Lectures at the fralin biomedical research institute
Lectures at the fralin biomedical research institute
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“I believe in guardian angels – my dad is one…
Grew up in a alcoholic home. Mom was Bipolar, a musical and intellectual genius. Dad was a travelling wholesaler for Krylon spray paints; WW II vet, fighter pilot, flew out of Malta against Rommel and then got transferred to eastern Italy where he flew missions into what was then Yugoslavia. He met an Italian girl and sired a half-sister I’ll never know [’cause the secret died with his squadron buddies]. Mom and Dad divorced when I was 11. Dad committed suicide with alcohol, codeine cough syrup and barbiturates when I was 15. My drinking and drugging took off at that point. Suffice it to say that if the drug was made before 1981, it’s been in my system – with a vengeance… I spent roughly 12 years on and off the road with a bunch of different bands – most of them pretty good ones, but none you’d recognize by name. [I jammed in Boston with T-Bone Walker a number of times; warmed up for Paul Butterfield, the Drifters, Sly and the Family Stone]. Had a lot of fun, in Boston, San Francisco, Boulder and Maine, but slowly spiraled downward. Was partly responsible for losing a marriage and the opportunity to raise a lovely daughter…
Hit bottom Nov 1st, 1981 after a huge Halloween bash. My band was playing at in a warehouse in the South End of Boston. Woke up the next day looking at the blood in the toilet again after throwing up several times. Couldn’t keep down the customary pint of frozen Cossack Vodka or the two Schlitz tall boys I’d saved for the hair of the dog. Drenched in sweat, shaking all over… So here’s the guardian angel part: I heard my dad’s voice in that moment, saying, “It’s not your time to go. Get help now.” I was alone in the apartment, but I felt someone picking me up with hands under my arms, pushing me into the living room toward the phone. The phone book opened directly to Alcoholics Anonymous. They called me back after finding a bed at Kenmore Detox – then part of the Salvation Army next to Fenway Park on Brookline Ave. My roadie Bruce took me there. I spent five days in that detox, chain smoking Camel non-filters and reading a science fiction anthology.
They had AA meetings every day in the detox. And I don’t remember what they said, but I remember how they looked. They had a light in their eyes that I couldn’t explain. They seemed happy. As I left detox, the head nurse affectionatelty kicked my ass and said with a smile, “Good luck, kid. Hit ’90 in 90′. We don’t wanna see your ass back here again.” I have stayed sober ever since. I hit 180 in 90. After that my sponsor said, “Do another 180 in 90.” She died after retiring from John Hancock in early spring that next year – complications from alcohol and diabetes. I got another sponsor, but we never worked the Steps. I stayed “abstinent” for seven years, got a resentment against my home group and left AA for 9 months, staying “dry” that entire time. Don’t know how it was that I didn’t drink or drug. I went nearly insane, angry and suicidal. My second wife filed for divorce. I went to see a counselor who immediately urged me to get back to both AA and Al-Anon. I finally started to work the Steps – about time huh? Please don’t do it the way I did it! That’s a recipe for disaster…
Somehow I’ve survived to this day, but only through following the suggestions of fellow AA/Al-Anon members, working through the Steps , more than once in several programs, holding service positions in my home groups, and working with others that helped me stay sober. I quit smoking those Camels in 1991 using the 12 Steps and Nicotine Anonymous. I’ve also been part of a men’s group that has met every Friday morning at 6:45 for the past 18 years. We all happen to be in recovery. We have saved each other’s lives more than once. One member died in early March of 2011 of brain cancer. We were with him every step of the way. I played guitar and sang it his wedding. I was fortunate enough to be asked to lead the prayer circles outside the hospital prior to each of his surgeries. There were over 1200 people at his memorial service, and the two men’s groups he was part of were included in that service.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked in the field of recovery for the past 20 years. I got to be a consultant/counselor for a couple of months at Crossroads Centre, Antigua – the house that Clapton built. The real gift is that I love to watch the lights come on and watch people come home to themselves. That is a true gift. I have a fabulous relationship with my daughter too – a direct result of recovery… I met Wally P. in 2009 and broke bread with him several times after that too. He did an awesome job with “Back to Basics” – don’t know about it? Check it out. It’s the way old timers took people through the Steps in the 40’s and 50’s, using 52 cherry-picked paragraphs from the Big Book. Their success rate? 50 – 75%. I’m a heretic you say? Read Appendix II in the Big Book. It basically warns about “contempt prior to investigation” i.e., don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it… I’ve watched a ton of newcomers catch fire doing the Steps that way. They run right out and start working with others. And guess what – they stay sober!! So don’t forget what Dr. Bob wrote on his prescription pad: Trust God; Clean House; Help Others. Bill W. verified that working with others is “the healing circuit.”
