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alcohol disease perception

When My Desperation Outweighed My Denial

Alcoholism is often referred to as a disease of perception. And, oh, how I find that statement to be true!

Like most Alcoholics, early in my drinking days, I did not have a problem. I was single and had no one to answer to, and it was perfectly normal to go directly from work to the barroom and spend the evening pouring alcohol down my throat.

It was fun, and I did a lot of foolish things in those days. As my tolerance for alcohol grew, I developed a pattern of drinking where I could open a bar at 6:00 a.m. and close it at 2:00 a.m. You could not tell that I had been drinking unless you smelled the alcohol on my breath. I reached the pinnacle, but that lasted only for a while.

Next, I developed a pattern of forgetting what happened the night before (blackout drinking) and when people started telling me about things I did during blackouts, it was not flattering. Normal drinkers do not have those kinds of experiences.

Then came the DUIs, the nights in jail, the wrecked cars, the broken knuckles, marriage, divorce and… I could go on forever.

When I was in the throes of this disease, I was living by the dictates of my ego to bolster my pride. And it was telling me that I did not have a problem. But normal drinkers must not wake each morning to face the “hideous Four Horsemen, Terror, Bewilderment, Frustration, and Despair,” as the Big Book puts it. (p. 151)

For me, at that time, alcohol seemed to be the solution to my problems and to abandon it would be more horrifying. My perception was that, if I quit drinking, I would spend the rest of my life waking up in that emotional pit. I did everything in my power to deny my condition.

The progression of the malady varies in each individual due to environmental issues. Some people can drink into their 60s and 70s before they come to Alcoholics Anonymous.

Yet as the progression wore on, one by one, I was running out of options. Drinking could no longer mask the deception of it all, and I was backed into the corner of life. What could I do?

On October 15, 1969, my desperation outweighed my denial. I dialed the telephone operator and asked for the number of Alcoholics Anonymous. She gave me the number of a local AA club in a little house about six miles from my apartment. I showed up there to be greeted by three people sitting on a bench in the front yard. Within ten minutes of talking to them, and seeing the compassion and empathy in their eyes, I laid down in the grass, covered my eyes with my forearm and thought to myself, “Thank God, this nightmare is over!” And it was.

Ever since that moment, I have never drunk, nor wanted to drink, alcohol.

I was 28 years old at the time. Most of the members of that group were older than 40. They referred to me as the fortunate one, and I was.

From that moment on, I have done a 180 degree turn in my thinking and embraced the program of AA in its entirety, which has evolved into a life of peace and serenity that I could not have imagined when I showed up on that lawn in 1969. Right now, as I am trying to explain this miracle, I am wiping tears of joy from my eyes just thinking about it. Go figure.

By Rick R.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the AA Cleveland District Office.