The Lessons I Have Learned In 12 Step Recovery

briancuban2A one-time friend of mine was  sentenced to 65 years in prison.  He was convicted of being the ring-leader of a notorious Dallas burglary ring known as “The Uptown Burglars“.  During my partying days, I hung out with him on a regular basis.  He was fun to be around. He was a good looking guy.  He was popular with the ladies. Our common bond was drinking, drugs and debauchery.  Drug addiction played a major role in his free-fall to prison life.  His demise has caused me to reflect on the various directions my life could have very well taken had I not taken control.

It was just over  two years ago  that I took control of my life’s direction. I did not want to end up like Damon West and many others  like him on the Dallas, party scene.  I became a member  of one of the most difficult and at the same time easiest groups to become a member of. I t is a very exclusive club of people who all share one common goal and for the purposes of this club this is all we talk about and all we care about. It is a club that changed the direction of my life, clarified my life and probably saved my life.

Why is it the most difficult club to get into? Because you have to have a desire to stop drinking. Why is it the easiest to get into to? Because the only requirement for membership is a simple desire to stop drinking. Quite the paradox.

Ironically if you would have asked me 2  years ago if I would ever become a member of this club, I would have looked at you like you were from Mars.  I was not homeless. I didn’t live under a bridge. I had a job and my family loved me. T o be a member of this club, I had always thought you had to be a homeless, unemployed, crack smoking bum pan handling people for money at the local intersection.

Along with all this, I loved to go out with my buddies. I would tell you what bar or club was the place to be on any night of the week. I would go out at least 3 times a week. This meant I was drinking at least three times a week. This never seemed like any big deal to me because all my buddies were doing the same thing.  I was having a great time.  Never had to wait in line anywhere.  Never had to stand anywhere.  Everyone wanted to buy me drinks.  Why shouldn’t I always have a drink in my hand?

There was no one to tell me that going out drinking that many times and sometimes more a week is not a good thing no matter how hold you are or how you slice it. Then again, why should anyone have to tell me this?  I am a grown man right?  Frankly, if I looked at all the stupid decisions I have made in my life, 80 percent of them started with one of those nights out.

Again, its seemed no big deal to me because everyone I hung out with was doing the same thing. Completely socially acceptable in my book as long as I never strayed from those circles.

Was I an alcoholic?   Well if I was than all my buddies where as well.  I knew that wasn’t possible so it was all good.  In further rationalization, I noted to myself that I had not been convicted of DWI, never been to rehab, was employed, nice home etc. I had only changed my phone number 5 times in the previous year, to rid myself of drunken short-term relationships.   When I had to, I simply adjusted my moral plane to account for all drunken embarrassing acts and mouth openings so that was all good. I never drove drunk which to me was the primary indicator of an alcoholic. I either had a driver or took a cab. Of course this just allowed me to party even harder when I went out since I knew I was not driving. The logic of a true attorney.

So what traumatic event happened that caused me to finally walk through those 12 Step doors? I had a blackout. I went out for one of my normal partying sessions and the next thing I knew it was a day later. Could not remember one thing that happened. The first blackout I had ever had. Scary as shit to not remember and have people tell you what an idiot you were.  I knew other people who had alcohol blackouts and I always thought they were funny as shit.  When it happens to you and the  “what ifs” start running through your mind, it loses its humor instantly.

That blackout turned out to  the best thing that has ever happened to me in my life.

If I had not blacked out that weekend in April two  years ago, I would probably still be going out every night of the week, taking days to recover, not getting work done(I was lucky as shit that my brother was my boss), and basically standing still in time with no forward movement in any aspect of my life. I wont even address the “what ifs” that are a lot worse.

That blackout gave me the “moment of clarity” I needed to determine that enough was enough. It was time to live instead of exist.

I found out when and where the local  12-step meetings was. I walked to the front door, knowing I may be recognized, embarrassed and scared. I walked in. I was recognized, embarrassed and scared.

I was recognized as someone who wanted to take control of his life and welcomed with a hug like I had been coming for years. I sat through the first meeting and listened to people just like me talk about their stories. They talked about lows lower than I could ever imagine. Many had lost everything. Many who had lost everything had started just like I did. Just out having a good time. A good time night out ending with wiping out a family while driving drunk….They talked about prison, being homeless, losing family, losing self, losing everything. Many also seemed like your normal successful people who you never would guess in million years. Many came from alcoholic families. Many like me, had no history at all in their family.  Alcoholism is an equal opportunity disease.

They also talked about highs from sobriety that I didn’t think I would ever see. Great changes in their lives. People who had not taken a drink in 30 and 40 years and loving life.  Believe me, when you are sitting at day one that seems like pipe dream. There were lawyers, doctors, salespeople, engineers, actors, college students, high school students. Every group was represented.  Everyone had their own story. Everyone had the same goal. To stop drinking and/or stop doing drugs.

