Later today, I will meet with friends new and old in a windowless room in the New River Valley. We will drink a lot of coffee and many will take breaks outside to smoke.
At some point in the evening, I will walk to the front of the room, face the group of young and old and say:
Hi, my name is Doug and I’m an alcoholic.
I’ve been sober exactly 14 years. I took my first step with Bill W. on June 6, 1994.
Those of us who are fellow travelers with Bill W. aren’t supposed to talk about the gatherings we attend in a the program of Alcoholics Anonymous but I went public about my battles with the beast many years ago. It helped in a fight that must be fought one day at a time. The events that brought my life crashing down around me on June 5, 1994, were nearly 30 years in the making and the trip back from that dark day hasn’t been easy or pretty. Although I quit drinking, I did not immediately become a better person for it. The demons of my disease continue to this day and the 12 steps have seemed at times like many more and impossible to climb.
But I’ve made it to 14 years with a strong faith in God, the help of many good friends and a loving wife who has shown more patience and understanding than I ever deserved.
Those of us who face the beast know he always lurks nearby, waiting for a moment of weakness, a surge of overconfidence or a lapse in character. An alcoholic is never "recovered," only "recovering" and always fighting to maintain control.
I’ve reached the point where I no longer crave the taste of booze or the escape it provides. I can sit in a bar and drink club soda while all around me guzzle beer and wine and the like. I’ve driven many people home over the years rather than do nothing while they put themselves and others in danger.
Yet the clock that has counted out 4,988 days over the past 14 years continues to click. At today’s end, I will bring home the chip that will be awarded tonight and place it in a drawer with all the other chips that measure times past, knowing full well that life and progress in the future must always be judged one day at a time.