Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A REACH FOR HAPPINESS

The topic at the meeting was what happened at your first program meeting that caused you to go to your second. It was remarkable how few of the recovering addicts in the circle could even remember their first meeting. Between the haze of time and the impenetrable fog of drugs, memories of first meetings tend to be patchy at best. I remembered mine, though.

It was an AA speaker's meeting in the midst of a blizzard that second night of mine in rehab in Minneapolis. I'd been almost thirty hours off drugs and was busy comparing myself to the war stories related by the AA speakers. I hadn't been to jail, hadn't gotten divorced, hadn't lost my house and car, hadn't lost limbs in a horrific traffic accident, and hadn't experienced a lot of things the speakers had experienced. I was busy putting together my argument that I wasn't either an addict or alcoholic, and this was all good solid evidence. Then came the next speaker.

She was a frail, little old woman and her story was that she had never taken an alcoholic drink or had a mood altering drug her entire life, until her husband died when she was in her mid seventies. Because of sleeplessness, she began drinking an ounce of alcohol each night. In short order her life began revolving around that one ounce of alcohol each night, the obsession driving everything else out of her life. She never had more than that one ounce a night, but her choice was to either increase the number of drinks or get into the program. She chose the program.

Well, comparing what I'd done with all that she hadn't done ran me up on the rocks double quick. If she was an alcoholic then I was, too. That was the night I learned to identify instead of compare--a baby step toward sanity. There was obviously more to learn about addiction, so I stayed in rehab and continued going to AA and NA meetings. That was my recollection.

Then a fellow talked about his first few meetings, and how he spent them in his car, in the parking lot, using. The only thing he got out of those meetings was that the men and women going in and coming out of that door seemed to be a lot happier than he was. Eventually, he put down the chemicals and went through that door to see why those folks were so happy.

We got into the chemicals because we thought it would make us feel better. In my case, it worked--for awhile. But one day I woke up and discovered I was a slave, everyone close to me was in pain, and happiness was a lost cause. The best I could hope for was to pop enough pills and soak up enough booze to keep from screaming. Then I was introduced to a program that allowed me to become a free, caring, responsible, happy human being.

No, I can't say I'm giggling all the time in recovery. Most of the time, however, I'm happy. Most of the time the people I'm close to aren't in emotional pain because of me. And I only scream when Army loses yet another Army-Navy game.

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