The Gift of Desperation

The Gift of Desperation

This may sound like a contradiction, but it’s what I need to stay sober . I am far from desperate today, but I still have the gift of desperation. By having a sponsor, working the 12 Step Programme of Alcoholics Anonymous, the desire to drink has disappeared completely, and I enjoy being sober. The very idea of living sober at all, let alone comfortably, seemed absolutely ridiculous before I came to Alcoholics Anonymous. And yet, for nine and a half years, I have not woken up terrified, shaking from alcohol withdrawal or full of anxiety. I used to be so paranoid, petrified and depressed, that the only thing left to do was to go for the ease and comfort that came at once by taking an alcoholic drink. And one drink would lead to countless others, and I would wake up sometimes days later, feeling 100 times as battered. This cycle seemed endless, there was no way out.

And so I came to Alcoholics Anonymous, and after a few weeks of not realising how much trouble I was in, I finally became desperate enough to put in the actions that my sponsor had suggested to me.

“Faced with alcoholic destruction, we soon became as open-minded on spiritual matters as we had tried to be on other questions. In this respect, alcohol was the great persuader. It finally beat us into a state of reasonableness.” Big Book, page 48. 

My life is a world away from those dark days, but if I want to keep it this way, I have to maintain the same attitude of desperation as I did in my early days. If I want to continue to live comfortably and without temptation to drink, I need to remain active in Alcoholics Anonymous. In other words, I still need to put in the actions suggested by my sponsor. He can’t “make” me do anything: I’m not sentenced to Alcoholics Anonymous by law- it HAS to come from me. But unless I have the gift of desperation, I’m not going to be willing to put in the actions, and so I’m not going to let myself be sponsorable.

Over the years, I have witnessed a lot of people leave my home group: newcomers as well as members with a few years of sobriety. A common thing I hear is: “I’m alright, I don’t want a drink”.

“Now and then a serious drinker, being dry at the moment says, ‘I don’t miss it at all. Feel better. Work better. Having a better time.’ As ex-problem drinkers, we smile at such a sally. We know our friend is like a boy whistling in the dark to keep up his spirits.”- Big Book, page 151-152.

I’m grateful for realising that I still need to remain willing to go to any lengths, if I want to remain “alright and not want a drink”. I don’t want the desire to drink alcohol to come back, because once I start to think of alcohol as an attractive option, it’ll be too late: I’ll be drunk, and for me to drink, is to die. 

Thank God that just for today, I realise exactly the mess my life was in before Alcoholics Anonymous- that’s with or without alcohol. And I also thank God that I know without a shadow of doubt, that unless I continue to put in the actions, my life will be worse than it was before.  I have always thrived in a disciplined home group, where certain things are expected of me. The same goes for my sponsor. There may well be other ways to recover from alcoholism, but this has been working for me for nine and a half years, and I don’t want to change the game-plan. 

When I was just over 4 years sober, my sponsor suggested that I go to Intergroup and take up the Secretary position. I didn’t want to do it, but seeing as I had asked him to sponsor me, and he had (still has) what I want, I did it. I can’t afford to put limits on what I will do in Alcoholics Anonymous. If I say: “I’m not doing that”, then what I’m really saying is: “My drinking wasn’t that bad- I’m not that desperate”. Rubbish! My life was dreadful, absolutely unbearable. I need to do things I don’t want to do in Alcoholics Anonymous; otherwise I’m in big trouble. The thought of a drink will return, and so will that torturous life I lived before Alcoholics Anonymous.

My sponsor has shared before, that his sponsor once told him: “Well, kid, you’re either taking the Steps or you’re not!” I have to be just as black and white in my own recovery. I was desperate when I came in and willing to go to any lengths, and I know that I have to keep on putting in the actions, if I want to remain recovered. If I don’t, I’ll talk myself out of my recovery. At times when I don’t agree with something, or I don’t want to put in certain actions, I have to look at the bigger picture: Alcoholics Anonymous has been working for me for far too long for it to be a coincidence. Doing things I don’t want to do is good for me, because it goes against the grain, and against my alcoholic way of thinking. And once I’ve put in the actions, I feel better, and it becomes pleasurable.

Arash T, Road to Recovery Group, Plymouth, 2011