After the last drink

“Hi Graeme it’s a blast from the past here. You will probably not remember me but I met you at the Gallery AA meeting in 1988 and I invited you to have a coffee with me,” as I listened to the voice on the other end of the phone it sounded familiar but I just could not put a name to the caller. Then it hit me I remembered his first name was Kurt.  Kurt had come up to me after the meeting, introduced himself and asked if he could buy me a cup of coffee and have a chat about his recovery.

I recalled going over to the coffee shop and once we sat down Kurt explained he was 8 months sober and was having some difficulty understanding some of the things he had heard in the rooms of AA. “Graeme I have been feeling terrific since I got sober and everyone tells me I am in the honeymoon period and it will come to an end.”

Kurt had raised one of the sayings I had heard in AA quite a few times and I have to say it is one of my “pet hates.” Quite simply I had never understood why in recovery you cannot feel the euphoria of sobriety every day? Why does feeling good about life have to stop? I had in my very early days of sobriety decided everyday of sobriety was going to be a good day. Yes I had to deal with life’s issues such as no money, nowhere to live, poor paying job, not seeing my children for years but I understood this was life and being sober was not going to protect me from life.

I also had come to the conclusion sobriety was all about providing me with an opportunity to really live life and to get the very best out of myself.

“Kurt I don’t believe in the honeymoon has to come to an end, I have been sober for 6 years, 4 of which I was in prison and I have not had a bad day since I had my last drink. Every time I think I am having a bad day I immediately go into my mental filing cabinet and look for the file marked “bad days.” I have a file full of bad days in the last 6 months of my drinking. My favourite is Christmas Eve 1980. I had been arrested for passing cheques that were not mine. I was charged and late Xmas Eve locked up in the city watch house by the police. The following morning was Christmas day and at 9.00am I was brought to the front counter and there was my mother and brother. The look of disgust on their face is permanently etched in my mind. I have never felt so low and disappointed in myself. But Kurt it got worse, when we got home the police had been there and opened all the Xmas presents looking for stolen property. Now that is a bad day and I have had nothing in my 6 years of sobriety that comes remotely close to the way I felt that day.”

“So what you are saying Graeme is any time I am feeling like I am having a bad day I should look back at what happened in my last 6-12 months of drinking”

“Precisely”

“Graeme the other thing I am really struggling with is spending the rest of my life in church halls at AA meetings ….I just can’t see myself doing this. Did you ever feel like this?”

“Yes I wrestled with this and I spoke to my sponsor and he said to me, Graeme you are not staying sober to live in AA meetings. You are staying sober to live the life you only ever dreamed about. What you have to understand is you can’t live the life you want and do all the things you want unless you are sober. So your choice is simple. If you want to be the person you always dreamed of being, if you want to experience life and all it has to offer then you have to make a decision, how are you going to maintain sobriety?… and the easiest option is Alcoholic Anonymous.”

I asked Kurt what he had done over the past 27 years.

“Graeme I have lived a life I could only have dreamt about. Financially I have been extremely successful and I have now finished work and am enjoying my passion of rebuilding racings cars. I owe it all to understanding that if I stayed sober I could really get on and live my life and I achieved this by staying close to Alcoholics Anonymous.”

We agreed to catch up the next time he came to Melbourne.

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