Tonight, I will join a group of friends who are as much an important part of my life as my wife and other loved ones.
At some point, I will speak:
Hello, my name is Doug and I’m an alcoholic. It has been eighteen years — to the day — since my last drink.
I will pick up a bronze coin — a chip — that notes 18 years of sobriety and I will carry it in my pocket for the next 12 months, replacing the 17-year chip that has been a constant companion for the past year.
That chip means more to me than any award, decoration or medal that hangs on the wall at home.
I will tell my story about 31 years of drinking — from age 15 when I took that first sip of Cleophus Sowers’ moonshine on a dirt road near Willis in 1963 to 1994 when — age 46 — I walked into St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Arlington, Virginia, to attend my first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous.
I will talk about the events that led up to my decision to take that first step. I will not discuss them here. Like Las Vegas, what happens in AA stays in AA. It’s called Alcoholics Anonymous for a reason. I decided to break my anonymity many years ago and go pubic about my battle with single malt scotch, tequila and a host of other “adult beverages.” Doing so is an action that AA neither endorses nor condones. For many, the struggle with the beast of addiction is best handled in private, in the company of fellow travelers.
But if writing about my experiences reaches one person — just one — and convinces them to seek help through recovery, then going public is worth it. I’m not proud of my 31 years of drinking. It’s something I learned to accept and I’ve also learned to focus out of the good things that came from those years. The love and support of my wife is one. So are other things I can’t discuss here.
I am proud of 18 years of sobriety. It’s not a battle I’ve fought alone. Amy, an ever-loving and ever-supportive wife, stuck with me through 15 years of drinking and remains my solemate today. She and a circle of close friends arranged a series of events that led me to accept the fact that I needed help and to make the decision — that I could only make myself — to take that first step towards recovery.
Today, her support and love helps keep me on the road to recovery. So does the support of my friends in my “home” group of AA and other friends in meetings that I attend in other communities and in cities and towns that I visit.
I remain a recovering alcoholic. have not beaten the beast. I am not “cured.” There is no cure for the disease of addiction. There is only recovery and recovery is an ongoing battle, one that continues — as the tradition says — one day at a time. I know that any day can bring one event, one moment of weakness or one irresistible temptation that can end 18 years of success and start the whole process over again.
I pray that does not happen.
I work my ass off each and every day to try and make sure it does not happen.
But the beast is there, lurking, waiting and hoping for his chance to pounce.
He never sleeps. He never blinks. He never takes a vacation or a holiday.
He just waits for that once chance.
It’s my ongoing, day-to-day task to make sure that chance never comes.