I’m Theresa W. and I’m an alcoholic. MY story with alcohol and drugs began way before I ever took my first drink. Although I won’t go into the details of all of the contributing factors at this time (my Dad’s alcoholism, my Mom’s resulting desperation/frustration, our family dynamics, life events, etc., etc.), I am aware of their influences in my life. However, although there were many influences that contributed to my alcoholism, one of the things that has been revealed to me from years of working my steps is this fact: It’s deadly important for me to see how I, ALONE, contribute to my alcoholism (or any situation for that matter)…if not immediately, then eventually…thus allowing me to take responsibility for ‘my side of the street,’ which is the most empowering thing I can do in this life…because, after all, we ultimately have no control over other people.The ways in which I take responsibility for myself are endless
thanks to my sobriety. For me, sometimes taking responsibility can begin with gently
asking myself some questions: “Have I been honoring healthy boundaries within my relationships (my own boundaries as well as theirs)? Am I being honest with myself? With others? Do my actions match my intentions? If not, how can I take one step differently? Have I been making good choices for myself regarding my time and energy? Have I been communicating when I need to? Asking for help when I need it? Have I been listening to my intuition? Have I been having enough FUN lately? How do I want to feel in my life? Am I allowed to be curious? etc, etc” When I focus on those things, I am empowered and useful and the world around me doesn’t have to change at all. Taking responsibility for myself in this world, which started when I admitted and accepted my alcoholism, has been the most important thing I’ve ever done in this life. Does that mean I always do it smoothly or without a tantrum? Or a melt down? Or blame? NO WAY!!! I still go there at times. It does mean, however, that I have been given the ability (one day at a time) to take responsibility for myself without picking up and in spite of
my tantrums and melt downs! That’s pretty good stuff in my book! I do it with the help of the steps, my fellow A.A.’s and my Higher Power. What I’ve learned is that while some of my problems may appear to have “the names of other people” on them, ultimately ALL of my solutions
have only one name on them: MY OWN. I’ve learned to view my feelings as guides in my life (especially my fears and resentments). The Big Book doesn’t say we shouldn’t have fears and resentments, it says we should inventory them when we do. I’ve learned to give my gut feelings (intuition) value in my life. I choose to look at my self-inventories from many angles. For me, this has been the purpose of the steps in my life. So in that sense, because it brought me the 12 Steps, my alcoholism has been a gift.It happened like it happens for a lot of us. Innocently enough. I was a freshman in high school. I went to a football game with a group of friends. We walked to the high school field from a girl’s house. Somehow, someone had gotten a hold of some gin and we had been drinking it on the way there. All I know is that by the time I got to the game, I was blacked out. I remember walking through the field toward the game and the next thing I knew I was throwing up at my friend’s house later that night. She had to get her mom to help. I was sooooooo embarrassed and worried and mortified. How did that happen? What had I done? Why gin?(Yuck!) What were my parents going to do to me?And, then, after all of THOSE questions raced through my mind, a quite unexpected question popped into my head which went something like this, “Now when can I do THAT again?” I remembered the way the alcohol had allowed me to “stop thinking” and that’s the effect that I wanted to produce again.One of the parts about my drinking that I’ve always found fascinating is that just about the time in my life that my dad finally quit drinking, I started drinking. This was the most baffling aspect of all. We had all suffered greatly as a result of his drinking. So if someone would have told me that I would have descended into alcoholism and drug addiction myself, I would have laughed in their face. I wasn’t the type. I was the perfect daughter. By eighth grade, I had won multiple awards for my grades and my spotless junior high record. I even managed to receive an award for “Three Years of Perfect Attendance.” I was voted cheerleader and Class President. School felt like breathing to me. It came easy. Going into high school, they voted me “Most Likely To Succeed” in our yearbook. To put it mildly, I did NOT see my alcoholism coming. I certainly had not given my permission to become an alcoholic. And yet it came.Within six months of my first drink (which was my first drunk), I was smoking cigarettes, taking over-the-counter diet pills and “little white cross top pills” every morning to wake up, smoking pot and drinking alcohol on a regular basis. We would skip school and walk across the street to the nearby “adult” apartments and drink and use all day. My people became the “transplants” from other schools who were new to the area. They had no expectations of me. We would hang out under the bleachers at school and smoke during lunch. I shunned my former junior high classmates. I wanted nothing to do with them. All I felt towards them was the strangling weight of their expectations around my neck and I couldn’t handle it. I had no internal sense of self-worth and the disease took hold of me with a death grip. And then I smoked cocaine.One night while I was at my boyfriend’s house (who, by the way, had been lying to me about his age). He had me believing that he was 19 years old but he wasn’t…he was 23. I was 16. We had been drinking as usual and out came some new kinds of paraphernalia that I had never seen before which included some white powder and a “blow torch.” The first words out of my mouth after smoking my first hit of cocaine was, “Do you have any more?” I was hooked.So as not to completely character assassinate myself, because that’s not the point of sharing my story, I’ll put it this way. My morals were no match for my disease. I hated where my drinking and using took me but I was powerless to stop myself once the obsession to drink or use took over. I would do anything to get to drugs and alcohol. I would lie, cheat, steal and compromise myself. I was in hell. I cannot relate to people who drank ‘socially’ for years before becoming alcoholic. My decent was quick and it was violent. Spinning bathroom floors, draping myself over toilet bowls, throwing my guts up, having sex with strangers who had the alcohol and drugs that I wanted and driving drunk became my normal. I blacked out one other time. I was driving. And the next thing I knew, I had hit something metal. The kids who were in my car with me started screaming “Drive around it! Drive around it!” So that’s what I did. I drove around it. It wasn’t a person and no one was injured but I hit something while driving blacked out that day. My morals were no match for my disease.I know for a fact that the rooms are filled with people who knew they were alcoholic at the ages of 16, 17, 18, etc., but they simply didn’t know that the program existed so they kept drinking for 20 more years. THAT IS NOT MY STORY. I knew about AA from my Dad getting sober. Heck, I had even gone to Alateen years earlier. In fact, one night I realized that I still had the treasury money in my closet from an Alateen meeting that I had stopped attending. I drank that treasury money of course. Nothing was sacred. That’s where my alcoholism and drug addiction took me. Nothing was sacred.At one point, my parents had me go to an outpatient treatment program where they tested me with urine drug tests. This was a very progressive program at the time. Without blinking an eye, my response to this was to bring the urine of my one and only ‘normie’ friend with me to my appointments to pour into their testing bottles. Except one time I forgot so I had to provide my own urine. MY URINE came out dirty for cocaine and other stuff(?) and they made me admit that I had been lying to them and my parents the whole time. So in an attempt to ‘shock myself’ into staying sober, I told my Dad the whole truth. (kind of a ‘with and without a solemn oath’ kind of thing…) Needless to say, my attempt at that solemn oath didn’t work. Even though I swore to stay sober from then on, I didn’t. In fact, things just got worse.Eventually my Mom was called to my high school and shown stacks and stacks of forged notes that I had written and signed with her signature excusing me from class. She was outraged. I had no idea she was on campus when she barged over to where I was hanging out across the street smoking a cigarette. I quickly ditched my cigarette as she literally grabbed me by my hair and pulled me into her car. She took me straight down to Newport Alano Club and said, “You get in there and go to a meeting!” And that’s how I showed up to my first A.A. meeting. I don’t remember what exactly was said but I remember they were speaking ‘my language.’ I knew that they knew what I was going through. I knew they knew what it was like to want to stop drinking and not be able to. I knew I was home.I thought it would keep me sober…you know how it is…having gone to that one meeting now, I believed “I would be good.”