Saturday, June 6, 2009


As you read what I am writing here, try and remember that these are my opinions only. They are recollections of experiences I had in AA thirty five years ago and in no way represent anyone other than me, and do not attempt to speak for anyone else's experience or opinion of Alcoholics Anonymous. My experience is mine alone, and my opinions are nothing more than my opinions.

As badly as I'd been beaten by alcohol and drugs, I still had not been beaten enough to formulate the necessary willingness to accept AA as a way of life. My stubborn ego was still too inflated to surrender to the simple reality that drugs and alcohol had beaten me into a bloody pulp.

I turned away from Alcoholics Anonymous, in an attempt to drink in a controlled manner, which was of course destined to take me even further into darkness and to a new bottom.

I'd fooled myself into believing that if I put my mind to it I could drink responsibly and control my own behavior. This brave and totally insane idea is a hallmark myth of alcoholic thinking, and has maimed and killed many.

After some months of deluding myself in this manner, I was back in AA again, admitting that I could not control my drinking and using, no matter how hard I tried.

The saying "One is too many and a thousand not enough" took on new meaning for me as I bitterly admitted to my own defeat. This, in fact, was a real breakthrough for me in my own false belief about self sufficiency and ego-driven logic.

Willingness to accept defeat, and admit I could not drink and use successfully, was slowly and painfully being taught to me in the harshest of ways. My obvious problems with AA were centered around key issues.

The 12 step program is laid out simply and directly in the book Alcoholics Anonymous. My problem was I had heard about the program via individual member's opinions, rather than getting to know about the program directly from the text of the book.

The nuts and bolts of Alcoholics Anonymous is the literal first hand experience of the original one hundred sober alcoholics. It worked then, and continues to work to this day.

Opinions about the program from individual members are just that, opinions, nothing more! Until I could get the program into my head, by way of the instructions in the book, I was like a boat in a storm crashing into various rocks in the ocean.

Of course at the time I did not know this, so I blindly careened off one opinion after another, regarding what I should do and how I was to do it.

I had heard about the steps, but knew little about them or how they applied to my life. I knew about the book, but had no understanding of what it said within it's pages.

In other words, I was getting, or not getting, the program from a second hand source. I was not taking responsibility for my own recovery and progress, which I'd unwittingly assigned, or given, to any other person available other than me. I could then blame someone else for my failures, which were ongoing.

During this second attempt at getting clean and sober, I was informed by Carol Paulus's cleaning lady that she had seen my picture on television on the program "Suspects Wanted."

This startling revelation threw me into a panic when I realized that the lawyer I'd given $300 to, for the purpose of handling my legal problems in Nashville, had done absolutely nothing about it.

I ended up on "Suspects Wanted" because it was assumed by the Nashville authorities that I was in flight to avoid prosecution of a felony, which was not the case.

Anything of a positive nature I'd come to believe about AA went out the window with this new problem, and I railed, "that if this was what I could expect from the trusted members of AA, than the hell with it."

In my mind this was the last straw. I could not believe that a staunch member of the program would take my money, and then fail completely to do what was necessary for his client, even if that client happened to be me.

I borrowed more money from another member of the program to buy an airplane ticket back to Nashville to turn myself in. I was sober, but completely unsure of what to expect, and feared that I would be sentenced from two to ten years in Tenn. State Prison for sales of narcotics.

As my benefactor reluctantly handed me the money to buy my plane ticket, he told me to stay sober and trust God, which I assured him I would, but on the plane I gave into my fear and trepidation and ordered a scotch, and then another, and another.

I had succumbed once more to the old friendship in a bottle to cope with what life seemed to endlessly hurl at me. I did not possess the necessary faith to believe that the current crisis could be worked out in my favor, and so I chose my old ways over anything new.

I stared out the window at the sky wondering if anything would ever go right in my life.

1 comment:

  1. Your tale has become repetitious; again and again you have, or almost have, a glimpse of a revelation about your true situation, then you immediately fall back into old habits and let those old habits lead you astray.

    I do not fault you for this repetition in your writing and your story—I praise you for it. You have recognized and continue to reiterate a truth that most of us have trouble admitting in our own lives (perhaps because very few people reflect so honestly and conscientiously on their own lives): we create habits in our behavior, in our responses to adversity, and in our thinking that lead us to perpetrate and perpetuate the same patterns again and again.

    In "The Black Cat," Poe explores the notion of "perversity" as one of the overriding human impulses; that is, we do something (like procrastination—I should be grading essays right now, but instead I am admiring your blog) when we know that it will have a negative effect on us, yet we do it in spite of this knowledge.

    Each of your falls, big and little, seem to come from the thing that you articulate here: you have looked to others to explain and make things work for you. The music business pretty much requires this kind of faith, since your fate is nearly always in the hands of others—too often in the hands of those with less talent, less vision, and less integrity. Obviously, you had great talent and wit, and you often worked hard, but none of that had assured success, and since you were also star-struck and naive, yet ambitious and feisty, the failures compounded themselves into frustration, then doubt, then recklessness (or perversity, in Poe's sense).

    Again, from my experience as a teacher, I think that you have hit on a major truth that you had not learned about yourself. We talk about different learning styles—visual learners, auditory learners, etc. You really are very intelligent. Most people do not take to "book learning." They need to be told and shown how to do something. Much of your tale has you following the course of others while trying to make it your path. You needed to read the book, to understand it, to make it your own. The petty misperceptions of others inevitably fail to satisfy your vision of yourself and the world. Unfortunately, there is no book, not the greatest literary artists, not the greatest philosophers, not the great sacred texts, that can truly illuminate and explain the world to an open, questioning, intelligent mind.

    Thoreau said that he set out to get at the heart of life, to know the truth about it; he wanted to live "deliberately" so that when he came to die, he would not found out that he had not lived.

    Your saga, as you relive it and reiterate it here, is a profound exploration of a single person's life, but it has powerful revelations about all our lives. In the end, it is the accumulation of innumerable "books" and innumerable experiences that can help us make some sense of our lives. I thank you for your continuing contribution.