Tim’s father drank after work then went out carousing with his friends and then came home and beat his wife and kids. Tim was often beaten to a pulp and he thought that was normal. His mother was a weak woman and usually ‘out of commission’. Now Tim can see the dysfunction for what it was — he has since recovered from his own drinking problems. He has risen the ranks of the West Hollywood AA, and now with 20 years sobriety, is the Secretary of the Old Timers’ meeting. He quickly quieted the room which was filled with friends, who beamed with pride and affection for the tall, handsome man in his early 50’s, as he began his tale.
He grew up in Virginia, son of an alcoholic but successful, driven man. Tim was getting blackout drunk and crashing cars soon after getting his license. Once he crashed headlong into another car and both cars were completely destroyed. The other driver was his own brother, also driving drunk and in a blackout. They were both driving their parents’ cars. This accident was caused by the brothers’ early onset alcoholism and not shared hatred of their parents, if you can call them that. The fact that they crashed into each other was pure coincidence. His mother often showed him pictures of the totaled cars, thinking that this would dissuade our protagonist from drinking, and would not be considered a trophy of his contempt.
As a young adult, he nearly drank himself to death many times, separated by periods of sobriety in which he tried to fix other alcoholics and turn them into boyfriends. However, this strategy never worked well. For example, his sponsor checked out and then missed a couple dates. He really thought the guy was the one, and kept trying to bring him back. But looking back with his AA wisdom, he realizes that missing a few dates was probably a ‘red flag’. This is the miracle of AA: you learn to just ‘let go’, Regardless of how handsome the guy is. Or the miracles he promises you. Because he has a disease, and is not drinking ‘at’ you, even if that’s what he says (and is not drinking ‘away from’ you, even if it sure seems like it).
Now Tim has sponsees of his own and is amazed by how they seek him out, as he seems to have something they want. He helps them to understand that alcoholism is a deadly and cunning disease that affects our thinking and can operate even in the absence of alcohol. For example, after about 4 years of sobriety, he had started to make mistakes at work. The mistakes started to pile up, and he was deep in debt, and soon enough he had intense cravings to drink, and he relapsed and became powerless to alcohol again, even though it felt like he was overwhelmed by financial problems. The reason this happened was that he had stopped attending meetings, and stopped talking to his sponsor. If he had, then he would have revealed the mistakes and wouldn’t have gotten overcome by them. For this reason, you should seek a sponsor immediately. And if people seem to be badgering you about getting a sponsor, it is only out of concern for your well-being. And you must have a sponsor for the rest of your life because you can’t assume you are cured of alcoholism — complacency is actually a symptom of the disease. Don’t make the same mistake as Tim.
An important realization is that you can’t change people and you can’t make them love you. Another example: his brother was abusive when they were children, and at first while doing the steps he asked his brother to acknowledge that. But that didn’t work. Eventually he simply forgave his brother, and a week after sending a letter saying so, he received an invitation to his niece’s wedding – a miracle of AA. When visiting the family, Tim’s father still offers him a glass of wine, thinking it’s not really alcohol, and asking again if he is still in AA. The man has still never acknowledged the abuse. But Tim has long since forgiven him and made amends. The reason is that his father is still an alcoholic (although one of the rare ones who survive – most die without AA), and just being included in the family is what’s important.
Now Tim teaches these lessons to his young sponsees. It’s worth attending AA for years, as he did, even if it takes until middle age before you discover that the solution to all your problems is to ‘let go’ and trust in your higher power, and that abusing others is ok as long as you have a drink first or can convince the victim that they too are alcoholic and must eventually forgive you.