On March 20, 1988 I woke up in a drunk tank in a small town that I’d never heard of. Before I opened my eyes, I knew where I was: the hard steel bunk, the sound of officers’ keys jangling as they walked, but most of all the smell of urine, vomit, sweat and despair that clung in the air. These were familiar of course, since this was my 10th arrest for driving drunk. I was taken up to the window where you get your belt, shoelaces, and billfold back and some moron had hung a mirror there. What I saw changed my life. my suit coat had flecks of vomit on it, my pants showed a drying urine stain, but the life changing moment was when I looked into my own eyes and saw nothing there but hopelessness.
I knew I needed help when I saw a dead, hopeless being staring back at me from the mirror in jail I knew suddenly that this wasn’t the way that normal people spent their days. I had tried to quit drinking and drugging on my own countless times, but this day I realized I would need help and I was finally so beaten down that I was willing to ask for it.
I got help when I met a man at my first 12 step meeting who had been sober since before I was born (26 years at that point.) He guided me through a program of recovery that not only removed the desire to ever get high again, it also allowed me to build a life so wonderful that any chemical high would be a let-down. He loved me when I wasn’t very lovable and when I didn’t even love myself.
The biggest thing I learned through all of this is that we don’t get better alone. We help each other to get better. I hate the word advice. Instead of advice I offer my experience, strength, and hope. I don’t know if what worked for me will work for you; all I can do is share what it was like for me and what I did that changed it. Hopefully I can remain humble enough to also share what didn’t work as well as what did.
I have not used a mind-altering substance since the first day of Spring 1988. Today I am spiritually fit and my life is filled with miracles. I start each day in a conversation with my higher power that begins with inspirational reading, moves to a short, simple prayer, and concludes with meditation. As I view it praying is talking to God and meditation is waiting for the reply. In that morning program, I also concretely state what I am grateful for that day. I tend to focus on non-material things (friendship, happiness, health over the new car etc.)
Going to church would not have saved my life. Counseling would not have saved my life. Self-knowledge would not have saved my life. Going to a lot of 12 step meetings would not have saved my life. The only thing in the world that worked for this addict was working the 12 steps as they were written in the book, while sitting next to a man who had done the same in his own life.