I was court-ordered to AA meetings at 21.
I had gotten a DUI while driving home drunk from a friend’s birthday party after work. I had been driving overly drunk for years though, so honestly, it was about time I was caught.
There was a time I was swerving through different lanes of the highway, my eyes so blurry, I couldn’t figure out where I was supposed to be. I got pulled over and let go somehow. Many nights I spent on winding roads lost with a case of the spins, trying to find my way home. On occasion, while driving, I would roll down my window to throw up—one night, in particular, it was red Jello shots. I had slid my car into a ditch and left it there while stumbling home, trying to walk, but slipping and falling down all the way there in the middle of the night.
I was so scared the night I finally got caught and called multiple friends at three in the morning for a console. I got up for work the next day—I didn’t have to spend the night in jail, luckily, after riding to the station handcuffed in the back. I knew this DUI meant something big, but I had no idea of what was to come.
I grew up in a home of alcoholics and drug addicts. My own father was incarcerated for drugs most of my life. I didn’t have money to fight it and to be honest, I wanted the consequence that was coming to me, as scary as it was. I was six months into my 21st birthday at this point but had been drinking and using a fake ID for years prior.
I was done.
I was having issues from alcoholism at this young age, and I watched as my life started to look just like my own troubled mother, although I swore I would never be like her.
My public defender said it would be helpful for me to start attending AA meetings and to get a slip of paper signed each time as it would look good when I went to court. I was so scared of losing my license and facing jail time. I blew a 1.8 that night and was singing and chatting away in the back of that cop car. Some people wouldn’t have been able to stand at that blood alcohol level, but I was feeling just fine.
I had to make an appointment for an alcohol assessment, and when it rolled around, I put my best foot forward. I tried to wear an outfit that would show how responsible and mature I was. I couldn’t possibly have a problem with alcohol. I took the assessment and wasn’t completely honest about my drinking and drug use.
I explained how I used to be addicted to meth and cocaine, how I had smoked crack (with my own father), and I was over all of that now. I had a good job and I had learned my lesson. She wasn’t buying it and said I would have to commit to an inpatient program and then do an outpatient treatment.
I left that day in tears and made another appointment to get assessed somewhere else where I found more of the same. By the third appointment at a new place, I hit a realization that maybe I did need help, and what could be so bad about admitting I had a problem.
I learned that If I admit I am an alcoholic I can be put on a deferred prosecution, and without any issues for two years, I would have a clean record. I still had to go to court and attend two years of outpatient treatment and have a probation officer, but what’s the worst that could happen if I stayed clean for two years?
My DUI was in November, and I started attending AA meetings and dealing with court proceedings in January. My probation officer even said, “Do you really think you are an alcoholic?” I didn’t know.
I knew that I came from a long line of alcoholics and most of my family had some type of mental illness and that they self-medicated with drugs and alcohol. I grew up in a smoky haze of darkness with fighting and abuse.
I knew I wanted to break that cycle of addiction and thought this might be my chance. I for sure didn’t know how it was all going to work out and I felt very alone throughout this time.
My drinking friends tried to be supportive, my family had no idea how to help, and my boyfriend at the time went out to bars while I stayed home and read my Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. At the time, I had roommates who snorted lines for breakfast and took bong tokes for dessert. I had to get out of there, but I actually lasted my first five months of sobriety still living there. I had many close calls and it definitely was a whole new way of living.
When I first started treatment and AA, there was so much new language to learn. I went to outpatient treatment a few times a week after work and meetings every day so it wasn’t too hard feeling bored or like I was missing out as I stayed pretty busy, but after three weeks of being sober, I drank again, and had to lie to my treatment counselor and group and hoped my UA (urine analysis) would be clean. I got lucky.
My sobriety date should have been February 7th, 1998, but instead, it’s February 23rd, 1998. After having that slip and seeing how easy it is to drink even when you swear you wouldn’t, I came clean to my AA group and started taking it more seriously. A lady asked me to come back each Sunday to help her chair the meeting, and I did that. She became my sponsor and we worked the steps together. We would go out for food and coffee after the meetings and I grew to have friends that were like family. They literally saved my life.
I’ve heard people say that AA is a cult and they brainwash you. I feel like if they do indeed brainwash you, that my brain needed washing, and I learned so much about myself, I felt heard and understood for the first time from these people. I heard stories similar to my own and I felt less alone.
To this day 22 years later, I never have to feel alone. I have a group of people in any city or town (or Zoom meeting currently) that I can go to in times of need. There have been times in my sobriety through relocating that I struggled to connect at meetings, but I always knew they were there and the people would do anything for me, even as a complete stranger. Through COVID-19, I have connected to other meetings online, and have felt that same genuine comradery that kept me sober and growing all those years ago at 21 years old.
When you first attend an AA meeting they recommend you read the first 164 pages in the Big Book.
Here is an excerpt that I love from this book:
Chapter 11- A Vision for you
“Our book is meant to be suggestive only. We realize we know only a little. God will constantly disclose more to you and to us. Ask in your morning meditation what you can do each day for the man/woman who is still sick. The answers will come if your own house is in order. But obviously, you cannot transmit something you haven’t got. See to it that your relationship with Him is right, and great events will come to pass for you and countless others. This is the Great Fact for us.
Abandon yourself to God as you understand God. Admit your faults to Him and to your fellows. Clear away the wreckage of your past. Give freely of what you find and join us. We shall be with you in the Fellowship of the Spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny.
May God bless you and keep you until then.
The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, 1939
AA was founded in 1935.