracles.

So I wonder at times: Wouldn't it be nice if we could talk more openly about the life experiences of recovering alcoholics, in broader and broader circles?

How many more people might be encouraged to get help at an early age and early stage?

Our society has come to accept — or been forced to accept — so many other conditions of life, and that has made the world a better place. Why should society have trouble accepting a pretty likable group of recovering drunks who are trying to lead fulfilling, productive lives?

I hope that one day soon alcoholism will come to be seen as more of a mainstream malady of body, mind and spirit and will be treated that way. Then we can all come out into the light of the human condition, with individual weaknesses but strength in our mutual support. S

Editor's Note: To reach someone at Alcoholics Anonymous, call (804) 355-1212.

Opinions expressed on the Back Page are those of the writers and not necessarily those of Style Weekly.

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