On June 6th of each year, I receive a brass coin, a “chip” from Alcoholics Anonymous, recognizing another year of sobriety. Today, June 6, 2022, is my 28th year.
Yes, I know, June 6th is a more important day because it is the anniversary of D-Day, the landing at Normandy and other beaches in France that signals the beginning of the end of World War II in Europe. I quit drinking on the 50th anniversary of D-Day, but I must admit that the anniversary was not on my mind on that day.
I had my first drink of alcohol at age 15 in 1962 when a woman gave me a glass of Cleoophus Sowers’ moonshine. She introduced me to drinking and some other things that 15-year-old boys should not have been pursuing and enjoying at such an early age.
I drank for 32 years, too often to excess, but hid it well for many of those years because I drank alone and was considered “a functional drunk” much of the time. I managed to hold top-secret and code-level security clearances from the Department of Defense and a “Q Clearance” from the Department of Energy, for access to nuclear facilities, for 12 of my 23 years in the nation’s Capital.
As a drunk, I hurt too many people and let too many others down over the years. A key part of the 12 steps that alcoholics take is compiling a list of those we wronged by our drinking and attempting to make amends to each one of them.
My 32 years as an alcoholic left a long list of those I hurt, and the struggle to make amends to each continues, even after 28 years sober. As an alcoholic, I had to get beyond denial and accept my failings as a flawed human being, accepting that many I have hurt and failed cannot ever forgive me, nor should I expect them to do so. Violations of public trusts are not easily forgotten or forgiven.
Many have been generous and offered forgiveness for my transgressions. Others made it clear that the hurt was too deep and my sins too onerous to forgive. I cannot and will not blame them for such feelings. I deserve their distrust and anger.
Over the years, I have tried to help others who have problems with drinking or addiction, serve as sponsors for others in AA, work telephone helplines, and go out in the wee hours to help someone who has lapsed. I wish I could do more. I will continue to do so as long as I am mentally and physically able.
Several years ago, I decided to abandon the anonymity of Alcoholics Anonymous tn went public with my alcoholism and struggle in the hopes that it might help others find the desire to seek help and salvation in recovery. If one person has taken the first of their 12 steps because of something I have written about my fight with the beast, then the effort was worth the decision.
Today, I accept my 28-year-chip with the knowledge that I must continue to struggle in recovery, one day at a time. The beast of alcoholism always lurks and can strike at any weakness. I survive because of the solid faith of my wife who has always been there, plus friends, “fellow travelers.” who have been on the same journey, many for even longer than 28 years.
I’ve been sober for 28 years today. Tomorrow will be 28 years and one day as recovery continues one day at a time.