Editor’s note: TLAP offers confidential assistance for lawyers, law students, and judges with substance abuse or mental health issues. Call TLAP at 1-800-343-8527 (TLAP) or find more information at tlaphelps.org.
I walked out of my first AA meeting confident I was not an alcoholic. The meeting was a speaker meeting, and the speaker told a horrendous story of what alcohol had done to her life. Judging myself against her, I was sure whatever she was, I was not. I thought I just over indulged sometimes. A few weeks later, at 21 years of age, I flipped my car drunk. That was my last drink. I surrendered and started working a twelve-step program. Since then, my life has become one of purpose and meaning; my life is filled with countless blessings that are all due to sobriety.
When talking about recovery, I always like to share a few aspects of sobriety that have been instrumental to me. First, sobriety means complete abstinence from all alcohol and other mind-altering substances. Before I actually worked the twelve steps, I confused sobriety with moderation, assuming sober people were rather moderating or sneaking an occasional drink (probably a sign I had a drinking problem). It was impossible for me to get sober by moderating my alcohol intake. Complete abstinence is a much easier way to get and stay sober.
Second, I cannot stress enough how important working the steps with a sponsor was for me. I heard a guy share at a meeting; he sounded like he knew what he was doing, so afterward, I asked him to be my sponsor. It is simple but vital. I owe a great debt to that man—he spent nine months taking me through the steps. Today, I get the opportunity to share that gift with others.
Finally, early sobriety can be incredibly uncomfortable—it was for me. Do not be discouraged. Just keep showing up. If I can do it, so can you. I had become accustomed to the instant gratification of take a drink, feel the effect. While I am fully gratified today, the twelve steps are not an instant fix. At the time, I did not realize it, but my entire identity had somehow formed around alcohol. It only makes sense that the drastic life change of removing and instituting a new identity is going to be uncomfortable. This transformation can be lonely; I felt different and apart from everyone. But by the grace of God, which can be called luck, fortune, happenstance, or any synonym you like, I kept showing up. As time passed, the early struggles of sobriety did too, and I became more comfortable in sobriety. Today, I realize and accept that learning to handle life on life’s terms sober is a work in progress, rather than a destination.
Sobriety has provided me with so much that I feel compelled to give back. I feel responsible for helping others learn from my past poor choices. Today, I am blessed with the opportunity to share my experience with student groups, schools, youth groups, courtrooms, fraternities, etc. To date, I have spoken to nearly 50 different groups. Speaking is always a powerful and cherishable experience for me. Specifically, on one occasion, a student approached me afterward to let me know they were no longer going to try a drug that upcoming weekend that they had been planning to try for some time. I felt like I was right where I was supposed to be.
Do not let my speaking experience fool you—by no means am I Mr. AA. I just try to stay willing to practice the principles I have learned through the twelve steps. I do not ever want getting sober or being sober to be the greatest achievement of my life. There are certainly many greater hardships to face in life than sobriety. Ultimately, for some folks, like myself, sobriety is simply a necessary foundation to live a productive life.
Everything good in my life is due to sobriety. If you ever hear me share at a meeting, I often close with, “I am a satisfied customer of AA.” I am currently a 26-year-old law student. I intend to go into litigation. Today, I am content. I sleep easy—before sobriety I felt I could never turn off my brain. My relationship with my family is spectacular, and I am lucky enough to have married the love of my life. Coincidentally, our anniversary day and date falls on my sobriety date. All of this and much more because of sobriety. If alcohol is causing problems in your life, there is a solution. I am proof that the solution works, and for that, I am grateful.