It’s day #667 on this particular journey. Picture this:
You’re sitting on the front porch sipping your morning coffee. It’s an espresso, high quality coffee, too. It’s early in the morning and you’re happy to be up early; it’s not a challenge to roll out of bed each morning. You’re overlooking the lake in your backyard and the mist rolling off of it. Your dog is at your feet and has fallen back asleep after getting up with you.
You’re comfortably retired at only 45 years old, thanks to your hard work and investments. It’s been a good life. Your wife, to whom you are happily married, is still asleep. This is your time. You only have a couple of things to do for the whole day and drinking your coffee completes half of the list. Not a bad day to be you, but then there never are.
That all sounds good, eh? I mean to me it does, but that’s what I think of as a perfect life. (Or, close enough anyway) Well this is what I was promised* at AA. When you get into the rooms and start to ‘work’ the program you are told you can have a life beyond your wildest dreams. My sponsor, upon describing when someone first spoke this phrase to him, once said, “Man, I thought to myself ‘I dunno, man! I have some pretty wild dreams!'” And you could put me in that boat, too!
*No, it definitely wasn’t. But what I got was better.
As a drinking alcoholic my life was unmanageable. Honestly, that word falls laughably short of describing my life and my lack of ability to run it successfully. I didn’t know a hell of a lot, but I knew I couldn’t drink anymore but couldn’t stop either. My only concern was getting through my day, not messing up too badly. ‘Too badly’ would have been something that caused me to lose my job (also known as my alcohol-purchasing-money-generator). Or get caught in my own lies and BS thus ruining the status quo. Because those were always threats.
As an aside from this entry, I’d like to share how I came to the conclusion that I had reached that magical “can’t keep drinking, can’t stop drinking” stage.
I had just finished my shift at work and got outside to the bus stop. There was a convenience store next to the stop. The following was what ran through my mind:
I’m not going to go get a beer (I entered the store). I’m not going to get a beer (I walked to the beer cooler). I’m not going to buy a beer (I opened the cooler and chose my ‘usual’ beer). I don’t want to drink this beer (I walk to the counter to pay). I’m not going to open this beer (I pay for the beer and immediately open it). I WILL NOT DRINK THIS BEER! (I did).
Man, I felt as defeated as a man could as I sipped my beer on the bus. Looking back on this evening I realized that I was no longer in control (if I ever was). It was undeniable. I couldn’t just keep pretending I was fine. I couldn’t pretend I was normal and could stop whenever I wanted.
My focus was pretty narrow. It was not going much further than what happened from day-to-day. I certainly wasn’t dreaming of a better life, I was barely able to manage the one I already had. Basically everything that could change would have been an improvement, but I was not capable of change of any real importance. So my mindset going into sobriety wasn’t a life beyond my wildest dreams, it was a way to stop to repercussions. I wanted to stop the pain and constant stress.
Getting into the rooms was instrumental in changing who I am. When I initially got sober I was living in Korea and I wasn’t convinced that I had a problem. Even when I finally did I didn’t have a great deal of access to AA. I was five months sober when I got to Australia and went to my first meeting. It didn’t exactly enthrall me. But eventually when I moved to New Zealand I started taking AA and the steps seriously and before I knew it, the ‘life beyond my wildest dreams’ began to take shape.
The only part of my opening paragraph that is an accurate portrayal of my life is the happiness in my relationship. Every single thing aside from that is different. It’s wonderful! The development of the life I have today has been built on the work I’ve done in the steps.
I can comfortably say I am now living a life beyond my wildest dreams (while I was drinking). I am financially stable. My relationship is stable, loving and better than anything I could have imagined. (Really, though. Sobriety has given me the chance to be a man for the first time!) I deal with my own issues in constructive, calm ways… most of the time. I’m not perfect, as I’ve happily pointed out before. I live a life I am comfortable living; one I don’t need to escape from.
This has been the least structured entry I’ve written but I’m going to bring all of this together with this message: A life beyond your wildest dreams is, like many things in AA, kind of vague. What that term really means is that you are going to see the changes in your life aren’t going to be shallow. They are going to be the type of changes you encounter when you dig below the surface and make structural, fundamental changes to the person. When I was drinking I assumed people didn’t like me, and I was often right. I was a mess and it was understandable that people might not want to be around me. Seriously, I wouldn’t have wanted to be around me either! (Kudos to those who did stick by my side. You folks are more tolerant than I!) Today if someone doesn’t like me at least I know it’s me that they don’t like; not a bloated, alcoholic version of myself.
The life I have now would have been impossible had I continued drinking. When you’re drunk (and even those who have no issues with alcohol can attest) you can’t function. When you can’t function, you can’t progress; you can’t grow. The amount of growth that has come from admitting I had (one hell of) a problem and doing something about is beyond my wildest dreams. Hell, I didn’t think I could stop drinking at all, let alone change anything else. Being sober has given me a lot and most of it can be encompassed in the title of this entry.
We get a reprieve for today. My name is David and I can not drink today. That’s about as far as I’m willing to go.
Thanks for reading. I wish you another 24.
A friend of Bill