I am not one of the Old Timers yet. I am also not one of the Low Bottom drunks that I’ve met. I wasn’t living under a bridge or homeless. I didn’t even lose any part of my family, my job, or anything else.
My loss was not external and obvious. I am thankful to have found AA because my loss and my disease were still insidiously hidden: hidden from my friends, colleagues, and family. It was a loss that no one could see or diagnose for me. It wasn’t that obvious . It was, in fact, so hidden that even I didn’t know about it. I would have said that I was ‘doing fine’. Unhappy sometimes, elated sometimes, ambitious sometimes, tired sometimes. Just like everyone else. But I was fine.
Add to that, I was having the best experiences of my life. I had been taking road trips, exploring retreat sites, cruising, flying to exotic sounding places for business and speaking in front of thousands across the country. As one colleague said to me, “You’re livin’ the dream!”
I was. Or at least, I thought I was… until one morning when I woke up and gathered my wine bottles together and headed out to the locked garage where I placed the empties in the trunk. As I passed the front of the car I saw that the driver’s seat was reclined. I remember I stopped and stared at the seat. Why was it reclined? As I stood there I realized that I couldn’t remember the last part of my evening. Did I come out to the garage in the night? Why would I recline the seat? I really didn’t know. I didn’t remember doing that. But the garage was locked. I must have.
That made me start to think as I slowly walked back to the house. I’d struggled with depression and was taking an anti-depressant. I hadn’t had any conscious thoughts of ‘ending it’. But on the other hand, I had arranged to have the garage door fixed and the idea had come into my mind that I could easily get out of this life by asphyxiation.
Was I depressed? Was I losing my mind–arranging the garage to be more airtight as a backup plan? I didn’t want to die! I had everything to live for. There were some things I didn’t like about my life, but nothing that made me desperate.
I sat at my table in the sun room and pondered the previous night as I looked towards the garage. My best friend had confronted me late in the evening. We were both upset and I’d written down the list of complaints she expressed so that I could look at them later. I remembered drinking more than a bottle of wine afterwards. Two? Less? Maybe I was drunk. I didn’t know.
What’s drunk? No one in my family really drank. I grew up in a house without alcohol, so my alcohol information was limited. As my alcoholic consumption rose, I’d asked my best friend if she thought I drank too much and she had said, “You don’t drink as much as I do.” True. So I dropped it. (Note: Of course she had no idea how much I really drank. Some people say they are closet drinkers. I was a basement drinker.)
I turned on the computer and Googled alcoholic to see if the definition fit me. Of course, what came up was Alcoholics Anonymous. I followed the first link, still looking for a definition…gave it my zip code and up popped a list of AA meetings in my town.
Scanning the list, I saw that in 15 minutes there was a downtown meeting. Impulsively I got my coat. Surely one of them could define it for me and tell me if that was the problem. Probably not… so I anticipated later crossing that off my list and calling my doctor to tell him my meds might need to be adjusted.
Later, the 5 women who took me out after the meeting explained that the reason I couldn’t remember going to the garage and trying to asphyxiate myself, was that I was having a black-out. They didn’t call me an alcoholic but they shared enough of their own stories that I started to feel like they really understood me. Total strangers; but they knew.
That’s how I found AA in 2007. I’m so grateful it was there for me. I discovered that though I had not lost the tangibles of life: family, friends, home or prestige, I had lost my ability to live fully, enjoy ordinary moments and experience peace. I had forfeited my ability to assess life and experience reality, to deal with pain and joy sanely, to have the freedom to just be. I had lost more than something like a job, I had lost myself.