I’m having a celebratory lunch at Oddfellas Cantina today. It will be a quiet lunch. Probably just myself or anyone who happens to wander by.
The celebration? Thirteen years of sobriety: 156 months or 676 weeks or 4,748 days without a drink (including three extra days for Leap Years).
I’d been a hard drinker for more than 30 years when I took that first step on June 6, 1994. A variety of reasons led to the decision. Like so many alcoholics, my life crashed around me. Personal and professional problems, fueled by single-malt scotch, closed in and I walked into a basement room of a Lutheran Church in Arlington, Virginia, to gather with other fellow travelers and become a friend of Bill W.
I, alone, was responsible for the drinking that led me to that point in my life but my road back has never been a solo trip. The love of my wife, the support of long-suffering friends and the never-wavering help of a strong support group provided much needed companionship along the way.
It would have been easy for my friends and my wife to wash their hands and walk away. Alcoholics abuse friends and loved ones in many, horrible ways. Some gave up. I didn’t blame them then or now. They deserved better. But others stuck it out and, along with Amy, provided the support I needed to battle 30 years of addiction to the bottle.
That’s why I take friendship so seriously. People who deserved better stuck by me and never, ever, asked for anything in return. Because of their love and support I vowed to never take advantage of a friend and to try and always be there when they needed help.
And it still isn’t easy for those who call themselves my friends. Dealing with alcoholism also means dealing with rage and anger management is an ongoing challenge for an alcoholic.
The urge to drink vanished long ago but I’m not foolish enough to believe the battle is over. An alcoholic can’t go back. One misstep and the long battle starts over, one day at a time.
That’s why I will also visit some other friends in a non-descript room where cigarette smoke fills the air and the coffee flows freely. There will be people I know and new faces that I will come to know.
And I will get up in front of those friends – old, new and just-met – take a sip from my cup of coffee and say:
"Hi, I’m Doug and I’m an alcoholic."