Today, June 6, 2019, I will attend a meeting where I will rise and announce that: “My name is Doug and I’m an alcoholic. I’ve been sober exactly 25 years ago on this day.”
Twenty-five years ago, I walked into a basement room of an Episcopal Church in Arlington, Virginia, for my first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. I had no memory of the night before, a blackness induced by way too much tequila consumed with some friends with a mission to realize that my life was out of control because of my addiction to alcohol.
To a control freak, the blackout from that night was the wakeup call I needed. At that first meeting of AA, a man introduced himself by saying: “Glad to see you, I’m Rod and I’m an alcoholic.” After the meeting, we talked over coffee at a nearby coffeehouse and he became my sponsor, He, along with wife Amy and the friends involved in my “intervention,” saved my life.
I haven’t had a drink since. Oh, I wanted one, especially in those first days of recovery, and I’m always just one drink away from lapsing back into the clutches of the beast called alcoholism. That beast is always there, lurking and waiting for a weakness that allows him to pounce.
Today, I will get my 25-year chip, a bronze coin emblazoned with the Roman numeral “XXV” and the words “To thine all self be true” on one side and the “Serenity Prayer” that reads: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
It has taken most of the past 25 years to both understand and accept the wisdom of that prayer. I’ve spent most of my life trying to change things — both as a newspaperman and, for a while, a political operative. I ‘ve fought windmills that cannot be defeated and embarked on campaigns with little hope for success, but the one successful battle I’ve fought was the one against booze.
I remain an imperfect man who makes mistakes but — I hope and pray — I am now one who recognizes those mistakes and tries to correct them.
As a recovering alcoholic, I approach Step Eight as a priority: Made a list of all people we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
My list is long and it includes not only those I harmed as a drunk but those who suffered indignities from me during recovery. It is far complete and remains one that I must concentrate on and finish before I leave this earth.
As friends and readers know, I am a bullheaded man with little restraint when it comes to expressing feelings and opinions. That still requires work and a willingness to reassess and correct.
I still attend AA meetings and I still introduce myself as an alcoholic. I took my first drink at age 15, in 1963, at a room in the U-Toll-Inn on Rte. 8 south of Floyd. The last drink came in 1994, 31 years later, at Bullfeathers on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
Too much time with the Beast. A goal now is to celebrate 32 years of sobriety on June 6, 2025.
Reaching that goal requires a lot of time and effort — one day at a time.