This is the story of how I ended up in AA at the age of 22, and why I haven’t left.
I was 2 months shy of my 23rd birthday on August 1st 2003 when I went to my first AA meeting, having just returned home from an ill-fated move to Colorado to escape some compounded bad decisions that caught up with me. While physically I was in decent shape (all things considered), my life was a train wreck. I had two bags of clothes, my computer, and an overdrawn checking account. I was pale as hell, which is harder to accomplish than you’d think considering I’ve lived in Florida since I was 6. I was unemployed. I had moved back in with my parents again, under the condition that I did something about my problem. For reasons I didn’t understand at the time, I had opened up to them the night before and gave them a rundown of the previous few years of life, which consisted of Jack Daniels, Budweiser, cocaine, Valium, and a myriad of half-truths and outright lies. My parents are not dumb, and they knew something was amiss. But they didn’t know the depth of what was going on.
No one did, really. People had bits and pieces, but no one had the full picture. Not even me.
There was nothing about my childhood or family situation that “made” me an alcoholic. I had a good life growing up. Two loving parents who supported me in whatever I attempted. I did well in school. I never once went without. There are folks who have been dealt a bad hand at life, and they succeed in spite of it. I was the opposite of that. It’s like I was dealt a pair of 10’s, and told the dealer to give me another card.
The easiest way I can explain my drinking is like this: imagine in your mind how a college dudebro would get rowdy drunk on a Saturday night after a big football game. Now imagine that happening on a Tuesday afternoon for no other reason than it was Tuesday. Throw an eightball-a-day cocaine habit and anywhere from 3–10 Valiums a day, and that was my drinking in a nutshell. It was not pretty. I knew it wasn’t normal but then again, what’s normal? So I brushed it off and went about my business, doing whatever I needed to do to continue on that pace.
I quit jobs because of my drinking. Hell, I chose which jobs to take because of my drinking. Same goes for living arrangements, relationships, friendships, and so on. If something got in the way of my drinking, either it left, or I left. Simple as that.
Funny story: I had a promising career in the financial sector, but I quit that job because they had unrealistic expectations of me, like coming in on time, daily, being able to function. I quit that job to deliver pizzas, because being a pizza delivery driver meant I could sleep until 3pm and walk out with cash daily. Much better job for a drunk. I later quit that job because coming in at 5pm was a little too much to handle, so I took odd jobs that I half-assed to pay the bills. And by “bills” I mean “bar tabs and drug dealers”. I was not what you’d say “winning” at this life thing.
I didn’t know much about AA before I went there, other than there was something religious to it (which I was not a fan of) and that it meant not drinking anymore. But at this point, I didn’t give a shit about the religious stuff (I was an atheist at the time), and the idea of not drinking didn’t scare me anymore. Continuing to drink, however, scared the shit out of me. I had questioned at times why I was even still alive. I was ingesting a toxic amount of booze and drugs on a daily basis, driving drunk nearly every time I got behind the wheel, and had even contemplated suicide at one point. Thankfully a friend called and invited me out for drinks before I pulled the trigger. I sold the gun not long after, figuring I wasn’t gonna get that call a second time.
So here I am, walking into an AA meeting in the sweltering humidity of a Florida summer. I had managed my own life so well that the idea of handing it over to something or someone else was a better idea than what I had. I grabbed a cup of coffee and sat down.
My name is Andrew, and I’m an alcoholic.
I’ve never been more scared of any sentence in my life before I said that. At the time, I wasn’t sure if I actually was an alcoholic. Honestly, I didn’t know what an alcoholic actually was. I knew I didn’t drink like other people. I knew that living the life of a Mötley Crüe guitarist wasn’t a good thing, especially since I was an accountant and not a member of a rock band. But I didn’t really understand what was going on, or what the hell to do about it.
So I took a sip of my coffee, and began to listen. I had way more in common with these people than I thought I would, considering I was the youngest by about 10 years (I found out later than younger people tend to go to later meetings, and this was the “after work” crowd). They drank like I drank. They had the same fears that I did. While the details may have been different, the core was the same. For the first time, I actually felt at ease.
It’s been almost 12 years since that fateful August afternoon, and I still get that feeling at every meeting. And I’m still a proud member of Alcoholics Anonymous. You treat other diseases with daily medicine, right? Well, I have the disease of alcoholism. It’s terminal. AA is the treatment for that disease.