Dr. Val Farmer
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Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Alcoholics Describe Their Journey Of Recovery

April 5, 2010

These are some reflections given to me by recovering alcoholics as they recounted their efforts to abstain from alcohol.

The decision to get help. "Cancer is a picnic compared to alcoholism. Cancer doesn’t have an ego. An alcoholic deludes himself while his problem grows bigger and bigger. A cancer victim says, ‘Take me to the hospital.’"

"I’ve learned two things. Number one, there is a God. Number two, it is not me. What a relief."

"You cannot think your way into right thinking. You live your way into right living."

"I knew I was addicted. I could blame it on this or that. I couldn’t stop."

"His trouble could be my trouble." - Observation about a colleague’s mounting problems because of drinking.

"It bothered me. I knew. My family knew. I would wake up and not remember what I did or said. The family was doing their thing and leaving me out."

Involvement with Alcoholics Anonymous. "This man was dying. He was so warm and had a love of life. He was happy. I wanted what he had. I decided to go to meetings, practice the principles. I would try to do these things and my life would be better."

A.A. didn’t work for one man the first time around. "I didn’t do the steps. I was confronted by family and friends. The first time I went I did it for others. The second time I did it for myself."

"My view of A.A. had to change. It is not a room of stumblebum drunks in a smoky room. The people at the meetings I see in every group across town."

"The problem with professionals is their intellect. They think they are too smart to be an alcoholic. Arrogance is a stumbling block. I was sitting there (in an A.A. meeting) with that arrogance, trying to learn how to drink socially."

"If you stop the drinking, do the work, go to meetings, do the inventories, it takes away the desire to drink."

"If you go to meetings, get a sponsor and read the literature, you’ll be successful. So many people don’t get it. They don’t do the basics. The program always works. You have to work the program."

"If you need a drink on a regular basis you need a program. It is time to take a hard look at yourself. It takes courage. All it takes is a phone call, a meeting, and a humble attitude."

"The A.A. program requires deflation of the ego at depth. People have to humble themselves and do the fourth and fifth steps. They have to take an inventory of the harm they have caused, admit the exact nature of the wrongs and make amends. Until we do that, we haven’t worked the program."

The benefits of recovery. This is the best part of the story. Life changed dramatically for the better in each of their lives.

"I have more friends and more respect after I quit drinking. I’ve gotten ‘smarter’ - I didn’t know what a fog I was in. I can’t figure out where I had the time to drink. Any part of my life is more interesting and enjoyable now. Everything works better. I robbed myself of so many things."

"It is like moving from darkness into light. You learn what life can really be."

"I’ve learned to live life without escape."

"Life doesn’t get easier or better with sobriety. We get better."

"It is a lot more fun to be sober. The only fun I had before was drinking. Everything else was no fun. It is so much more fun being sober. It almost makes practicing law fun!"

"I enjoy the amount of respect I have. It is so much more now. I feel good about myself. I am happier now."

"I didn’t laugh. I was humorless. Now that I am sober, I have a better time - and I can remember it. How much better the concert was! There are so many more parts of life."

"I can watch the birds and listen to them sing. Life is good. It is a heck of a lot better than before."

The effects on family relationships. This is another payoff when you deal with alcoholism. Family relationships improve.

"The families of alcoholics pay a big price. Alcoholics don’t realize the price they pay. An alcoholic would be horrified if they could step out of their own skin and learn what goes on in their family member’s minds."

"I couldn’t be social or intimate without alcohol. It had the opposite effect. Drinking drove me away from those who love me."

"It (alcohol) couldn’t give me the closeness I wanted."

"If I hadn’t stopped drinking, my wife and I wouldn’t have this wonderful relationship we have now."

"Do you want your kids to be proud of you or not?"

On helping others. "I’d rather be a year too soon than a day too late. I do what I can. I don’t wait. It is better than going to the Police Department, Emergency Room or the funeral home. It’s a chance (for interventions and commitment) you have to take. It takes courage. It gets their attention. It messes up their drinking. I tell them, ‘I love you enough to do this for you.’"