Keep on trudgin’ that road to happy destiny! Yours in recovery, Howlandwoof”
“Hi, My Name is Terri and I am an Addict and Alcoholic.
I am a Survivor of Child Abuse. I was physically, emotionally, and sexually abused until I was 18. I started drinking at 13. It helped me to numb out when I was being abused. And helped me to cope afterwards. At 15 I cut my wrist and that is when I told my mom what was happening to me. Her response to me was – I knew something was happening to you and I thought it was your dad. OMG, not my dad….My dad was an alcoholic too but my dad never hurt me. I just felt neglected by him, because if he wasn’t working he was at the bar drinking. He died of cancer and had 9 years of sobriety. Anyway, my abuse was never talked about again. I never got any help and the abuse continued. And my drinking got worse. I quit school in the 10th grade and just stayed high. I was raised in Denver and through my teenage years several of my friends died from car crashes, accidental gun shots wounds, over doses. ( All alcohol and drug related ) But alcohol wasn’t the problem….it was the solution….to stay numb from all the pain, all the loss, all the abuse. At 18 a married a marine who lived in Kansas City. (That was going to be the answer) I will move and get away from everything and everyone. So I did the geographical change thing. But the way I felt inside didn’t change and I drank and drugged everyday still. By the time I was 23 I had 3 children. I was able to quit drinking and drugging during my pregnancies. (Thank God) But once the children were born I picked up where I left off. At 26 years old I started having flashbacks. I had 3 small children to take care of and I couldn’t even take care of myself. I couldn’t stop crying, I couldn’t leave my house. I was very suicidal. I ended up in treatment where they talked about things like Flashbacks, PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Panic and Anxiety Attacks, Depression, Substance Abuse. Finally I knew what was wrong with me and I was getting help. I also realized I wasn’t alone. Other people felt the same way that I did, and some of the other women in treatment had been abused. I started taking medications and going to therapy. But I still struggled. I don’t know what was worse, remembering the abuse or not remembering the abuse. I felt like I was reliving my abuse, and drinking was still my solution. It still had the ability to keep me numb. I got to the point that I couldn’t function. I couldn’t keep a job or a boyfriend. We kept having to move because I couldn’t pay the rent. My poor children had no stability. I don’t know how I was able to keep them. I went to treatment 3 more times, always on the psychiatric side. Never looking at my alcoholism or my abuse of drugs. Finally they sent me to treatment again. This time the mental ward was closed, so they put me on the drug and alcohol side. They stated that they didn’t know what they were going to do with me. They introduced me to the 12 steps and said to apply them to my abuse. I had to go to the groups and listen to people’s stories. I always look at the differences. I hadn’t been to jail, or got a DUI or anything like that….YET….. They say that God puts people in our lives for a reason…..I had started going to school and me and this gal named Carol had a lot of the same classes and she started picking me up every day. She attended Alcoholic Anonymous. She actually took my dad to his first meeting. She was beautiful and vibrant and I was so jealous of her. She was the type of friend that would put her finger in my face and tell me that I needed to quit drinking. Because by this point the alcohol had quit working. It wasn’t numbing the pain anymore. As a matter of fact, it seems like it was intensifying all those feelings. So I started going to meetings but I would not admit to being an alcoholic. Where I live there are 2 meetings every day and for those 2 hours I felt safe. But the other 22 hours I was terrified. I started to pretty much live at the club. It took about 2 months of listening to other people’s stories before I started to see the similarities. OMG I am an ALCOHOLIC. Finally admitting that I was an alcoholic and starting to work the steps saved my life. It is the best thing I ever did for myself and my children. I still struggle. I have relapsed a couple of times because I thought it was going to be my solution again. My dad dying of cancer was the worst thing I have ever gone through. I felt so blessed to have the relationship with my dad. We had become so close because of Alcoholics Anonymous. I couldn’t bear watching my dad suffer and I started drinking. We have had a lot of loss. My dad, my grandma, 2 uncles, 1 aunt, my best friend, and so many members of the program have died. Mostly overdoses and suicide. I have heart disease. I have had a couple heart attacks, and mini strokes. I had cervical cancer. Having to learn to live LIFE ON LIFES TERMS.