…I thought it was like osmosis…I had no idea what the steps were and that doing the steps are what keep people sober. All I knew is that I started announcing to my friends that I was not going to drink anymore and then, within a short time, I was driving someone to go get beer for me. Talk about cunning, baffling and powerful? I was leaving home on a Friday and not coming home for three days at a time. My parents didn’t know if I was alive or dead. I was so ashamed of myself. There were lots of weekends spent in hotel rooms with the 27-yr-old guy I called my boyfriend at the time but whom I secretly couldn’t stand. But he had money, drugs and alcohol and that’s what I wanted. I wouldn’t call my parents and then when I did, I’d give some idle promise about coming home soon. They never knew if I meant it or not…and neither did I. There was lots of time spent in bathrooms with random strangers smoking cocaine for hours at a time and random pick-ups just to get a hold of some more alcohol/drugs. It was a pitiful, incomprehensible and demoralizing time in my life and, in my heart, I knew I couldn’t stop myself from doing it. The information I had gotten in the few AA meetings I had been to, the description of the alcoholic contained in the Big Book, the fact that my Dad had gotten sober in A.A., and the fact that I kept vowing to stop drinking but kept breaking my vows and hated myself it all finally culminated in me entering A.A. on my own (for myself) in April of 1985. I could see that I was addicted to cocaine and I was willing to stop drinking if that’s what it took for me to stay sober. I was a senior in high school and I was done. I was done torturing my parents and I was done torturing myself. I was done. Or so I thought.There was a group called “Sober Softball” and I began playing with them on Sundays. If it wasn’t for that group of drunks and the yelling and joking around we did out on the softball field, I truly wonder if I would be sober today. The fun I had with them helped me stay and do the hard work that needed to be done. I went to meetings, I stayed sober, I did some step work and I played softball. There was one other young person like me in our group. She got sober even younger than me and it gave me hope. We ended up grabbing a couple of sober softball guys and attending her high school prom --- sober?! I even got to walk in my own high school graduation ceremony sober! And, after some make-up classes that summer, I finally earned my actual diploma. Sobriety was hard but it was good. And I was doing well.Until one day when I decided I needed to meet with my old boyfriend and my trusty ‘normie’ girlfriend and ‘make an amends’ to them. I had received a call from her and she had shared with me that the two of them were now dating each other. “Perfect,” I thought, “I can meet with them together and make amends for my wrongs.” I didn’t discuss this with my sponsor or anyone else…no need for that. Meanwhile I, myself, had begun dating a wonderful guy in the program whom I had met on the softball field. He was different than any man I had ever met and I was absolutely attracted to how he ‘lived in the world.’ He had agreed to take on the responsibility of the sober softballers and made sure all the supplies and hot dogs were there each week. He was a humble man, admired by us all and the two of us shared a very deep connection. So, in my mind, I felt I was safe going into the amends with my old friends and that I had the best of intentions.So there we were, face-to-face, my ex-boyfriend and my ‘normie’ girlfriend. They, of course, ordered drinks and proceeded to drink them in front of me while complimenting me on how well I was doing and how good I looked. They were proud of me and glad I had stopped drinking and drugging. I looked at them and said, “It’s true I’ve been doing well and not drinking for months now…but ‘tonight’ I AM going to drink.” I proceeded to reach for a drink and down it. They were shocked and tried to stop me but I was beyond reason. I finished all the drinks at the table. I insisted that we leave and pick up some beers and go to his place. By the end of the night, I had betrayed my ‘normie’ girlfriend by hooking up with my old boyfriend (practically in front of her). She left. Once again, my morals were no match for this disease. Eventually I left his house with a drink in my hand and went over to my A.A. boyfriend’s house. It had been a while since I had driven drunk. Thank God I didn’t hurt anyone.I showed up, still with drink in hand, and proceeded to cry while I explained that I had lost my five months of sobriety and I didn’t know what to do. He said he knew I had been with my ex. I was mortified. What was wrong with me? Was I crazy? I asked to come in and he said, “You can’t come in this house with alcohol, throw it out.” I proceeded to drink the rest of the beer and push my way in the door.That was the last time I drank. That night I got the full knowledge of my condition. That night I knew I wasn’t JUST a drug addict. That night had nothing to do with drugs. No one had had a gun to my head making me drink. The last of my delusional excuses that I had kept myself in denial with seemed to fall away that night. I had a moment of clarity, if you will. It was all me. No one else. Later, I clearly