AA Speaker Meeting — My First 6 Years Staying Sober in Alcoholics Anonymous!

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AA Speaker Meeting — My First 6 Years Staying Sober in Alcoholics Anonymous!

My name is Jerry and I’m an alcoholic.

Thank you all very much for joining me here today and allowing me to speak about my sobriety.

My sobriety date is April 22, 2014, and this seems absolutely miraculous.

AA Speaker Meeting — My First 6 Years Staying Sober in Alcoholics Anonymous!

At one point 6 years ago, I could not imagine how I would stay sober, and I was trying to tell myself that I should just drink because there was no way I was going to stay sober.

I couldn’t possibly stay sober for very long.

What I’ll tell you about here is my experience, strength and hope, which the experience is my qualification as an alcoholic. What did I do that left me looking at tradition three and saying, “Yes, I have a desire to stay sober” and the first step saying, “I need help staying sober. I can’t just put the drink down by myself.”

Then, what happened?

How did I go from wanting to drink every day and obsessing about a drink to now very happily sober for almost six years and what’s it been like in sobriety?

I have a family member dealing with alcoholism and another family member was talking and saying, “Yes, if that family member would just not drink there, he’ll be an all-right person,” and that was me. That was how my family members were talking about me.

“If he would just not drink and it’s when he’s drinking that all these problems come up” and what I suggested to this family member, I said, “No, it’s not about that. They’re an okay person when they are sober, and then the drinking is the problem. It’s that the sober decision-making is so bad that despite a mountain of evidence, they drink anyway.”

My First 6 Years Staying Sober in Alcoholics Anonymous!

That’s alcoholism, that my sober mind is capable of making such a poor decision that even though I know better, I still decide, “Well, I’ll take a drink because maybe it’ll be different this time.”

I took a test in 2008: Are you an alcoholic?

It was a test online.

I put all the answers in honestly, which was unusual. I actually answered everything correctly and according to my experience, and it said 93 was the score.

I got 93rd percentile. That means out of a hundred people who took the test, 7% scored higher, more alcoholic than me, and 93% less.

I told my friend who took it with me, who got a 91, I said, “Yes, that proves we’re just good at drinking. That’s awesome.”

I proceeded then to drink for six more years after that until I finally realized, “Oh, I am so good at drinking. I can’t stop even if I want to” and that’s what really scared me.

I could see six years ago if I kept drinking, I was going to end my life, and I could see that it didn’t matter if I wanted to stop, it didn’t matter if I told my wife or my mom I was going to stay sober.

It didn’t matter if I went to the gym more and read more books. It didn’t matter if I tried to live a healthy lifestyle and nothing I would do would stop me from changing my mind that one day when everything was going great, I would suddenly decide that I could drink again.

Not that bad.

What kind of experience did I have drinking?

Some of us think, “Well, if we don’t get arrested, then we’re not alcoholic.”

I like how the somebody here talks about that and says, “Well, I didn’t get a DUI. I didn’t lose my home and I didn’t lose my wife, I’m not an alcoholic.”

I pictured an alcoholic being someone who’d lost everything, who didn’t have a home or a job or any clean clothes. That was my idea of an alcoholic.

The good news is you don’t have to go that far down.

You don’t have to lose everything to stop and try to do better.

What I could see is, I wouldn’t be able to handle going that far down, that if I lost my wife, I would take my own life. I’d seen that because I had already tried to do it several times before and I couldn’t keep lying to myself anymore and saying that, “Oh, it’ll be fine. I never would do that. I never will do that.”

The ugliest my drinking got was trying to take my own life. Lots of times, there were nights I’d get drunk and I’d get my gun out and say, “That’s it. This is over with,” and thankfully my hand was very disobedient.

I’d get my hand on the gun and put it to my head and say, “Okay, pull the trigger” and my hand refused, it would not move and if you already feel helpless enough and in pain enough to take your own life, there are few things that make it much worse than realizing you can’t even do that, that you literally can’t even get your body to follow your basic instructions.

Talk about feeling powerless.

My First 6 Years Staying Sober in Alcoholics Anonymous!

Thank God I reached out and asked for help, and told somebody I could trust about that.

In 2009 I told my father, I said, “Dad, I just can’t take it anymore.”

I’d been drinking. I was a police officer, every night off duty I would get drunk or have a hangover, and then I’d go to work. I was doing many of the same things off duty that when I was on duty, I was arresting people for, and it was absolutely splitting my soul.