The most important thing that I want to share is my story of FORGIVENESS. My uncle had sexually abused me starting at 3 years old. And my oldest brother use to beat me up constantly and emotionally tearing me down. Even when I was an infant he would pull my hair and pinch me, anything to make me cry. Anyway, my grandmother was in the hospital and she was 83 and she was dying. When I got the call that she had passed away I raced to the hospital. When I got there the uncle that abused me was on his kneeling and rubbing his hands through his deceased mother’s hair. I knelt down beside him and started to rub his back. It wasn’t until later that night that I realized OMG I was comforting the man that had abused me. The man that had caused so much pain in my life. All that pain and hate was gone. GOD had done for me what I couldn’t do myself.
One thing that isn’t brought up much in AA is Abuse. I want women to know that there is HOPE and FORGIVENESS. I had to start reaching outside the rooms of AA to help with my abuse issues. There is RECOVERY. I have found other ways to share My Experience, My Strength, and My Hope with other SURVIVORS. I have written a book of poems about Abuse, Recovery, and Spirituality. A couple of my poems have won national awards. I am a crime victim’s advocate. I am a speaker for RAINN – Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network. Alcoholics Anonymous and my Higher Power has given me that strength and courage. God again, has done for me what I couldn’t do for myself. I no longer swallow the poison (that was killing me) and expecting others to die. I have Peace and Joy and Love in my Heart today. I know what it is like to feel Happy, Joyous and Free.
If you are hurting and need help…..There is Help……There is Hope…..God Bless You on your journey. Remember Alcohol is just a symptom of our disease. If you are suffering from depression, suicidal thoughts or actions. If you have an anxiety, panic, eating, cutting, disorder. Please reach out and get help.”
“I went to work on May 11th, 1976 and the company had dispersed booklets on all the managers’ desks pertaining to the use and abuse of alcohol. I read the booklet, and it dawned on me that I did have a problem, one of many. This booklet addressed alcoholism and maybe there was an out for me. I was in trouble with my marriage, owed bookies and bar rooms money, and was drinking on and off the job daily…I went to see the company counselor that day and talked to him for hours. He stated that even though I had gone for help, he knew me now and because I refused to go to detox or on Antibuse, he would fire me if he heard fo me drinking on the job again. I told him that if he did not have to drink, neither did I. Well, I never did again and I just celebrated 36 years of sobriety. It’s been a tough time but one thing stands in mind: TSDD. Which is the number plate on my automobile in Naples, Florida. Tough Shit Don’t Drink. The Golden Rule.”
“I want to start my story with a quote from a song I heard awhile back….
“I ain’t no angel, I still gotta few more dances, with the devil, I’m cleaning up my act little by little, I’m getting there, I can finally stand the man in the mirror I see…I ain’t as good as I’m gonna get, but I’m better than I used to be…”
I’m going to try to make this as short and painless as possible and just give you the facts as I know them to be. No drunk-a-log, I’m just gonna get to the point. I didn’t come into the rooms of AA until I was 40, looking back, I’d spent more than half my life seeking the answers to life in the bottom of one bottle or another, yet I didn’t see it as a problem. I justified my actions for everything I did. The last few years of my drinking, I became a “monster” or so I was told. I was a black out drunk, and I thrived on the “If I don’t remember it, it didn’t happen” attitude. I was on the verge of loosing my wife, my business, my friends and family, so I decided I’d go to AA to make them happy. I figured once they weren’t mad at me any more, I’d go back to business as usual. I stayed sober for a grand total of 44 days.
