Step One

I just finished going over three chapters in the blue book that my sponsor asked me to read.  His instructions?  Underline anything that pertained to/reminded me of me.  I’m a rather slow reader as it is, but this really slowed me down.  I spent nearly an hour and a half reading only about 30 pages.  But it also really made the material stick out.

The stuff I read over wasn’t anything shocking, as I already knew, well before I took steps to recover, that I was doomed and had an issue.  I am absolutely powerless over being able to stop after that First Drink, and my life was completely unmanageable, and would be again if I dared to take a First Drink again.  I know from personal experience, as I think most of us do, the question is simply one of accepting it or not.

I recall many, many times stopping – only to start right back up.  Sometimes, I could go a day – usually only by force, i.e., lack of money – only to start right back up as soon as I could convince someone that I had a bill to pay and needed money.  It was fairly easy to convince them that I needed to have my overdue electricity bill paid or the power would be shut off on my sick wife.  Once the cash was in hand, it was a scramble to pay the minimum amount to keep the TV on (because I was too busy to do anything else) so we could enjoy the finest of the lowest quality, cheap vodka.  Gag.  The very thought of it makes me want to vomit.

This wasn’t a rare occasion, either (sadly).  This was a fairly normal occurrence, right along with the careless racing through hospital and school zones just to make sure I could get to the liquor store a few minutes before they closed – all because I had been to the closest store too many times that week; they knew my name, maybe skipping a day would make them forget.  After all, I’m no out-of-control alcoholic here.

I used to pride myself in never drinking and driving.  That was the one thing I’d never do, put someone else’s life in danger; unless, of course, it was imperative that I drive 100 miles per hour, for 120 miles from one city to the next, or through three states, just to make it back in time to get to the only known store closest to home.  Or just down the street, less than a mile away.  I mean, it was only a pint or two that I’d drank, and I was in an especially good mood; or angry, or sad, or hurt, or celebratory – hell, it was a mood, it didn’t matter.

Another time, my wife and I were in our conversion van, heading home.  We had calculated that, as long as traffic worked in our favor, we’d be able to leisurely get to the liquor store.  However, the route was on a back road, which meant we had to cross over a railroad track, and if a train stopped, we’d be stuck waiting too long to get to the store before it closed, and turning around meant the same.  We were nearly a mile away when my wife spotted the devil-train in the distance.  This was country road, so trains moved VERY FAST.
                She glanced a sideways shot at me with one raised eyebrow, to which I responded with a questioning frown, “You sure?”
                With a confident nod, a smile spread across her face.

Now, I won’t pretend that this was a good idea by any means.  In fact, it was downright STUPID.  But it happened.

                I stomped the gas pedal to the floor, and the engine jumped.  We sank back into the cushy seats of the big, green box, racing towards the tracks, Locomotive and Friends getting closer to our destination cross-point.  From the corner of my eye, I could see my wife grab the arms of the copilot’s seat, and press back.  Meanwhile, I could feel the sweat oozing through my pours as I knew what we had to do if we were going to get past those tracks; a potential barricade.  If that trained slowed to stop before we got by, it was sure to be thirty-minutes as it swapped out cars or switched tracks.       
                What we’d failed to remember in our haste was that this wasn’t our normal side road.  For whatever reason, we’d decided to take a cross road a mile before our typical drive.  This wouldn’t normally be a big deal, except that the angle of the tracks coming into town meant that the following intersection was to a major crossroad, which had, literally, only one car length between the track and itself, not the five or six we were used to.
                As we raced toward our possible deadly destination, we realized that the train was moving faster than expected.  I looked at our speedometer, and we were doing nearly seventy miles per hour at this point, and we’d just reached the point of no return – it was get passed the tracks, or get killed.  I couldn’t give the racing box anymore speed any faster than I was, the pedal was to the metal – I was giving it all she’s got, captain!  I could hear my wife’s breath slow down as she prepared for the potentially biggest mistake of our lives, and then WHOOSH!


To further clarify, this particular set of tracks was not only just one car length away from the next major intersection, but it was at the top of a very short, steep incline.  Think of it as a short, quick ramp...


