Some days I get emails from newcomers who have come across my blog and are trying to get sober.
‘Go to a meeting,’ I tell them.
If they’re anything like me they are not able to read the Big Book of AA with their befuddled heads and lousy short span of attention, and that folksy male chauvinism will make them run a mile. I don’t tell people to rush off and get a sponsor right away because they will probably pick the most controlling Cruella de Ville in the rooms or a fabulous airhead who is about to relapse. It takes a while to be able to listen to more than rhetoric and figure out who is talking sense and staying behind to wash up.
‘Your mind will grow back’ I tell them. None of those slogans made any sense to me in the first few weeks.
I just tell them to get to meetings and try to identify. I could identify with anyone who couldn’t handle liquor. Every person in AA was telling my story.
What I would like to say to a newcomer who wasn’t shaking with the horrors is that the war is over. You lost and the alcohol won. You are powerless over alcohol and you will never be able to drink again. That’s the bottom line.
Keep going to meetings. The AA meetings are not a politically correct community heaven. If you have had man trouble through the years, you will have man trouble now. If you hate large balding men explaining things to young women, you are going to have to learn to grin and bear it. You will be given endless copies of A Course in Miracles but have to replace your own BB. People will quote everyone from Fr Leo to byron katie until you want to scream. Hardly anyone reads the AA-approved literature but when they do it is very exciting and an event.
Take decent biscuits to the meetings because everyone likes decadent chocolate biscuits.
You shouldn’t fall in love until you have about a decade of sobriety and have regained adulthood but you wil probably rush off and sleep with someone quite unsuitable within a few months. Just stay sober and when it implodes think of the affair as a way of building self-esteem. Sober sex is amazing.
In fact being sober is a crazy kind of adventure and walk on the wild side. Once you start laughing out loud and can hear your own sober laugh for the first time, you’re over the worst of early sobriety. Sobbing in front of strangers in meetings is almost mandatory. Everyone understands. You will find you have something to offer,. This is astonishing for an alcoholic.
You’ll find you can do anything sober. Travel to dangerous places with minibars in the hotel bedroom and stay sober, get up at dawn and go out to watch herons in the Okavango swamps. Or lions sleeping it off after the nght kill. Or do cartwheels on a beach in Mombasa. You can study again, get a new job, move house, write a novel. You will make more friends than you know what to do with and learn to forgive the enemies. You will be able to contribute and reach out to others who are struggling. Even if you don’t know what to say or do and feel inept.
You can learn to waterski at 48, you can learn to fly small planes, you can start a political movement.
If you can beat alcoholism one day at a time, you can do anything. If you stay sober you will become unrecognisable to yourself. Your life will change beyond recognition. Just keep going to meetings and everything else will fall into place. Trust me and wear a seat belt for the roller coaster.
There will be so much pain you will want to curl up and howl. Everything you hid from is going to have to be faced. But nothing will be as terrible as what you have been through in the hectic skid of alcoholism. Every now and again you will wake up and that unfamiliar feeling in your psyche will be self-respect.
Somebody out there loves you.
Don’t drink one day at a time and life will come to you.
I could write pages and pages to someone who wants to get sober. But when I was newly sober myself and shaking like an autumn leaf, I liked simple sentences with no predictive clauses.
‘Go to meetings’ worked for me.