My relapse was not intentional. I know most people say that, but mine truly wasn’t. I’d drank a glass of what I thought was soda which belonged to my underage son so I had no reason to think otherwise. I drank about 3/4 of it before I realized it wasn’t soda. Suddenly everything I’d heard in the rooms started to ring in my ear. Knowing I needed to leave, I proceeded to get my things with the intentions of doing just that. I’d gotten into a conversation with this man who was there and after a few moments, he handed me a shot. I knew with every bit of my being that I had to put that shot down right then and there. Then reality hit me. The last thing I remember from that night was not being able to put that shot down. Not physically, not mentally. I literally couldn’t do. I woke up the next morning not hungover because I was still drunk and a friend of mine grabbed me by the arm after questioning me, sat me on the couch, turned on the TV and there before me was the most horrifying, disturbing, sickening thing I had ever seen. t was “me” in my truest monster form.My face swollen from all the alcohol consumption, eyes glazed over, not making any sense. It was like watching Cybil meets Jekyll and Hyde. I was so sick I wanted to vomit and it wasn’t because of the alcohol still in my system. I was sickened by what I was watching. I got to SEE the monster I become, the monster people had been telling me about for years. Suddenly there was no more denial. At that moment, I gave in to the 1st step.
I walked back into AA and picked up what I hope will be my second and last white chip. I told myself I wasn’t leaving there without getting a sponsor and I didn’t. I dove into the program like a duck to water and have been working the steps ever since. I have a genuine relationship with my Higher Power today. God, or even the thought of God didn’t exist for me before I came to AA. By working the steps, following the suggestions, having a Higher Power in my life and working with other Alcoholics, my life has done a complete 360. I like who I am today and wouldn’t want to change a thing. On July 18, 2012 I will be sober 2 years. It really is the longest time in my entire life that I have gone without a drink or a drug in my system and I feel amazing. I’m 42 years old, and although I’ve been on this earth for over two decades, I didn’t know what it was like to “live” until I walked into the rooms of AA. The program of AA didn’t give me my life back, it gave me a life. Keep coming back, it really does work if you work it.”
“I started smoking when I was 27 years old. I was dating a man who smoked and I had one of his cigarettes. I immediately loved it, and it was a continuous addiction until I finally quit, using hypnosis, at the age of 63. I’m telling my story so that someone may read it who believes they’ve tried everything, and that there is no answer for them. I felt the same way, but I am now a non-smoker and don’t miss it. Really!
I tried pretty much everything to quit smoking over the years: cold turkey (nope); the patch (nope); Chantix (helped, but I developed significant neurological problems that scared both me and my doctor…no nope on that one); gradual reduction along with behavior modification (nope); hypnosis while under general anesthetic for major surgery (pretty good….stopped for 4 1/2 years, but started again when my personal life hit a bump); and the “travelling hypnotherapists” who come through town and give you a one-time shot (nope – and did it twice).
My doctor knows that I’d rather not take any drugs that I don’t absolutely have to, and she suggested I try hypnotherapy again, but a full on program from a local practitioner who has been curing people of smoking and overeating for over 40 years. I went, bought 6 visits, and by the 3rd visit was no longer smoking. No withdrawals, no backsliding, calm, cool and – – – no weight gain.
If you haven’t tried hypnosis for smoking cessation and/or weight control, please give it a try. Be sure it’s someone with many years of experience and who is respected in your community. You won’t regret it.”
“I was the puppet of addiction for 13 years of my life. God threw me a rope on 7/7/12 to climb out of that hole I had dug myself into. That rope was made of the 12 steps of AA, a sponsor, a home group, and all the hugs and handshakes. Life is great today.”