saw how, without knowing it, I had set myself up.That night I admitted to my innermost self that I was an alcoholic and that my life was unmanageable by me alone. I knew I needed help. That night, and even at my young age, I knew somehow that I would be doomed to continue to set myself up to drink for the rest of my life if I didn’t learn to practice the steps…and the steps can be hard work…so I would need help. And I could see how the stakes would continue to get higher each time. It wouldn’t just be my friend or my boyfriend that I would betray; it would be my husband or my children or other precious people in my life or even unknowing strangers. Nothing was sacred when I was drinking and once having started drinking, I couldn’t stop myself. I knew in my heart of hearts that it would progress. That night I did more than just admit I was alcoholic, I accepted it.Because I accepted my alcoholism, I began to treat it. I’ll never forget sitting in a meeting with just a few days under my belt and feeling like I was literally going crazy because I wanted to drink so badly. That’s the baffling part about it…wanting to drink even when you know you could lose everything. Thank God for Alano clubs! I went to 90 meetings in 90 days and I connected with the women. I worked my steps over again with several sponsors that first year. I took responsibility for treating my disease.I am happy and privileged to say that the real “star of my show” is the story of my sobriety…because of my journey with the 12 steps (and the whole program of A.A.), I have over 27 years of sobriety. I continue to do my work to stay here. As a tantalizing side note, I will share with you that I ended up marrying that special “Sober Softball guy” who I admired so much. He has a year more than I do and is an incredible man. We’ll be celebrating our 25 wedding anniversary soon and both of us know that none of it would be possible without the steps. Our three wonderful children are young adults now, never having seen us drink. They don’t drink either, by the way. I don’t know the future, of course, but we’re both so grateful for how our journey has turned out one day at a time. I was a full-time at-home mom for many years, went back to school and became a Registered Nurse where I worked at our local hospital for years. As a nurse, I’ve had the privilege of literally helping to save peoples’ lives! What an honor! And now I work with people one-on-one helping them to bravely and compassionately get past their own resistance and align with their empowerment. Such a wonderful journey!There is a line in the movie “Apollo 13” (directed by Ron Howard) where Tom Hanks’ character explains that their perilous space mission was referred to as a “successful failure” because they never quite made it to the moon (as originally planned) but they made it back to Earth alive AGAINST INCREDIBLE ODDS?!!! They beat the desperate odds that were stacked against them and made it home from space. I know how that feels because so have I.I still work my program one day at a time. I understand that the ego regenerates overnight and that we only ever have 24 hours at a time. I have total reverence for the concepts of willingness and teachability. I don’t think of myself as a “selfish/self-seeking alcoholic.” I’m in this thing for the long haul and that kind of negative thinking won’t help me stay here. I think of myself as a privileged alcoholic woman in recovery whose willing to work on areas like perfectionism, people pleasing, approval seeking, denial, passivity, co-dependency, avoidance, control, acceptance, and self-compassion just to name a few. I don’t just consult the Big Book or 12&12 to work my program. I use several other texts as well that are tailored for the female alcoholic’s experience.In my experience, female alcoholics are sorely lacking a sense of self-worth, especially before but even AFTER recovery, for many reasons. Our issues sometimes look a little different than men’s. I know that about myself and I treat myself with lots of self compassion as I learn and grow each day. It is my absolute certainty that my Higher Power is interested in my happiness…and, consequently, I am infinitely interested in serving my HP. It’s a partnership. I am so very blessed to have been given the beautiful path of the 12 steps. Thanks for letting me share.Theresa W. is a Wife, Mom, Daughter, Friend, Sponsor, Registered Nurse and Intuitive Living coach. She can be found at http://trustingyourbody.com/
where you can read her blog and learn how she follows her intuitive wisdom one day at a time. You can also schedule a free consultation with her and explore what areas you’d like to grow in. Through her practice, she helps women in 12 step recovery learn about their own body’s wisdom, question their painful thinking, clarify their values and find their best feeling approach to living happy, joyous, free and useful lives.