"Hi, my name is Harry and I'm an alcoholic."
(High Desert of New Mexico)
"Hi, my name is Harry and I'm an alcoholic and I haven't had to take a drink since April 13, 1985."
Some of you may find those words familiar. Statements like mine are frequently heard in 12 step meetings.
The beginning of my story is simply that I drank to excess every day for nearly 40 years, all in an unsuccessful attempt to mask my fears and insecurities.
The wreckage that I left in my wake gave me nightmares and caused me to, again and again, seek relief in the oblivion that alcohol brought. I did not try to stop drinking because of the harm I was doing to those I love, and to myself. No. I sought help to try to stop drinking because alcohol was no longer bringing any relief. I, of course, continued to get drunk, but the ugly thoughts simply would not go away.
Early in my sober days I was still plagued with extreme feelings of guilt and shame. The first thing that I was able to feel good about was that I just wasn't drinking that day. That was big, but only a tiny beginning.
Possibly the most important thing that is suggested for people in recovery is to take an inventory of themselves. Trying to do that - take a self inventory - drove me into a deep depression. When I, with awful self esteem, started that exercise, I was only able to think of and list the things that I felt most guilty about. Things like having been a terrible father, a deceitful spouse, a shirking and dishonest employee, and on, and on and on.
Then, someone older and much wiser than I, told me that inventories are supposed to list assets, as well as liabilities. He told me to start thinking about the good things about myself as well as the bad. The end result was simply that I was able to come to accept my history of lousy behaviors. After all, there was nothing I could do to change that history. What I could do, though, was to not to repeat those behaviors and to strive to do no harm in the future.
When I was able to look at my positive side I learned, over time, that there is much about me that is quite good, and worthy of healthy self esteem. I am thankful that I am now able to be a decent and honest spouse, a true friend rather than a casual acquaintance, and a contributing member of my community.
I have found, also, that I possess some worthwhile talents and skills. I am able to write fairly well, I do some quite acceptable design work, I'm a reasonably accomplished woodworker, and I bake lots of excellent bread.
When I was a drunkard, I was remorseful about the past, hated the present, and had no hope for a better future.
When I was able to do an honest and full assessment of myself - with lots of help from others - I became able to see that I, too, have real personal worth.
And, so do YOU!