“I am a recovering Compulsive Gambler who placed my last bet April 10,1968.I started gambling at about age 7 or 8 as a kid in Brooklyn, NY. It started with flipping baseball cards, pitching pennies, shooting marbles and playing pinball machines. That kind of gambling continued until about age 14. At that point I started to bet on sporting events with a bookmaker and I got into the stock market.As a young kid, growing up, I always felt that everyone was better than me. The only time I felt okay about myself was after I had a win, whether it was marbles or baseball cards or pennies. Then at 14 I went to the racetrack for the first time (that was Memorial Day, 1951 Roosevelt Raceway). At that time in my life I was making $.50 an hour after school, working about 15-20 hours a week. That night at Roosevelt Raceway I had my first big win and walked out of the track with $54. Looking back today, I think it was that night that changed my life. Even though it was only $54, it was about 5 weeks salary to me at that time. That night gave me the belief that I could be a winner from gambling and eventually become a millionaire. I can still recall that high feeling walking out of the racetrack that night.By 17, I was already stealing to support my gambling. It started with stealing comic books to play cards with from the local candy store. Before long it was stealing money from my family to pay for gambling. By then I was taking the bus to the racetrack, a few nights a week on a regular basis. In those days they closed the track in the winter months, in New York so on weekends, I would take the bus or the train to Maryland to gamble. I was betting sporting events and horses with the bookmaker on a daily basis. In those days each sport had its own season. I remember calling the bookmaker one day and the only thing that was available to gamble on was hockey. I had never seen a hockey game, but bet on it anyway. It wasn’t until months later when I did see my first hockey game, that I realized that hockey was played on ice.Somewhere between age 17 and 20 I went to the racetrack one night and won $6000. Wow! Another big win. It was the equivalent of 2 years salary. This reinforced my belief that I could be a winner at gambling.
By my early 20’s I was betting big amounts on lots of games that I didn’t really know much about and probably couldn’t name more than a handful of players who played in these events. In some of the college games I bet on, I couldn’t name one player or even tell you where the college was located, but I needed to be in action. By then I was a regular at the old Madison Square Garden, every week. I was watching and betting on college and professional basketball on a regular basis. At this point in my life I was working full time in a shipping department in the garment center and every Tuesday when we got paid there was a regular crap game out in the hallway. Almost every week I would lose my pay in this game. I began stealing supplies and merchandise on a daily basis to pay for my gambling. By then, I had a bank loan and a loan with a finance company loan. I was also borrowing from coworkers.
At 21 I met my future wife. Our first date was to the movies and most of the rest of our dating was at the racetrack. We had a joint checking account saving for our wedding. She would put money in and I wouldn’t. I needed to use my money for gambling. I was still looking for another big win. I thought the perfect place for our honeymoon would be Las Vegas or Puerto Rico since I knew both places had casinos. My wife to be didn’t think that was a good idea. I guess she understood enough about my gambling already. At 23 we got married and I wanted to stop gambling at that point. I thought that I could. Within a short time I was already back to gambling. Even though I wanted to stop, I realize today that I couldn’t. I needed to gamble like any drug addict needed to stick that needle in their arm, or any alcoholic needed to have that drink.
Four weeks after we got married I went away to the Army Reserves at Fort Dix, NJ for 6 months. During those 6 months, I gambled every day, fast and furious, from placing bets by phone with the bookmaker to shooting crap and playing cards, every waking minute. When I came home in December of 1961, I owed $4000 and didn’t even have a job.
I got a job, eventually, working in the garment center In the showroom that I worked in there were a few compulsive gamblers who I quickly got friendly with. They became my buddies. We would play cards during the day, and go to the racetrack at night and on weekends, together. My wife thought I was at business meetings some of these nights and all of us would lie for each other.
In 1963 my first daughter was born. My wife was in labor 37 hours. During that period I went to the racetrack twice. When the Doctor finally came out and told me that we had a baby, the only question I really was concerned about was “how much did she weigh”. He told me 7lbs.1 oz. You would think that the concern should have been “how is my wife” or “how is the baby”. The first call I made was to the bookmaker. I bet 71 in the daily double. The next day when I picked up the newspaper, the daily double hit. I was convinced that day that God was sending me a message that I was now going to be a winner.
One year later my boss gave me an option to buy 500 shares of stock in the company for $7500. Within a year that stock was worth $38,000. In those days you could buy a car for $2000 and a house for about $10,000. Within 3 years this money would be gone due to my gambling. By now I was a plant supervisor for a Fortune 500 company. My gambling was already so out of control that I was stealing everything I could to stay in action. I set up a room in the factory that we used for playing cards (all day long). I was starting to do illegal acts (manipulating stocks) in the stock market.
