from the San Diego AA Coordinator, May 2020

It was with Step five when I felt that I became a real member of this fellowship. For the first time in a long time I had a true sense of belonging, I had earned my right to be here.

Until this Step I had taken a lot of unhealthy risks in my like and now it was time to take the biggest risk of all: acknowledging that I too had a lot of shortcomings and character defects, and then telling and confiding them with someone I could trust. I already felt horrible about myself and did not want to learn more or share it with anyone else.

Growing up in an alcoholic home, I was often too embarrassed to belong to anything. I would always project into the future that day my parents would show up, if they chose to show up at all, and embarrass me by being drunk; and of course, this happened often.

Because I accepted, I could not depend on my parents, I learned to be fiercely independent to care of all my needs, emotionally, physically, spiritually. I did not need people, authority figures or parents, and friends, I could take them or leave them. It is not that I really did not want those things because are the things I wanted most. It was just that I could not depend on them so I would never allow myself to trust them completely, to be there when I needed them to be, and this included God.

At first, drinking alcohol was magical. I immediately lost the coldness and cynicism of my personality and warmed up to people. People liked me, my parents liked me, and I then in turn could like myself. I felt cool for the first time and not an uptight goody-two shoes nerd. I did not know I would eventually hate myself even more for my alcoholism. In the end, I had already started to do all those things I hated in the alcoholics I had grown up with.

I spent my early 20s trying to control and enjoy my drinking and most of all fitting in. I was in college now, confused and crazy, trying to control my drinking by joining or not joining fraternities or other campus groups. I was now trying to control my alcoholism by living a neurotic life around not drinking and getting other people around me to not drink so I would not have to either. I did not see this as a desperate self-centered act and in fact often thought I was virtuous.
And though I knew I should not drink I was not completely convinced I was an alcoholic because I never crashed a car, got arrested, had a DUI, etc., or committed other heinous acts that some members have used to qualify for this program.

Well, at the age of 23, I walked into A.A. and have been here ever since; I will be 40 this August. In those years I have learned to suit up and show up, and not worry too much about results. I learned to get through college, including earning a master’s degree, without drinking and being part of the “in crowd.” I have fun belonging to this fellowship and all my closest friends are members of the program (I have non-program friends too!) It was with this group that I learned to share the exact nature of my wrongs, as well as with a few good sponsors. It was here that I began to learn the value of humility, growing up, and accepting that I could not be an island; that there were people on this earth I could depend on, have to depend on, and do. I continue to learn the I am not the Director and God is always in charge.

Today my life is not perfect though I am blessed far beyond my dreams. Today I have a loving God, a beautiful wife who is a great friend, many other sober friends, and a Labrador named Louie. I still have a lot of anxiety about “fitting in” especially at work where I still seem to make a mess for even trying. I still struggle between being too independent and being too desperate to “fit-in” with the crowd of the day; whoever and wherever they are. But I have not had a drink in over 16 years. Today, I have a fellowship of friends I can share my experience, strength and hope and love with, as well as my shortcomings and fears.

Steve P