He was drinking to hold on to his job, to hold on to
his wife, to hold on to his sanity. Finally, he was
drinking to keep away those little men and those
strange voices, and the organ music that came out of
I’M FORTUNATE because I live in an era when A.A. is available, and I’m able to take advantage of it. I’m grateful because that Higher Power led me to A.A. a little over three years ago, when I needed it very badly. My drinking pattern isn’t very different from the average you find in A.A. After I came in I found I wasn’t an exceptional drunk. I used to think I was. I also thought I was a brilliant drunk. I have my brilliant moments yet, but whenever the boys catch me at it they tell me so very plainly.
When we first come into A.A., many of us are confused because as a general rule we’re at the end of our respective ropes, and we don’t know what to do. It’s like the fellow who came in A.A., and his sponsor said to him, “Listen, buddy, do you believe in a Higher Power?” And the guy said, “Heck, yes, I been married to her for years!” Yes, we find it rather confusing, but as we get around and get to know people in the group, they lead the way and all we have to do is to follow.
I started drinking rather early, at the age of sixteen. I didn’t stick at social drinking very long. As I pro-
gressed and gained incapacity, I had blackouts. At first, they were rather amusing, but a little later on they became serious. And so I got to the swearing off process. That and the morning drink came very early in my drinking career.
A former employer of mine said to me a little over ten years ago, “Pat, you seem to be one of those unfortunate people who at least once every six months must go out and roll in the gutter.” That stuck with me for a long time. It was a thorn in my side because I knew it was the truth, and I hated to hear the truth, especially about myself. So that pattern continued until I went into the Army.
The Army drinking alone covered a lot of territory. Like many of us who went into the service, I thought it would be a cure-all, a new life. But I came out of the Army just as big a drunk as when I went in, if not worse because now I had a lot more resentments. I remember coming up the Bay in to New York. It was my second arrival in New York. The first had been as a youngster coming out from Ireland. There was a great deal of difference. A lot of the boys had tears in their eyes, they were so happy to be home. For me, it was a little different because I couldn’t help thinking about the past, and I saw the future more or less mirrored in the past. It wasn’t pretty. Somehow or other I was coming face to face with myself, and I didn’t like it. When I landed of course I hit a gin mill, and with three or four good shots under my belt the world began to go into that rosy glow.
I got married to the girl I’d left behind. She certainly wasn’t in the dark about my drinking. She had been warned numerous times, not only by her family
but by my own mother, that I was a hopeless drunk, that there wasn’t anything anybody could do with me, that I’d never stop, and that eventually I’d break her heart. However, she had faith and she had hope, (things I didn’t have). We were married, and during the first nine months of that marriage I was sober. I was trying for her sake. But at the end of nine months we went to a party one night, and I took the first drink. No one had ever told me it was the first drink that did the damage. And I was off again.
The old pattern reasserted itself, but it was no longer once every six months. The intervals grew shorter. The binges were longer. They were harder to get off. I wasn’t the type that could taper off. I had to stop cold. My last binge followed the previous one by two weeks. I had just come off a good one, and I went back on to the next one.
That type of drinking is not pleasant. It is no longer enjoyable. You no longer get the kicks. It is desperation drinking. I was drinking to keep away the shakes, drinking to keep away those little men and those strange voices and the organ music that comes out of the walls. I was drinking to try to hold on to a job, to try and hold on to my home, to try to hold on to my wife, to try to hold on to my sanity.
I had a habit of getting up just prior to the closing time of the saloons, about two or three o’clock in the morning. I’d get downstairs to the gin mill, get enough in to hold me until eight o’clock in the morning, then I’d go out and join that “misery parade” that so many of us know so well. You hit the street about ten minutes to eight, and you walk around the block,
God knows how many times, waiting for that joint to open.
One morning I didn’t wake up until after four o’clock. I wasn’t a happy man that morning, but I’m happy now that it came about. Because as I sat on that bed, I knew that I was in a terrible spot and didn’t know how to get out of it. The realization came to me that I had to stop drinking, that I had to find a way. Either that or end my life. That thought had come to me many, many times. I was afraid that sometime I would get half drunk and go through with it. Of course I really didn’t have to worry on that score, because I wasn’t the type that got half drunk.
I was at the end of my rope. I knew it, and I turned for help to someone upon whom I had turned my back for many years. I asked God for help. It was the first time that I had asked for help sincerely and honestly. And I got help. I went back to the old family doctor who had helped me the first time I had the D.T.’s back in 1942. At this point, I was no longer the wise boy. I went in there and asked him honestly if he could give me a cure. He just looked at me and said, “Pat, for you there isn’t any cure.” We talked for a while, and then he sent me down to the Alanon House over on the west side, and there I had my introduction to A.A.
It was a revelation to me to find that there were such people as those I found in Alcoholics Anonymous. It was a revelation when I read that First Step. It was very, very simple. My life had become unmanageable due to the excessive use of alcohol. I had drunk too often and too much. But somehow or other, with my old alcoholic brain, sitting there in that chair, I kept
saying to myself, “I wonder if it’ll work? I wonder if it’ll work for me?”
Then I went to my first meeting. I was a very fortunate drunk. God had been good to me both in my drinking and in my sobriety. Because, thank God, since I came into this program I haven’t had any trouble. Oh yes, I get the dry jitters once in a while, but that isn’t anything to worry about. It passes away. But I’ve never come close to that first drink. I took the advice of people I had heard at meetings, the people in the group. And I jumped in with both feet. Someone told me, “When you drank, you didn’t get half drunk. You went all the way. In this program there aren’t any half way measures. In here you must go all the way too.” So I attended as many meetings as possible.
There are steps of recovery, of maintenance. Each one has its own place. We all use them differently. I found a great deal of friendship in this movement. I learned to pray honestly. When you come in here, you find the understanding that you need. A.A.’s Twelve Steps may confuse you when you read them over. But the more meetings you attend, the more people you meet at these meetings, the clearer the Steps become.
We must learn to walk before we can run. That’s why we have these slogans. I use that “Easy Does It” every day, to slow me down a little. I have to watch myself all the time. So I don’t just take the inventory at night—I take it continually throughout the day. Before I step out and do anything, I stop and check it over first, and then let my conscience be my guide.
For me, A.A. has become a way of life.