Our home life was deteriorating. Gambling was more important than anything else that was going on at home. I was lying about almost everything and I would come home and pick a fight so I could go out to gamble. Nothing else at that point in my life was more important than gambling; not my family or my job. Gambling came first. At this point even though I was doing illegal acts, I was still borrowing money from only legal sources.
My gambling continued to get progressively worse. I was now a plant manager, supervising 300-400 people. My boss worked in New York, and I was in the factory in NJ. Most of the time he didn’t know what I was doing. Besides stealing and borrowing money from coworkers, I now had 3 bank loans and 3 loans to finance companies; I owed a loan shark an amount of money equal to one years salary. I was involved with 3 bookmakers, both working for them and betting with them. I directed a lot of people who gambled in my company, to my bookmaker and got a piece of the action. I even got involved in a numbers operation. Between this and stealing, I was supporting my gambling. There were times I would bet 40 or 50 games on a weekend, and believe I could win them all. One weekend, just before I hit my bottom, I called a bookmaker and took a shot by betting a round robin which amounted to about 2 years annual salary. At that moment if I lost that bet, there was no way I could pay it. Things were getting so bad, I remember calling a bookmaker one day and being told that if I didn’t bring him the money I owed him he would not take my bet for that night. I went home and sold our car to a neighbor.
By now, I wasn’t going home to pick a fight with my wife. I was doing it over the phone so I wouldn’t waste the trip home. Most of the time I was out gambling, but when I was home we were constantly fighting. We had sex very rarely. When I won I was so high I didn’t need it and if I lost I didn’t want it. But there were times we had sex and my wife would say to me “do you hear a radio”. Of course I would tell her she was crazy, but I had a radio on under the pillow so I could listen to a game. We were trying to have another child, but couldn’t. My wife came to me with the idea of adoption. I didn’t like that idea especially when I was told it would cost money. I needed that money for gambling. After 3 months of her bothering me, I finally went along with the idea of adoption, as I thought she would be so busy with the 2 kids that she would leave me alone. I borrowed the money we needed from my boss and relatives. On the day we were bringing our son home on a plane, it was the 7th game of the 1967 World Series. My wife was busy looking at this beautiful new baby. I had no interest in him. I had a large bet on the game. The pilot was announcing the score every 15 minutes, or so. I was so upset that we were on this plane. I wished and prayed that the plane would get to the ground so that I could see or hear every minute of this game.
In the next few months the bottom fell out of my world even though I still had my job and still looked okay. There were no track marks on my arm, I wasn’t smelling from my gambling. No one could really tell what was going on. I would come home from gambling and see my wife crying all the time, depressed, sick. Our daughter was 4 years old and I don’t remember her walking or talking. I either wasn’t home or when I was my head was consumed with the gambling. At that point in my life, I owed 32 people, 3 years annual salary. I had a life insurance policy and constantly thought about killing myself and leaving my wife and 2 kids that money. I would do anything to keep gambling. As long as I could get my hands on some more money to stay in action, I still thought that the big win was just around the corner. I was trying to find out where I could get drugs to sell and looking around at gas stations to rob. I was asking people about making counterfeit money. I was running out of options. My boss came to me one day and told me that a detective was following me and he had a report on my gambling. He knew I was betting more money than I earned and he was sure that I was stealing from the company and that if he found out he would have me arrested. Three hours later I was stealing from the company again. I needed to go to the racetrack that night. On February 2, 1968 my wife was having a miscarriage and I was taking her to the hospital. I was wishing and praying all the way that she would die. I thought that would solve all my problems (I wouldn’t have to tell her how bad things were). That morning I called my mother to watch my kids, I called my boss and told him I couldn’t come to work because my wife was in the hospital. That afternoon I went to the racetrack. After the track I went to see how my wife was. When I got to the hospital the doctor told me that my wife was in shock and had almost died. I was so deep into my addiction that I really didn’t care about her, the 2 kids or myself. The only important thing was making a bet.
