By John E.

I have had so many “Day 1, Agains” over the past 15 years. The first Day 1 found me physically exhausted and weakened beyond reasonable imagination. The next to latest Day 1 found me emotionally and intellectually broken and scarred. The latest Day 1 found me coldly angry and determined to recover.

My Day 1s have been bizarre emotional experiences. Sometimes part of me would be afraid I was going to die and I would be found with my racing heart having ejected itself from my body and my skin having painfully crawled to another room. Another part of me was afraid I would never die and I would have to live my life feeling this way forever. I had literally and quite successfully created my own 24 hour Technicolor hell.

Exactly eight weeks ago I had another Day 1. The latest relapse was about 6 weeks in length after a 6 year abstinence. For good or for ill when I woke up the last still drunk morning I wasn’t ashamed of myself. I just knew I had to stop drinking. I wasn’t afraid of what the next few days would bring, I just had to stop drinking. I checked into a hospital and essentially said, “Keep me safe for a couple of days until I can begin to take care of myself again.” There was no drama, no tears, no self flagellation. Just the simple unadorned knowledge that I had to stop drinking. Again.

After the 48 hour “rest” I came home and got prepared to fight this one more time. I wasn’t sure how I was going to do it since AA was not particularly beneficial to me. Some people have allergies to penicillin, I have a mild allergic response to AA. But I made one important decision for me. I wasn’t going to lie to myself anymore. I am an alcoholic who doesn’t respond to AA so I have to find something else. Within 48 hours I had found the SOS web site and very soon started going to the one SOS meeting in Chicago. (Lucky for me someone decided to go to all the effort to start a meeting). After a fair amount of searching I hired a psychiatrist who specializes in alcoholism (recovering himself) and asked him to help me work through some issues that are bothersome. I met with my most important (financially) client and said, “Here’s the situation. You decide what you need to do.” There was a positive reaction to that. I began to put some of the disassembled pieces back in place.

I read this email list a couple of times a day. Each day someone writes something that contributes strength to my resolve not to drink that day. Each day I read the phrase “sobriety priority” and pay attention to it. Once a week I go to a meeting where a quiet calm supportive environment encourages me and reinforces the reality that this can work. Each day I am as truthful with myself as I know how to be.

For me it is a process. It’s been going on for a long time, it has been exasperating and sometimes painful. But, it is the way I have had to do it. Of course life is already better. But then, of course I knew it would be. Just as I knew 14 weeks ago when I decided to drink, yet again, that my quality of life would almost immediately be diminished. But the nature of my alcoholism is that even though I knew negative things would happen, not drinking wasn’t a priority. It wasn’t important enough. It is today. And I’ll just keep doing what I’ve been doing and I suspect that tomorrow will probably work out OK too.

It’s a hell of a ride. Thanks for reminding me of all of this. My day will be better for it. And I sincerely wish the same for you.

Oct. 29