That first meeting I was given what is called a “desire chip” It is an 12-step coin that is an outward sign of an inward desire to stay sober for 24 hrs. It was suggested that I go to 90 meetings in 90 days so I did that as well. Sometimes I went to two meetings a day.

Stopping drinking was not the most difficult thing I had never done.  Not by a long shot.  It was the easy part. What was the hard part? The hard part was to acknowledge that if I wanted to stay sober I would have to make a 180 degree turn in my lifestyle. This meant acknowledging that if my party buddies were also not making that change, something had to give. It is always easier to take the path of least resistance and stay part of the group to avoid change. The path of the most resistance is to break ties with that and move in a different direction.

No one wants to be alone. Everyone wants to be part of a peer group. Everyone wants to be wanted. Your best buddy is not going to be your best buddy anymore if you don’t go out and get drunk with them.  Your true friends will always be there and do you really want the ones who base your friendship on your ability to party like a rock star?

Making that change was ten thousand times harder than not taking a drink. It was hard until I saw that 90 percent of the world didn’t live like that anyways. I  didn’t know that because I only hung out with the ones who did live that way.  I survived.  The true friends stayed my friends.

The rest continued on without me. They continued on to the tune of one drug related suicide and overdose in the 2 year since I quit drinking. J

I will be honest here. There are a lot of things about the 12-step philosophy that I have not bought into.  I have learned however that taking one day at a time and never forgetting what got me in there is a good thing to do.   I wake up every morning thinking about the day I am in and not what disaster may occur tomorrow.  Nine times out of ten when tomorrow comes it is not near the disaster that it looked today and so what if it is. People who have never taken a drink deal with problems and tragedy all the time and they manage.

Maybe it is the attorney in me, but I question everything. Have to know the background, research etc. That is tough in 12-Step because so much of it is based on simple faith in the program.  2 years later I am still full of questions but I am also sober, happy and productive in my life.   in 2 years of sobriety I have accomplished more in my personally and professionally than I did the previous 9 years of drink, drugs and debauchery.

I Still have a long way to go but its a good start.


14 Responses

  1. Great article BC and so glad to see you sharing your story, thank you! I will get my 6 month chip June 1st and like you, never had a "low bottom" and really (for many years) didn't see any difference with my partying / drinking than any other of my party crew. But, I was edgy most days, seemed like the entire world was getting on my nerves and realized one day that I was drinking more ane more alone, going out less and less. And, like you, I have questions and have not fully bought into everything with the program; however, I too have a much more productive and happy life and so I will keep going back – one day at at time! Thank you!

  2. I became a fan of your writting a while back because I like the truth in your writting, today I became a fan because your a good man. First time I ever saw you in a club you where an ass. Today I realize you had to be in order to write from the hart. Thanks for sharing. I’m amaze at how similliar we are. I guest I was an ass too.

    I know grammer sucks…..

  3. Brian – Thanks for sharing your story. As you know, showing up at your first meeting is such a huge step. Like you, I wear my sobriety like a loose cloak. While I remain anonymous, as per the traditions of the program, I am always happy to share my experience, strength and hope. It's almost 21 years since my first meeting, and my last drink. I was 23-years old, a recent college graduate, and from a good family. How could I be an alcoholic? Yet, there I was … raising my hand as a newcomer, with a desire to stop drinking. Thankfully, that desire has never left me.

  4. Thanks for sharing this. I have a friend who went to her first NA meeting the other day. It's good to be able to point out someone relatively normal that's made it through… maybe to the other side or maybe at least sending back word that there is light somewhere in the tunnel.

  5. Congrats to you and thanks for sharing. This will help many people today and when they find it through seo. thanks.

  6. What a very moving article and you have really taken a negative and turned it into a positive, I am a Brian fan now:) Have you not noticed… Be well and your a very strong and good soul dear… April

  7. hello fine Sir, Dec. 21st 2007 I stopped drinking and I did not look back………….. love God love yourself love Family to quit was the hardest thing I ever had moreover being in the Bar biz extra hard yet I’m doing well….. hats off to you and me my friend thanks for always being a gentleman MUCH LOVE BIGTODD

  8. Brian- GREAT READ… it made me cry. Your voice is very LOUD and CLEAR in this story. Thank so much for sharing your story and understanding how much this is going to help others seek treatment.

  9. Isnt it funny how the worst day in your life can turn out to be the biggest blessing? Thank God for that and keep coming back 🙂

  10. I personally don't care if people do things that kill THEMSELVES, but the problem with alcohol, tobacco and other drugs is it kills me if I am near, and secondly, many children don't have a choice since their moron parents drink, smoke or take drugs around them. Alcohol is dangerous too since 90% of all alcoholics are functional and go to work drunk and are in charge of cars, machinery, etc. Which makes it my problem when 1500 people a day are killed by drunk drivers.

    I just wish they had a drug called "explode", you take it, you explode, done. That would get all the druggies off the streets quickly!

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