The following interview about AA with Scott W. aims at bringing awareness to AA and does not reflect Alltreatment's opinion. In addition, Scott's opinion and testimony do not endorse any particular treatment center. You can learn more about Scott's experience and journey by visiting his blog: Attitude of Gratitude at blogspot.com.
AllTreatment: Thank you for allowing me to interview you today. Can tell me a little bit about you? (Where did you grow up? What environment did you grow up in? Were your parents using alcohol? When did you have your first drink? In short, please describe your introduction to alcohol, be it through watching a family member or trying it for the first time).
Scott W.: I grew up in Paducah, Kentucky, in a home where alcohol was never present. I had my first drink in college. I don't remember the event specifically, but I know I drank to excess. I got drunk, blacked out, then passed out.
My father started drinking after he and my mother split for the final time. He was a dentist and wrote his own prescriptions for tranquilizers starting when I was in elementary school. He rarely slept and was erratic in behavior, manic and depressive, raging one day and crying the next. My mother never drank. My parents never seemed to be able to communicate well.
My parents were loving people and provided well for us (I have a younger brother and sister, neither one are alcoholic or use drugs). We had a standard, Midwestern upbringing-good standing in the community, all seemed normal externally. We were probably as dysfunctional as the next household. I never felt I fit in. I was an isolator. I was constantly told I was not good enough in the most backhanded ways and society told me I was broken because of my sexual orientation. My usual state was one of sadness and shame.
AT: How long have you been sober?
SW: My sobriety date is November 18, 2003. I am grateful to have been sober 2,475 days today. I will have seven years of continuous sobriety this fall. For me it's a perfect thing I got sober in November, the traditional month of gratitude.
AT: When did you realize that you have a have substance dependence problem? What caused you to realize you had a problem?
SW: In 1998 I had started drinking heavily alone. I had eschewed bars in favor of the isolation of home. I could drink more and just pass out in bed. I knew I was an alcoholic but I wasn't anywhere close to thinking I needed to do something about it.
I drank to excess daily and binged on the weekends. I was missing work and slipping mentally into a stupor. Following a binge weekend and missing work without calling two co-workers came to my apartment. I wouldn't answer the door but they could hear me telling the dog to be quiet. That evening another co-worker came to see me. She is from a family of alcoholics and she asked to speak with me. She stayed hours and I cried and agreed to enter a treatment facility. The next morning she came and picked me up and we drove to rehab. That was May 30, 2001.
AT: How did your addiction affect your self-image, and your relationships with your loved ones? Were these changes sudden or progressive?
SW: I lost three parents in 1999- my parents and my stepmother. My mother was in a nursing home in a dementia/ALS vegetable state and was totally unaware of my alcoholism. I was rarely in touch with my father and stepmother during my adult years so they were unaware, too.
“I could barely focus on anything other than getting to work and getting home so I could pour more alcohol into my body.”
I was always close with my sister. She and I communicated, but we were usually both drunk when we did. She has since quit drinking and is not an alcoholic. My brother and I have never had a relationship to speak of; we have never been in each others' lives.
My alcoholism was progressive and I lost myself. I could barely focus on anything other than getting to work and getting home so I could pour more alcohol into my body. The pain of not having alcohol was unbearable and during the last three years of my drinking there was hardly a day I did not drink. I would detox on Sundays, a dangerous thing considering how saturated my body was with alcohol. Often I would lie awake all night not being able to sleep and got quite adept at lying there, watching my hallucinations and waiting for the dread of sunrise. I lost touch completely with my spirituality. I had no sense of my own self other than the despair of living the life of an isolated messy drunk.
AT: Did you try any other treatment methods besides AA?
SW: I never attempted to stop drinking until I entered a treatment center.
AT: How did you come to know of AA?
SW: I attended my first AA meeting in a treatment center (May 2001 as I stated above). I stayed there for almost three weeks and did quite well but I was back in that same rehab center in August, two months later. There was no room in the chemical dependency unit so I was put in the psyche unit. I met another alcoholic there and we became friends. We remained friends afterward, I got a sponsor and did the step work as directed. I found a lot of relief in that work, but if I was sitting in a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous it was because I did not drive around the block several times and go home. I was terrified of the people in those meetings. I kept myself behind a wall and looked for ways for the program to not work. In less than ten months I was relying on bi-weekly therapist sessions to keep me sober. That did not work well and before long I was drinking again.
AT: Can you tell me about your personal experience with AA? Were you skeptical? Did it work immediately? Were there any hurdles? What was the biggest problem that AA helped you solve that you couldn't solve alone?
SW: I mentioned earlier I looked for ways for the program of AA to not work for me. I found many. What I have realized since finding my way back is that it was just as easy, and probably easier, to find ways for the program to work. I had surrendered the day I walked back in the doors of AA. I started receiving gratitude lists via email from several sober members and eventually started my own. A friend and I discovered blogging in December 2004. Soon we were both blogging and our blogs were designed around our gratitude lists.
I soon found, upon daily meditation on gratitude and writing my lists, that my fear was easing. I had done my fourth and fifth steps with my sponsor and we discovered the underlying factor in practically all my character defects was fear. I was a fear-based alcoholic, and all my reactions to the world and my life stemmed from that fear–that I wouldn't get what I wanted or lose something I had.
“I was a fear-based alcoholic, and all my reactions to the world and my life stemmed from that fear–that I wouldn't get what I wanted or lose something I had.”
I read Conversations with God and discovered a new way to pray. On page 11 it states: "Thankfulness is thus the most powerful statement to God; an affirmation that even before you ask, I have answered." This statement truly changed my life. I started adapting my prayers to those of gratitude. I speak with my Higher Power often. I always communicate with gratitude, with thanks for what I have been given and for what will come. From this practice of finding gratitude in everything I have been given a faith and trust that I will be absolutely be taken care of. I have to do my part, of course. I have to do the work suggested to me, work with my sponsor, participate in fellowship, look for the next, right loving thing and have the power to carry it out. I maintain a relationship with a Higher Power and I must always remember my primary purpose as stated in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, "to stay sober ourselves and help another alcoholic achieve sobriety."
My biggest hurdle was fear. I was so afraid of what I would have to do once I stopped drinking. I was so afraid of other people. My self-esteem was practically non-existent. I had also given up on my spirituality because I wanted instead to chase the feeling alcohol gave me. These two things tripped me constantly.
AT: How would you describe your life before and after AA?
SW: That I know I never have to do anything alone again, ever, goes a long way in keeping me serene. I guard my serenity only second to my sobriety. Without sobriety I really have nothing other than the pitiful life I had before. Now I have what I want and want what I have. Who can truly ask for more? My happiness is indescribable some days. I truly do not think I had ever experienced happiness before.
I have strong and fulfilling relationships with others today. The literature tells us we suffer most from our twisted relations with others. Today my relationships are healthy and I have loving, strong friends with whom I would trust my life…and do daily.
I was able to stop any drug use before I ever tried to quit alcohol. I am an addict. I want MORE. Eventually it wouldn't matter what it was, just give me MORE. The sad reality of always wanting MORE is that there is never enough of any mind altering substance to make the obsession go away. The only thing that removed my obsession to drink was a power greater than myself.
If you can accept the fact you are an alcoholic (or addict) and will give the program of Alcoholics Anonymous a fair chance you will be astonished at what the results can be. Learn that alcoholism is a disease and that you are not a bad person. Be willing, open-minded and honest and you can have a life beyond your dreams.
AT: Thank you your time, Scott.
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