I am grateful for many, many things that have come my way in life. If I were to name the number one thing, it would be the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.
I was once a hopeless alcoholic. The hopelessness may not have been all that apparent to those around me, because I functioned relatively well in my life despite my abuse of alcohol. Nonetheless, I was still an alcoholic and the disease was clearly getting worse as time went on. I was 39 years old on September 11, 1995 when I stumbled into a noon meeting at the Clean Air Group of Alcoholics Anonymous in Dallas, Texas. That day, my life would begin again.
You certainly couldn't have convinced me that it was a wonderful, life-changing day. To me it was one of the worst days of my life. No one aspires to become a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, after all!
But just like many of my fellow AA members, after I stayed around a while and worked through the Twelve Steps, I became a grateful member of Alcoholics Anonymous, proud to be part of this amazing fellowship.
It gave me hope in the early days that I could live a life of sobriety.
Something magical happens when one alcoholic reaches out to another alcoholic. In those early meetings, I hung on their every word. My fellow members of Alcoholics Anonymous were about the only people I could depend on at that point in my life. I felt mistrust for just about everyone, and they understood me and knew what I was going through. They knew how tough it was to go an hour, a day, a week without a drink of alcohol. And they stood by me and cheered me on.
It made me feel like I belonged.
Before Alcoholics Anonymous, I always felt like I just didn't fit in. My friends, schoolmates, neighbors, co-workers - all the people I dealt with on a daily basis may or may not have realized that I felt this way. I just always did. Alcohol made this disconnection from people seem a bit better, but still, it was always there. When I came into Alcoholics Anonymous, I finally felt a part of something where I truly belonged.
It has given me a strong and unshakable relationship with God.
There is a line in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous that goes something like this: "The consciousness of the Presence of God is today the most important fact of my life." Indeed! I have grown and changed in ways I never could have imagined as a result of my association with the AA program.
It has given me the gift of laughter!
You just wouldn't believe some of the funny things that are said in meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous. You've GOT to experience it! I just thought I could laugh before; now I really laugh!
I can go anywhere that alcohol is served with a sense of freedom and peace.
Oftentimes people find out I am a recovering alcoholic and think they have to hide the booze in my presence. Or worse, they think they can't order alcohol when they're with me. I am alternatively annoyed and amused by this, depending on my mood. What if I reach across the table, grab their glass, guzzle it down and ruin thirteen years of sobriety, right on the spot?! Enough sarcasm.
Here's another line from the Big Book [paraphrased]: "God has either removed your liquor problem or He has not." In my case, He has. As long as I stay near to my God and remain in fit spiritual condition, I will not drink.
An example: I recently went on a wonderful week-long Western Caribbean cruise. It was fun, relaxing, exciting - all the things that you might expect. As a recovering alcoholic, though, I am always well aware in certain circumstances where I am surrounded by alcohol and drinking. After all, that's what many people do when they're on vacation, especially on cruises - they drink! Although I have a very healthy fear of the possibility that I could pick up a drink at any time if I let down my guard, I also have this strange indifference to alcohol. What a freedom!
One of my favorite songs by Phillips, Craig & Dean is called "This is How It Feels To Be Free"! One of the lines is: This is how it feels to be free, to see that life can be more than I imagined . . . My thoughts exactly!
I have a wonderful closeness with my friends and family.
When I was drinking, it was impossible for anyone to get close to me. I had so much to hide and so much I was ashamed of, so I would never let anyone completely in. Not so anymore.
I no longer live in fear.
Before Alcoholics Anonymous, I was a nervous, edgy, fearful wreck. You may not have known the extent of this to look at me, but on the inside, this was me. AA has taught me the difference between healthy and unhealthy fear. Unhealthy fear (mostly fear of people, in my case) kept me trapped and unable to live with any joy in my life. I now have an Answer to fear when it crops up. That Answer is God.
I am a huge fan of Joyce Meyer. Listening to her speak is like having a really tough AA sponsor! She just tells it like it is. One of the things I heard her say once was, "Do It Afraid!" Rather than try to explain what she meant by that, click here and read for yourself.
I have a new love and tolerance for other people.
My dad used to say, "It Takes All Kinds." When it comes to Alcoholics Anonymous, how true this statement is!
Here is another Big Book quote: "We are people who normally would not mix. But there exists among us a fellowship, a friendliness, and an understanding which is indescribably wonderful!"
Some of the wisest, most gifted, and down-to-earth people on earth are members of Alcoholics Anonymous, and I am grateful to call them my friends! Then again, some of the simplest, quirkiest, most comical people on earth are there, too. They are my friends as well! We come in all ages, races, colors, shapes and sizes. And yes, some of us are sicker than others.
Mostly, Alcoholics Anonymous has given me a PURPOSE for my life.
People are always on a quest for their purpose in life. Not us alcoholics; we of Alcoholics Anonymous are very clear on ours: TO STAY SOBER AND HELP OTHER ALCOHOLICS TO ACHIEVE SOBRIETY.
My opinion: We all have as our main purpose in life, bringing glory to God. As recovering alcoholics, this translates to STAYING SOBER AND HELPING OTHER ALCOHOLICS TO ACHIEVE SOBRIETY.