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Grapevine : September 2011
thought that I had never had during my entire drinking career: I can't do this anymore. I reported my lapse to my thera- pist, who referred me to a psychia- trist. I saw him a week later, relating the long, sorry sob story otherwise known as my childhood. My father was an alcoholic and had ruined my life. The psychiatrist wasn't interested in my father's drinking. He said that I was an alcoholic. I thought he was being a little melodramatic. I was only 26. I didn't live on a park bench. I had a beautiful flat, a promising career, and fabulous shoes! There was something powerful about a doctor, a psychiatrist no less, telling me that I was an alcoholic. Despite my outward defiance, these medical professionals had shaken the foundation of my denial. I hadn't gone without alcohol for more than a night or two since I was 12. I'd been drunk throughout my earlier childhood as well, on a near-nightly basis. Alcohol was the only thing keeping me going. True, I experienced horrendous hangovers and spent most mornings running from office cubicle to restroom stall, dry heaving. Negative consequences (rapes, abductions, sexual abuse, un- protected sex, morning "brain tumor" headaches, vomiting, night sweats, shaking, anxiety, extreme depression) had been stalwarts of my drinking from the beginning. They'd never been deterrents, of course, for it was all worth it just to numb out a little longer, to let my hair down, to release that ubiquitous tension, extreme self- consciousness, low self-esteem, crush- ing feeling of failure and self-loathing. Something strange happened when I began to see the truth of my situation. It says in "How it Works," in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anony- mous, that anyone can get sober if they're capable of being honest with themselves. In the midst of explaining that I wasn't an alcoholic, how I might cut down but still drink on certain oc- casions, I heard myself using the same lame excuses my father had. I was a carbon copy of the man I had grown up despising. I had been drinking, in part, to escape from his drinking, yet I had become the monster I was fleeing. Inside, I knew that I had lost and couldn't continue drinking. I just couldn't be like him. Three days later, in August of 2000, I had my last drink. For the next 13 days, my therapist urged me to attend an AA meeting. At her insistence, I went, and it was horrible. It sounded too Christian. I had been brought up scarred by my father's Catholicism, vehemently re- jecting it in early adolescence. The man who shared his story reminded me of my father---egotistical and self- centered. I left thinking these AAs were freaks. My father had always said it was a cult. My therapist told me that there were over 600 meetings every week and, if I didn't like that meeting, I should try another. 40 September 2011