My name is Al B. and I’m a recovering alcoholic and addict. This is my story about my journey to finally embracing and living a sober life.
I had my first drink at a Christmas Eve party when I was about 8 years old. My Dad innocently let me have a small glass of Port wine. I remember feeling warm all over and I liked that feeling. I smoked my first joint in the 5th grade with my friend and again I remember liking the feeling.
In middle school, I starting really drinking with my friends. We would hang out at the liquor store and ask people the buy us two cases of beer, one for them and one for us. Someone would usually take us up on it. I would drink until I was sick.
I was a pretty shy and anxious kid. I was into art and never felt like I fit in with the other kids in the small mill town we lived in. I felt like a fish in milk. Drinking took all my shyness and anxiety away and I finally felt like I fit in.
In high school it was much easier to get alcohol and my drinking really picked up. I always drank to get drunk. By my senior year I was drunk just about every day. This continued through college.
When I graduated college, I married my high school sweetheart. She was always concerned about my drinking, but her Dad drank as much as me. She would make attempts to control my drinking but I would just drink behind her back.
In my mid-twenties I started an advertising agency out of our house and my drinking really picked up. I ended up having an affair with a woman who drank like I did. I got divorced and started living with this woman. She did not care how much I drank and my drinking went off the rails. Within a few months I arrested for a DUI.
I was court ordered to go to drunk school and to attend AA meetings. Drunk school started off as a big joke to me, until an AA group came to our class to speak. I remember feeling bad for the first two speakers but I totally identified with the third speaker. He was a young guy like me. He said when he drank he planned on having just a few drinks but would always get plastered and end up doing things he would never do sober. I could totally relate. I quit drinking that night. After all, I was in love and wanted to get married again and be a good husband and father.
I went to a few AA meeting mostly because I was court ordered and all the God stuff really turned me off. So, I decided to get sober on my own. I was miserable when I drank and when I quit drinking, I was still miserable but I had no expectation that I was going to a happy person just because I quit drinking.
I turned into a fitness fanatic, I was running about 100 miles per week. Then one day I saw an infomercial by a personal development guru and signed up for one of his seminars. I was blown away by his seminar and thought I found the answer to living a happy and joyous life. I followed this guy all around the country spending thousands and thousands of dollars on seminars, books and CDs. I was a dedicated student but I only really felt happy, joyous and hopeful about my life was when I was at his seminars. Once I got home those feeling would fade away.
I got married for a second time and we had two boys. For the first time in my life, I felt unconditional love. Unfortunately, the marriage ended and I just could not accept that I would not be with those boys every day. I was hospitalized for depression because I was suicidal. I decided to give AA a second attempt, to save my marriage. I hadn’t had a drink in nearly a decade. I treated AA like a personal development program and basically did whatever I wanted. Honestly, I felt I was better than the folks in AA because I just quit drinking on my own—no God, no Steps and no meetings. My sponsor kept trying to get through to me but I was too immature and not ready to listen. So, eventually I got disillusioned with the whole program and left.
I got married for a third time to a woman with two boys about my sons’ ages. Her first husband had passed away. I thought being a full-time Dad to those kids would fill the void I had missing my own sons. That marriage went south pretty quickly but I hung in there for her kids. I hadn’t had a drink for 15 years at this point.
While sparring in a karate class, I got a severe break in my wrist. It was going to take a year to heal. My doctor prescribed me Percocet for the pain and I was instantly hooked. I convinced the doctor to keep refilling that script for the entire year. The pain really wasn’t that bad but I was addicted to the euphoric feeling of the drug. I ran out of the drug Christmas Eve that year. I remember waking up Christmas day in a panic and I was so sick that day with withdrawals.
I ended up getting divorced and I hooked up with my first high school girl and things were great. I started taking Ritalin for my ADHD. Again, I loved the feeling and kept convincing my doctor to increase the script. Then on my 47th birthday my nephew gave me a joint. I hadn’t had a drink in 20 years. I smoked that joint with my girlfriend and I was hooked. It took the edge off all the Ritalin I was taking. Within a very short time I was in a manic episode that led to a nervous breakdown. I was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder. I was hospitalized three times that year. I became very depressed, more depressed than I ever felt in my life. I lost the girlfriend, the business and the mansion I was living in. I gave AA a 3rd attempt just for a few months but I had already stopped smoking pot and taking Ritalin. So, I figured, “what is the point of going to meetings?” I can do this on my own.
My deep depression lasted for years I was barely functional, super anxious and suicidal. I felt like it would never end. My doctor was struggling to find the right drugs to lift me out of my Bipolar depression. I even tried shock treatment but that didn’t work either. I decided to smoke a little marijuana to take the edge off my anxiety. Within a very short period of time, I was smoking pot all day, every day.
After years of this, my youngest son called me a Pothead one day. That cut through me like a hot knife through butter and I thought to myself, “what kind of example am I setting for my sons?” I quit smoking pot but it wasn’t easy and I was white knuckling it hard. So I reached out to a guy I had met 20 years earlier in AA and asked if he was still going to meetings. He said yes and invited me to come to a meeting with him. I felt totally defeated and embarrassed about my behavior. I was also really depressed and had no hope for the future.
A month later, while driving back from a meeting, I asked him to be my sponsor. When he dropped me off at my apartment, and I had one foot out the door of his car he asked me, “have you been drinking?” I answered no. I hadn’t had a drink in nearly 30 years. Then he asked about pot, “have you been smoking pot?” I sunk back into my seat and in a low voice I said “yes.” In a kind, gentle and confident voice he said “we’re going to work the Steps and everything is going to be okay.” I could feel the tears welling up and I said “okay.” I shook his hand and quickly slipped out of his car.
Over the next couple of years, I’d like to say he guided me though the steps but he spoon-fed them to me bit by bit because I was so broken. And slowly I began to feel better. Working Steps 4 and 5 was profound to me. I began to see my problems with alcohol and drugs were just a symptom. For 30 years, I thought if I just didn’t drink—problem solved. What I discovered was I had a thinking problem and I was the cause of my troubled life, not people, places and things as I had always believed.
Suddenly I felt hopeful. The world around me didn’t have to change as I always believed. I did! And I believed that was possible. It wouldn’t be easy but for the first time in my life I thought I could do it with God’s help.
A miracle happened! I suddenly had faith that God could restore me to sanity. I became laser focused on changing my beliefs, thought patterns, moods and actions toward other people. I began to change—my anger almost disappeared. I became what I call a “gentle man.” I actively prayed for and sought God’s will for me. I was amazed at how much my depression lessened.
Today, my life isn’t perfect but I wake up with hope instead of waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’m able to be present for my kids. I stayed single longer enough to work on myself and attract and marry the woman of my dreams. I still suffer the effects of Bipolar Disorder sometimes. It is like a rollercoaster. I’m up and feeling manic for a few weeks then I’m down and depressed for no reason. I faithfully take my medication, I pray and mediate every day, I go to lots of meetings, I talk about how I’m feeling and I help others in recovery.