We Are Not Alone

I heard someone say at a recovery meeting recently: “Only an alcoholic would choose isolation as a way to deal with loneliness.”

I was a solitary drinker. I drank every evening from the time I got home from work until I stumbled off to bed. Even though I was married with children, my drinking became a barrier I built between myself and everyone else, including my family. At some point during the evening, I would go on a long walk with the dog, mini-bottles filling my pockets to be sure I could sustain myself until returning home. I imprisoned myself in my own home and neighborhood, afraid to go out for fear of what driving under the influence might cause. Anyway, why would I want to leave the bottomless supply of alcohol I had stashed around my home?

And of course, I was not about to share anything about my situation with anyone else. I was a lawyer, after all, charged with solving everyone else’s problems. I couldn’t let it be known I had problems of my own. And I certainly couldn’t let on that I might have a problem with alcohol. The more I drank, the more insurmountable my problems seemed to become. And the more my problems mounted, the more I drank. That makes sense, right?

Finally, God (and my wife and LAP) did for me what I could not do for myself.

My wife’s despair at what was happening to me and to our marriage led her to call on the Lawyer Assistance Program (she’s a lawyer too). She wasn’t so much turning me in as she was looking for some help with a problem I denied existed and she felt powerless to solve on her own. So, on that fateful day, I arrived home to be met by my darling wife who said she had been to the alcohol enforcement division of the North Carolina State Bar and that they wanted to see me (well, that’s how I remember it sounding at the time).

A lot of things could have happened next: denial, shouting, cursing, “how dare you.” Instead, I was oddly relieved. Maybe my imprisonment would end. Maybe there was help. Maybe I was not alone.

And, in fact, that’s how it turned out. I visited the LAP office the next day. The day after that I went to my first AA meeting. I’ve been going to meetings of AA and LAP ever since. Most of what I discovered surprised me—amazed me really. It’s amazing that after being a daily drinker for years, I found I did not have to drink, and I have not had a drink since that day. I was equally amazed at how happy and upbeat recovery meetings always seemed to be. Those in recovery are truly blessed, and for the most part they seem to know it. I hear more gratitude expressed at recovery meetings than anywhere else I go.

It is also amazing how much one recovering alcoholic is willing to do to help the alcoholic who still suffers. And, to be clear, we remain alcoholics after we stop drinking, and we sometimes still suffer. As one lawyer in recovery said: “AA doesn’t open the gates of heaven and let you in; but it does open the gates of hell and let you out.”

There is still loss; there is still fear; there is still guilt—but now there is a solution other than a drink. And a very big part of the solution is that I/we are not alone. LAP and other recovery programs are there, literally 24/7 to listen, to understand, not to judge, to empathize in a way only someone who has been where you’ve been can. It is a blessing beyond words.

I am not alone.

You are not alone.

We are not alone.

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