When I Finally Became Willing

In 2009 I entered rehab after an alcoholic binge under the guise of a wake. My 1st cousin had passed and for more than a few days we simultaneously mourned her death and celebrated her life…hard. I was really at the end of a 5-year stretch which cost me my marriage, as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars. I had been a functioning substance abuser for decades…had become somewhat successful in business in spite of it…had the big homes, the numerous cars, the beautiful wife, the vacations, etc., etc., etc….for years. Several times over several decades I would stop, attend AA for brief periods of times…met some really great people, but each time I ultimately decided that It wasn’t for me…I just needed to maintain moderation…Surely I could discipline myself to stay in control…Anyway, at the end of the wake, I woke up on my kitchen floor, called my daughter and asked her to take me for treatment…I needed a break.

After 28 days in rehab back out into the world, I came. I decided to follow instructions, something very foreign to me. I diligently started attending AA meetings. I asked someone with many years of sobriety to be my sponsor…asking for help was also very foreign to me. He was kind enough to accept my request to guide me, mentor me, and begin to take me through the 12 Steps. Over the next year, I went to 5 meetings a week; read the Big Book; and proceeded to go through the first 5 Steps. My diminished income, cut by 80% since the start of our country’s recession, wore heavily on me, however, I was doing ok. Early on in that 1st year my daughter and her fiancé, both attending Grad School, asked if they could move in with me. Realizing living alone was a red flag, I gladly accepted their request. Towards the end of that 1st year, I proudly walked my daughter down the aisle of matrimony. Living sober on life’s terms…Nice.

BUT, somewhere in the very back recesses of my mind, I held onto a reservation…and it was that once I completed a year of sobriety I could successfully navigate the world and have a drink now and then. My mind rationalizing that I’d learned enough…Within weeks after my 1 year anniversary, I tested the waters again. Self-control worked for short periods but gradually I began to lose fortitude…the kids had moved out, and after a few months, I started frequenting dark bars that I would never be seen in… Disconnecting…Just like that…Shame. Isolating. Paranoia…Skating backward at the speed of light…My horror…A lesson indeed. Ultimately, what a break…Déjà Vu…I woke up on my kitchen floor, again called my daughter, and off to detox I went…Beaten.

And then an amazing thing happened…while detoxing and for I think the 1st time in my life, I became thoroughly willing to listen; to accept, and to surrender. I became truly receptive and coachable. Something had transpired in me; my therapist saw it too and formulated a set of directions and sent me out the door without going through 28 days again. Of course, still suffering from false pride, I opted to attend meetings at the 521 Club in Lancaster County…God forbid anyone in Berks AA would see that I had failed and it was just a 20 minute drive from my home. This time I made the decision to become a part of AA…not just in AA. I attended hundreds of meetings in my 1st 2 years, in Lancaster County and Berks. I needed to process what these people had and I wanted.

One of my current sponsors mandated that I share (talk) every day at every meeting…Yet another foreign concept for me because I never really openly shared…ego and distrust the culprits. (I had been in AA for that year prior, but in hindsight, I really hadn’t become totally engaged in utilizing the tools that are taught in AA…I simply hadn’t been fully willing to buy into it. Apparently I wasn’t ready yet)…Today I am extremely grateful for AA. It has saved my life. I could go on and on as to how blessed I am…All of those slogans in the AA toolbox that I thought was corny, today are lifesavers. Somehow (obviously I’d finally hit my bottom) I’d been given the gift of another chance…I’m the luckiest guy I know. In my mind today, the founding fathers of AA, Bill W. and Dr. Bob, are right up there with the other geniuses in history. What they’ve put together in this program is brilliant, and my thoughts are that the 12 Steps should be taught in every elementary school in all the world. What a wonderful blueprint for life…..But, I had to be open and willing to allow it in. My homegroup is called “Spiritual Kindergarten” and I’ll forever be grateful to them as well as everyone else along the way. They’ve taught me to be of service; to pass it on; to do the next good thing…I try my best, sometimes I fail…I’ll keep trying.

Every morning I get on my knees, thank my God for another day, say the 3rd Step prayer and pray for other people. At night, before bed, I do it again. It gets me out of me…And it seems to work. Every day I live by FEAR…”Face Everything And Recover”… And it seems to work.

Since I finally became willing, to be honest with me…I’ve stayed sober. I’ve lost 2 homes and many material things since. I have good days. I have bad days…but life is so very precious and…I got me back. I’ve learned that I can deal with anything “One Day at a Time”…For years.

I’ve never been happier.


Reading, Pa.

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