I thought that I was the only one living the way I was living and doing the things that I was doing. I found out that I was not alone and that I could stop gambling with the help of the other people. I had hope for the first time. It’s been over 46 years since I last gambled. Today I have everything I dreamed about getting from gambling and then some. I have a wonderful family that is still intact and even have been blessed with 4 grandchildren who I love very much. In the last 20 years I have been able to devote my working life to helping others who have this problem and educating people on the disease of Compulsive Gambling. This has been a dream come true.
Arnie & Sheila Wexler Associates
If you need help with a gambling problem,
“I’m sober. That was never my plan. My plan was to go to meetings and therapy in order to get everyone to like me again. Manipulation was my go-to response to life. When that didn’t work as well as I had hoped, I ignored what wasn’t working well for me.
My addiction was to alcohol, to which I regularly added weed and barbiturates, if I could get them. During the week, I used and drank heavily at least 3 nights and almost always Sat and Sunday, from late morning until the early hours of the next morning. I had regular blackouts and generally ended episodes of using by passing out. I considered marijuana not harmful for me, and used it pretty constantly when not working.
There had been more and more of those times when I’d angered and/or scared those close to me. My rage, that companion I’d carried with me from childhood as the daughter and sometime target of my two raging parents, was more evident during my hangovers. I was failing to be a reliable or safe mother to the person who has always mattered most to me, my own daughter. I was generally driving drunk or hungover many nights throughout the week, as well as needing others to fill in the parental role while I got drunk and high.
Not to mention an emergency room visit, from which I stumbled away, walking a couple of miles while heavily drugged. (First by me, as I used alcohol and pills throughout a long night out. Then, by the hospital, as they tried to keep me on the table while sewing up my chin and mouth, after I’d crashed into a utility pole.)
Later, I realized that my no-shows to work, where I counseled college students (!) were increasingly concerning others who worked with me. My boss sent me to an addictions counselor.
I liked her very much. And I lied to her because I wanted her to like me. I hoped I be her “best” client!
Even though my not-so-truthful response to assessment indicated that I wasn’t addicted…she urged me to go to AA, “just to see what may be ahead of you.” I do not mean to belittle her skills. Its just that she was not an addict and I was able to fool her to some extent. I wanted my job to continue and I wanted her approval, so I agreed to attend a meeting.
So I went to AA. (I had been on the verge of throwing up throughout the 24 hours, before I showed up in a room of 15 other people!)
It wasn’t too hard to sit through the meetings, which was a nice surprise. I planned to suggest that they edit out the God stuff…in a month or so, when I figured I’d probably be an running things if I kept coming to meetings! (Grandiosity, much?)
Amazingly and very slowly, I learned to use some of what I heard in the rooms with other alcoholics and addicts. Contrary to popular misconception, AA/NA people do not tell meeting attendees–or even those newcomers they sponsor–what to do. People in recovery share only about themselves and where they’ve been and how it is now. Today. And what works for them.
In meetings I learned to LISTEN and IDENTIFY with others attempting to recover–skills I’d often neglected.
Members work the program in a variety of different ways. And we fail and fail and succeed and succeed. No drugs prescribed. No appointments needed. (Although many in AA are using a helpful prescription and/or other therapeutic approaches.)
Addicts are arrogant. Our histories are scary, sad and very, very funny. In AA I wanted to tell some of the stuff I’d never share with those who aren’t addicts (therapists, physicians and family included.) And we see and hear something in another AA-attending person with whom we identify. And then my arrogance and my shame begins to crack… in the presence of those who identify with Dee C., another alcoholic among hundreds and hundreds world-wide.
I also continued therapy after coming clean about my addicted reality to my counselor. She was an additional support, with whom I practiced truth-telling. She was also very helpful to me dealing with issues from my childhood and other relationships. One important bonus arrived unasked for. I connected to an almost-forgotten childhood spirituality–assuring me of love when I am determined to be unlovable.
In my case, the combination of a 12-step program in which I followed directions/got a sponsor/worked the steps AND counseling sessions where I began healing old wounds was the perfect one-two punch to battle my addiction. I continue to use both approaches. And I remember to pray after I still try, at first, to manipulate and ignore.
After 32 years of continuous sobriety, I think I am getting the hang of this recovery thing.”