In my late 30s, I was in the middle of switching careers, raising four children, and battling a never-ending pile of laundry and chores. My evening glass of wine was a well-earned treat. I had seen alcoholism, or what is now more gently called Alcohol Use Disorder, and I didn’t have a problem. Not yet.
I had been raised in the turbulent world of alcoholism and all the chaos and uncertainty that comes with it. By the time I was eleven years old, my parents had divorced, we had moved seven times, and I had lived in three different states. I did not know stability. I was the child of two alcoholics. I thought I knew what alcoholism was and I certainly didn’t have a problem. Even after one glass of wine to settle my day turned into two glasses a night to settle my nerves, I didn’t have a problem.
I Didn’t Need More Than a Glass or Two Until I Did
After a workday, following dinner and dishes, homework, and baths, a calming glass of wine was earned. I didn’t need more than a glass or two until I did. The transition from a few to too many was subtle. A Friday or Saturday night of more than a few grew into weeknights ending with a bottle of wine before bed.
By the time my two oldest had graduated high school, I had become a daily drinker, but I still thought I had control. I thought to myself that everyone drinks a few glasses of wine to relax and wind down. I refused to see that drinking a bottle or more a day was not a few glasses to wind down. I refused to accept that the disease that had consumed my parents was slowly consuming me.
In Less Than Three Years I Was an Active Alcoholic
I didn’t believe I could be an alcoholic because my life wasn’t in shambles. At least it didn’t appear to be tattered and torn from the outside. My marriage was holding together, albeit by a string, my children had a comfortable middle-class home, and my career was thriving, but I was drowning. I tried giving up wine during the week, but that idea ended with a series of excuses that brought me back to the bottle time and time again.
The string that was holding my marriage together broke, and the subsequent divorce fueled the fire of my drinking. The beautiful home was packed up, and my two remaining school-aged children and I moved to a new house, a smaller, darker, less appealing house. It was in that house that the train of alcoholism hit the fast track, and I found myself gripped by the disease of the drink.
After what was a normal night of drinking for me, which meant more than a bottle of wine and a splitting headache in the morning, I had a moment of clarity as I gazed in the mirror at a woman I did not recognize. At that moment, the gift of desperation hit me, and I knew I needed to make a change.
Walking Into an A.A. Meeting Was Hard
Years before the day I attended my first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous as a participant, I had been an observer. My Mother had found recovery and sobriety in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous, and I knew if I wanted to get sober, A.A. was a place to begin.
I sat in my car in the parking lot of an inconspicuous building in the industrial part of town. I watched men and women walk in the door and was paralyzed with fear. What would those strangers think of me? I was terrified and embarrassed but just desperate enough to go inside just as the clock hit 7 pm.
Walking into an A.A. meeting was hard, but facing that difficulty saved my life. I quietly found a seat near the door against the wall in case I decided to make an escape. The room was full of chatter and noise until a person at the front of the room began the meeting. If I had never experienced an A.A. meeting before, I might have thought I had wandered into a cult meeting of some sort. There were prayers and readings, and individual introductions. Much like what is portrayed in the movies. Individual after individual said their name and proclaimed that they were alcoholic.
The walls of the room held posters listing steps and traditions, and slogans. A coffee pot steamed, and people seemed at ease, everyone except me anyway. Eventually, the introductions came to me, and with a weak and tearful voice, I said my name and that I was an alcoholic. I don’t remember much about that first meeting. I cried through most of it. Perhaps they were tears of fear or of failure, or maybe I felt like I was in the right place for the first time in a long time.
Desperation Found Acceptance
The meeting concluded wdeith the group joining hands and reciting The Lord’s Prayer. I was ready to make a quick escape, but a woman stopped me before I could reach the door. She was not overwhelming. She smiled and welcomed me, and she said she was glad to see me and handed me a list of meetings in the area and a list of phone numbers. She explained that the women in the meeting had all written down their numbers and encouraged me to call any one of them if I needed support. I smiled but couldn’t really speak because I felt the lump rising in my throat again. I managed to say thank you and headed to my car with a quickened pace.
My desperation had found acceptance. I sat in my car. My hands were shaking, and tears were running down my face. I wasn’t sure sobriety was what I wanted; I wasn’t sure what I wanted. I did make a promise to myself that I wouldn’t drink until tomorrow. That was nearly six years ago, and tomorrow has never come.
If you are curious about A.A., finding a meeting in your area is easy. Most groups have an online presence, and a simple Google search should give you a list of meetings near you. There are different types of meetings. There are closed meetings and open meetings. Open meetings are open to anyone who wants to learn more about the program.