By the end of my time being a police officer, I couldn’t stand to arrest somebody for things that I did. I pulled a lady over for drunk driving. She was on her way to a booty call and it just broke me because I knew that’d be me tomorrow night.

I’d be drunk driving on my way home from the strip club or to go to see a girl, and I couldn’t possibly arrest somebody, then be doing the same thing myself, and it drove me to a massive amount of pain of being one person when I’m at work and one person when I’m not at work.

That conflict and it hurt, and drinking used to be fun. Obviously the first time I drank it wasn’t like that. The first time I drank was in college in 2003.

I hoped it would help me have sex. That’s why I drank.

I watched enough beer commercials to believe the lie.

I thought, “Well, whatever I’m doing sober is not working to have sex.”

I’ve made it almost all the way through freshman year with a bunch of botched sober attempts at it. Girls would come over drunk and they’d be in the mood, but I was just too guarded and I couldn’t really just be nice, and get into the moment to have fun.

I’d mess things up somehow and I had another girl coming over, so I thought, “This time I’ll get a six pack and this’ll go a lot better.”

And it did.

Not for having sex though, because after two and a half beers, two and a half Miller High Life, I no longer cared about having sex.

It was great.

All that pain that I carried around on a daily basis of feeling like “I’m not good enough. I don’t like who I am. I don’t fit in,” when I took that first beer down, “Oh yes, this is great.”

I had another beer and I actually stopped after two and a half beers. I remember pouring the other half of the beard on the toilet and acting like I drank it in the bathroom because for some reason I didn’t want to be perceived as someone who couldn’t handle their beer on my first time drinking.

I cared more about how she thought of my drinking then what she thought of the rest of me. It was completely irrational and I remember laying on the bed next to her just totally at peace, totally numb, not caring at all about her or anything and just totally being at peace.

She got up and left disappointed and I felt great.

My First 6 Years Staying Sober in Alcoholics Anonymous!

I’m like, “Man, I can’t wait to drink again. This is what I’ve been missing out on.”

And from there, I figured if two and a half beers are good, then let’s see what going to a party with several beers in a few shots is like.

I did that a couple of weeks later and threw up and had one of the worst hangovers I’d ever had before, and pay it forward was on TV. It was horrible. It was like I was watching the future and I tried to stop watching it, but I couldn’t and I’m like, “No, no, I’m not like that. I’m not like that. It’s my second time drinking. I’m not an alcoholic.”

My dad was an alcoholic and he’s passed away. My dad passing away is what helped get me into sobriety. I remember my dad coming home drunk and throwing crazy arguments.

My mom punching clocks, breaking things, screaming.

I remember laying in bed as a kid being afraid and wondering why he did that and seeing those big bottles of Rum that he’d have around and watching him drink all day.

The last time my dad drank, he had 40 plus Rum and Cokes and didn’t even get drunk.

I knew when my dad got sober and growing up that the alcohol was not good and I knew I didn’t have any business drinking, and it only took me nine months in college to forget all that.

I’m grateful today that I’ve amassed so much evidence that I pray I will never forget that again and be motivated to help people the rest of my life with alcoholism and being an alcoholic.

The weird thing about it is the inability to just make a decision and stop.

I drank from 2003 to 2014. I tried to quit a bunch of times after traumatic things would happen.

I remember I wrecked my car one night in college. I had just watched Fight Club, drank all light, at 7:00 AM going to WAAPA house.

I looked at this turn and thought that was a good idea to take the turn at about 15 to 20 miles an hour. I floored it going into the turn, wrecked my car, limped it home somehow without getting a DUI or anything.

I woke up the next day saying, “Man, I’ve got to stay sober. I just wrecked the most valuable possession I have. I could have easily got a DUI. I could have easily hurt myself for somebody else,” and that lasted seven days before I changed my mind.

I said, “Well, I don’t have a car anymore. There’s not going to be anymore of that, I’m safe now. I’ll just drink in my dorm room and everything will be fine.”

Then, I bought another car and I said, “I’ll never drink and drive that car again.”

Soon enough, I drank and ended up driving that car all over drunk. Thank God nothing bad ever happened.

It could have.

The last time I drank was in 2014 on April 21st.

It’s a night I’m not proud of at all, and yet it’s not nearly as bad as most of the worst things that apt in my drinking. I started drinking and around noon or one o’clock when my wife was at work, I had two shots per glass with a mix of Diet Dr Thunder.