                With a CLUNK! we crossed over the tracks – by now we were doing at least seventy-five miles an hour – we could feel the van launch into the air.  The train’s air horn blasted just behind us as the van’s engine revved all the way up and instinctively, I hit the breaks – but the wheels were not on the ground, so it was pointless.  What felt like an eternity, we floated for a second; and then SLAM! SCREEEEEEECH!  Our locked wheels failed to slow us down and somehow I managed to steer us straight as we skidded through the following intersection, leaving a tell-tale sign of what had just happened.
                I glanced in the mirror, and the locomotive had already flown by; all I could see was a streak of train cars.  My wife looked at me, wide eyed and pale.  In silence, we stared at each other for a moment – and then a grin slowly spread across our faces – we were still going to get our alcohol, and even better, now we needed to buy more, because we’d just been through something so traumatic.  I mean, after all, it was entirely unpreventable, right?

Yet another day, I distinctly remember racing through a hospital zone, posted at twenty-miles per hour, doing sixty, and blasting through a stop sign to a major, five lane road, just to get to the liquor store across the street.  When I got there, I was overjoyed with the fact that I still had three minutes left to get inside before the doors were locked.  It was this day that I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I had a problem – but with a sigh, I brushed it off to head in and get my alcohol.

It was after that day that I began buying “more than I needed,” so I wouldn’t drive drunk ever again.  One can imagine what and where that led to – sneaking it in, hiding it, pretending I didn’t spend the last ten dollars on a bottle, -- just so I could have it.  Hiding placing were abundant.  Eventually, I had so much liquor hidden that I would just happenchance across it, all to my surprise and joy.  But it wasn’t just the partially full bottles that I kept (hid), it was also the empties.
                The stock pile of empties between my wife and I were so great that it was an embarrassment to us.  We didn’t want the kids to see the bottles, after all, they shouldn’t be aware of this heinous vice of ours – it would go against what we were trying to preach to them.  Besides, if the neighbors knew, what would they think?  Would they call the cops because we were such shitty parents?
                So we shoved the empties under the mattress.  Then the box spring.  The closet.  Under the sink.  Drawers.  Luggage.  Loose, or in bags.  Eventually, we couldn’t hide any more.  When it was dark outside, we’d sneak them out into the trunk of the car, and the next day, if we were “sober enough” to drive, we’d drive to a location with a dumpster, and empty the trunk.  Occasionally, we’d get caught, “Hey!  That’s not a free trash can!”  Slamming the trunk shut, we’d race off to find another dumpster for the remainder of them.

This went on for years.  Eventually, my wife would become sick and was in and out of the hospital.  She’d nearly died on three different occasions, once was attempted suicide, once for pancreatitis, and once because her liver gave out.  Ultimately, between her overprescribed/abused medications and alcohol, she succumbed to Death’s will.  It was over for me.  My best friend/worst enemy/new love was gone, and I was, once again – alone.

This is how my life was; lying, sneaking, deceitful, dangerous, careless, trying to get away with stupid shit, the nightly blackouts (for years), going to working and coming to well after the day had started.  It was pathetic, really.  Very pathetic.  This doesn’t include the arguments, the fights I tried to stop between my wife and the kids, the cop calls, the point of no return, my wife becoming violently aggressive towards me, the shift of love, the loss of my companion through Death, the helplessness, the losing hope, the giving up, the not caring, and the wait for Death’s return (who even seemed to reject me) to come and remove me from this World I never wanted to begin with.

I was done.  I was broken.   I needed help, but thought it impossible – there was no fixing me.  I simply wanted to stop breathing.  I couldn’t get to a gun, because I would have to sober up long enough to retrieve it, and although slitting my throat or hanging myself seemed a viable option, my nephew and two brothers had recently moved in with me, and I didn’t want my (at the time) four-year-old nephew to walk in on me with my brains all over the wall or hanging from my closet.  I had reasoned that if I simply drank myself to death that it would be okay for him to walk in and see me just laying there, not breathing.  Time and time again I tried – I just couldn’t die, even though I had every intention.

Today – I have learned many tools, met many people, taken many paths, and worked very, very hard at becoming (and staying) sober and living in recovery.  But first I had to realize how my life was.

This is Step One of the Twelve Steps.

My life was indeed powerless and unmanageable.  But today, I’ve found that, with likeminded people, together we are not powerless over alcohol, and that together we can manage this Life of ours.  Together, with our Higher Power, we are unstoppable.  We are survivors.

I am grateful to the Creator for the people that help me walk this Wide Path to the Light.