"We hope no one will consider these self-revealing accounts in bad taste. Our hope is that many alcoholic men and women, desperately in need, will see these pages, and we believe that it is only by fully disclosing ourselves and our problems that they will be persuaded to say, "Yes, I am one of them too; I must have this thing."" (Alcoholics Anonymous p.29)
I had the wonderful blessing of coming to Alcoholics Anonymous at the tender age of 15 years old. I was broken, afraid, defiant, and felt utterly hopeless. Both of my parents belonged to the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous and while I was familiar with the chanting, holding hands, and praying, I had no idea of the program of action necessary to overcome alcoholism. Somehow, I stayed, I listened, and I stayed sober. Before I knew it, days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and so on. I prospered as I aged and worked a program of action. I graduated high school sober, I graduated nursing school sober, and literally grew up sober.
When I was almost six years sober and on the heels of my 21st birthday, I stepped outside on a cold November evening in the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina. As I lit a cigarette, I thought to myself, "I don't want to be responsible anymore. You're not an alcoholic. Go and drink. You've done your time". I swear it was that simple. No amount of service work, meetings attended, or years in recovery would have been enough to stand in the way of that one simple thought. I didn't have a God. I had spent years in Alcoholics Anonymous talking of God the way I was supposed to. Or so I thought. I never shared my struggles. I never talked about my reservations due to my age. I was the youngest person by 30 years in this small town and felt like I didn't have a peer to confide in. Today I have the privilege of talking to scores of alcoholics who struggle with this same experience. It reminds me of why these YPAA conferences and meetings exist, to show others through our unique experiences that they too can get and stay sober, despite age.
And so I drank. Two weeks later I was living in South Florida again and drinking with reckless abandon. I learned what it was like to drink everyday. I learned what it was like to drink at work. I learned and experienced almost every shocking and horrific story I had ever heard in Alcoholics Anonymous from the older members. And yet I drank. The physical allergy and mental obsession had me in its' grasp and I could not escape. I woke up every morning towards the end of my drinking hating myself in a way that I cannot describe even to this day. I had chosen wrong. I had gambled and tried to live a different path and had chosen wrong. The fun was gone. The honeymoon was over. I was left drinking at the life I had thrown away. Alcohol was my master.
The day came when I could take it no longer. After a day of binge drinking, I took the necessary measures to end my life. I wound up in an ER where I collapsed and had a heart attack. This followed by multi-system organ failure and a long stint in a coma. This was four years ago today.
The shock and confusion I felt when they removed the tubes from my body is indescribable. My family surrounded my bed and my first thought was, "I've failed again". I was despondent for days. After a lovely trip to the psyche ward, I emerged and was afraid. Where was I to go? I had been sober before and truly believed that I did not deserve another chance. But I was afraid. The pain I felt during the last days of my drinking, I could not imagine going through again. I knew, somewhere deep down, that the cycle would repeat itself. My car drove me to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. I sat in the back and cried during every step to pick up a white chip. I was back.
It was the young people in Alcoholics Anonymous that welcomed me back. They were bidding for the conference in Florida and told me to get on a plane. I went to ICYPAA at two months back and I sobbed during the sobriety countdown because it was the first time I felt like Alcoholics Anonymous wanted me here. I felt the presence of God for the first time in my life during that trip. I had friends and peers for the first time in my life. I am grateful everyday for that moment in my journey for it showed me that others like me could stay sober and have happy lives. This year I have had the honor of hosting this conference with those fine people and it has been an experience beyond measure.
The day came when I shared my 5th step with my sponsor and I went to spend alone time to review my work thus far. I picked the most serene piece of a beach that I could find. I got the blanket, big book and other essentials and set up my spot at dusk. The beach was picturesque. I was finally ready to meet God!
And as I closed my eyes and prepared for nirvana, a bus-load of children descended on my happy place. They screamed and kicked sand, and I'm pretty sure one of them hit me with a beach ball. It must have been a school trip of some kind, but I didn't care. I picked up all of my things and began stomping back in anger to my car.
I had tried! I was there on the beach and ready! And yet again, God was not. As I marched back to the car, I saw this picnic table tucked into the mangroves off the beaten path. It was disgusting to say the least. Filthy, covered in ants and spider webs, and dark-hidden from the sunlight. Something pulled me to it and I sat down and began to sob. I cried for every moment I had been afraid or lost. I cried for my relapse. I cried for my painfully new sobriety. I wailed and felt complete defeat. The feelings were reminiscent of my last day drunk. I was done. Only this time, sober.
I CLOSED MY EYES AND UTTERED A VERY QUIET PRAYER: I WHISPERED, "IF YOU FIX ME...I WILL DO WHATEVER IT IS THAT YOU ASK OF ME".
And that's where I met God, on a dirty picnic table. It wasn't what I thought it would be. And yet, it was everything I ever hoped for and more. It was only when I made a commitment to God, that I found the freedom in letting go. Up until that point, sober or not, I had relied on my own volition to get me through life. Clearly, that had not been successful. Now I was to embark on a mission. A pact. If God would take care of and direct my life, I would trust him to do so and in return...do what it is that he asked me to do. I am now just one of millions who hold that same connection to be the greatest part of their lives.
I have felt peace in my soul from that moment to now and I have all of you to thank for it. These have been the most amazing four years of my life and I no longer feel hopeless or alone. I don't know how to thank a group for the greatest gift I could be given but I wanted to take the time to try. Thank you for welcoming me back ICYPAA. You surely helped save my life.
-Bethany E. from Lake Worth, FL