I drank that for about 12 or 14 hours, one of those glasses every hour, and I might’ve thrown in some beers, water and Budweiser Select 55 in between just to stay hydrated.

I played “Call of Duty” online because I figured I had got to a point where I knew if I went out to a bar that there was going to be something bad that happened.

I had had enough evidence of that to know if I’m going to drink I have to stay at home and not drive, and not call anybody, and about 50 other things.

On this particular night my wife was home and she approached me after I’d had several drinks and said, “I just can’t stay here in this house with you anymore drinking.”

She had been in the house with me drinking for years and I was loud.

I chainsawed the couch apart one night because it broke. I routinely did things like that. One night I was playing “Call of Duty Black Ops” on this difficult infinite spawn level where the enemies basically keep coming at you until you can get through it.

And every single time I died in the game, I punched myself in the head. I must’ve punched myself 50 or 100 in the head, and I was trying to hit myself hard too.

AA Speaker Meeting — My First 6 Years Staying Sober in Alcoholics Anonymous!

I wasn’t just like, you know, a little love tap. I was like trying to get creative with how hard I could hit myself in the head.

Then I woke up the next day like, “My God, I must have drunk a lot. What a headache today.”

Then I remembered, “Oh my God, I beat my own ass last night.”

There were plenty of different nights I did things like that and there’s no reason one should ever drink again after doing that.

If you drank a Coca Cola and did that, you would not drink a Coca Cola again because you’d realize that’s insane, I don’t want anymore of that.

The last night I drank and my wife told me, “I need to leave the house. I can’t stand to be like this anymore. I’m going to go to my parents,” I told her, “Fine, go ahead.”

I genuinely didn’t care because I had everything I thought I needed. I had my gallons of Vodka and I had my video games. I played video games up until maybe one in the morning, at which point I got to an extraordinary level of bored.

So, I found a Chinese website, managed to put $500 on it on my credit card and gambled it, and managed to lose all of it in a few hours.

Even though I threatened the one person I was playing “Texas Hold’em” that I’d kill myself, they didn’t let me win and they’d beat me anyway.

The last time I had gambled online before that had worked, so I figured I’d try it again.

I had told myself I’d never gamble online again.

That was my worst addiction ever.

At least with alcohol, if I told you I was going to stay sober, I might stay sober at least a day or a few days. I remember telling my friends at lunch, I’d never gamble again and literally right after lunch I was going to put a wire transfer on.

I gambled online and thank God I woke up the next day and I threw up blood too.

Both of those things combined broke all my lying. I could see that if I gambled online, there’s absolutely nothing that I wouldn’t do in the right night of wrong night of drinking, and thank God that got me desperate because I also realized I cannot stop changing my mind.

If I feel better, I’ll decide I can drink again, that I wasn’t that bad. I was just making too big of a deal of this whole alcoholism thing.

That’s when I prayed to God.

I said, “Please God, I’ll do anything to stay sober.”

One of the thoughts that came through my mind right after that was, “Well, going to one of those AA meetings might be a part of the anything you just offered.”

I stopped and I said, “Okay, that doesn’t seem too bad.”

I honestly thought it was going to be a bit worse than that like I’d have to go to a therapist or checked myself into rehab or something. I was kinda relieved to just go to an AA meeting.

Like, “Okay, I can do that.”

I went to my first meeting about a week later after my dad’s memorial.

I had that safety of a trip.

I knew I wouldn’t drink on that trip, but I also knew the day I got back from dad’s memorial, I could see I will drink no matter what or I will go to AA.

Those were my only options.

And I came to my first AA meeting.

AA Speaker Meeting — My First 6 Years Staying Sober in Alcoholics Anonymous!

I remember walking in, I was afraid and the first impression I got coming in, I walked around and saw how happy everyone was.

It felt like a family or a get together with old friends, which I thought, “This doesn’t make any sense. I’m walking in here feeling like a loser, feeling like my life is over. I’m afraid of what’s going to happen in here and everybody in here looks so damn happy. I don’t fit in.”

They said, “Is anybody new?”

I raised my hand and said, “Nope. I went to one meeting while I was in college just to get out of trouble. I went home and drank right afterwards like I’m not like you guys, I had only two drinks. Alcoholics couldn’t just have two drinks one night. Never mind all that I did the next few nights.”

