by Alec W.
My childhood seemed normal and happy considering it was all I knew. I had everything I needed. I was popular enough, a better than average student, and thrived on competition and athletics. Despite all this, alcoholism was rampant in my family and I was encouraged to try alcohol at a very young age. I always knew it would be a constant in my life. My first drink at age thirteen was unremarkable. Having drunk the same amount as my friends, I wondered why they were so out of control and having so much fun—I realized I needed much more to get to that place. Through most of high school I was a “weekend warrior” as I added weed and coke to the mix. I considered myself quite special to be able to party like a rock star on weekends and still excel in athletics and keep up appearances. Even at this age I knew at a deep level that I was not equipped emotionally to live any other way. I was resigned to follow the paths set by both grandfathers and my father, all of whom all died young due to alcohol abuse.
By age twenty-eight in December of 1989, with my material world still intact, I suffered a series of health-related consequences and an emotional bottom sufficient enough to lead me to ask for help. Even with the sheer panic of the unknown and no faith that I could live the rest of my life without the only solution that ever worked for me, I set out to break the cycle of death that had been in my family for generations. I jumped into AA with both feet, got sober, and stayed that way for a week over twenty years, but this is not the real story. My classic mistake was to lose sight of the fact that recovery is a gift; once I started to take credit for all the good that had come to my life, I was doomed and had no idea. After leaving my wife of twenty-four years and my seventeen-year-old daughter for reasons I may never understand, my idea was to have a “little fun.” Substances, women, and self-sabotage became my new list of priorities. I truly believed that I would party for a while and just simply slip back into recovery. Within two years, a successful golf professional who had reached the pinnacle of his career was homeless, unemployable, and suicidal. Five detoxes and three treatment centers made it clear that my ideas couldn’t be more wrong and not I or any other human power could get me out of this trap. I was a full-blown heroin addict who had to find a power to help restore sanity or give up. That was May of 2012.
Upon the insistence of a therapist I agreed to go from Tennessee to Florida to a sober living facility, knowing I didn’t have the means to pull it off. I arrived with $100, a weeks’ rent paid, a very uncooperative mind, and no energy to even attempt to find a job—not a good recipe for recovery. However, evidently I had surrendered enough to let God answer my feeble prayers; for at least six months nothing seemed to be happening. I went to multiple meetings a day, got a sponsor, and basked in the self-pity of knowing that people had jumped out of buildings for a lot less than I had put myself through. I knew untreated addiction was no substitute for its counterpart, so something had to give or I would lose the battle. I decided to make an effort to reconnect with God. The earnest search was all it took. I rediscovered some age-old spiritual truths that have once again set me free:
- My insanity is the unwillingness to accept what is.
- True peace comes from doing for others.
- Attachment is always the root of emotional pain.
- To get to the truth, the thinking mind (ego) must be observed for what it is: the root of the problem.
So I’m back in the middle of recovery, trying to help others and stay grateful. For now, I know at my core what the First Step means to me. Not that I can’t or shouldn’t drink or use drugs, but without doing the simple basics—helping others, daily prayer and meditation, and living in the principles—my experience proves that I will eventually slip out and decide to have a “little fun.”