I raised my hand and said, “Yes, I’m coming back” and I’ve spoken for like five minutes afterwards, and stood up, and now I love when I see somebody else do that like, “Hey, there I am.”

I thought that’s all I had to do. I remember the chair person, she said, “Do you want to list phone numbers?”

I’m like, “Nah, no thanks. I don’t trust all these people have my phone number. I don’t know what you’re going to do with that.”

She said, “It usually works better if you get phone numbers.”

I said, “Wow, no thank you.”

I did put my name in the membership book though, for some reason to be a member of something meant something to me.

I wrote my name down in the membership book, wrote my sobriety date down, and said, “There, I’m a member. Good. I’ll just go to two meetings a week.”

I drank two days a week at the end of my drinking because they were 12, 14, 16, 18-hour binges. I needed a day to drink, a day to recover, a day sober, and then I could drink the next day after that.

That was my setup that I rationalized I wasn’t that bad. I just drank a couple of days a week. Never mind if I drink at least a half gallon of liquor in those two days.

After about 90 days, I had an event that was very helpful.

My wife’s parents’ dog was barking and barking, and I’d been able to keep it together decently the first 90 days, just not drinking, but that dog, it really got to me and I screamed at the dog, “Shut up!” except I said, “Shut the F up!” as loud as I could in front of her whole family, and then I didn’t like myself and I didn’t like them.

AA Speaker Meeting — My First 6 Years Staying Sober in Alcoholics Anonymous!

I’m like, “Oh, now they’ve seen me. They’ve seen me. I don’t like them anymore.”

I rationalized a week later on July 4th in 2014. My wife’s holidays with her family are very important, and I said, “I’m not going to July 4th with your family, I don’t like how they’ve been treating me.”

She went up and she said, “Fine, I’m going without you.”

For 90 days, I had thought it was a game I had thought I was cured just by coming to two AA meetings a week. I had no obsession, no cravings to drink. As soon as she left the house, I wanted to drink and I wanted to drink really, really bad.

I remember when they asked at my home group I went to, when I got sober in Sarasota, they said, “Is anybody having trouble staying away from a drink?”

At every meeting I used to think it was funny.

I was like, “What? Are the liquor bottles going to pour themselves down my throat? Who’s really having trouble? We’re all here. We’re all cured, aren’t we?”

And then when my wife went on July 4th and I felt like a horrible person, then I got it.

I said, “Oh, this is what they’re talking about, isn’t it? Oh, this is not good.”

And that obsession lasted two weeks, night and day. I had never even made it through a day of that obsession. Every time I’d compromised and negotiated that either I drink the next day or I drank that day, I’d never made it through that obsession once.

I felt like I was suffocating to death. Everything became about drinking and all I could think about was how much I wanted the drink and how much I wanted to stay sober.

I started remembering things people said in meetings.

I’m like, “Okay, God, please, I want to stay sober. But since my wife’s not here today, this would probably be a great day to drink, wouldn’t it? I’ll just go to the liquor store. I’ll get hammered. She knows she shouldn’t have done that anyway.”

“No, God really, I do want to stay sober. Just disregard that please, please. I really do want to stay sober, but man, she shouldn’t have done that. It’s time to show her I should get a drink. It’ll be all right, I’m not that bad. God, please, please, please help.”

And that’s when I got to see, “Oh my life sober is unmanageable. That when I’m sober, something really screwed up is going on in my thinking that tells me I ought to have a drink. That’s the best thing I could do with my day when I know better, I know better.”

“How many cars do I need to wreck? Relationships, jobs, careers, pieces of furniture, video games. How many things do I need to wreck before I get the point that not even one drink for me is appropriate?”

“In fact, it’s akin to walking up to the top of a bridge and saying, ‘Maybe I’ll jump in,’ just leaning over the edge a little bit and hoping the wind blows. That’s what the first drink is and how is it possible that I want to drink knowing that? Why do I want to hurt myself? Why do I want more pain and suffering in my life? Why do I complain about how much pain and suffering there is and then crave it?”

“That’s sick. That’s insane. Ah, now I am at step two. There’s got to be something that can fix this.”

I got hope coming to AA because I saw people who clearly were not insane.

AA Speaker Meeting — My First 6 Years Staying Sober in Alcoholics Anonymous!

I saw them and I could see, “This person is happy, this person loves their life, this person doesn’t crave a drink, this person doesn’t hate themselves anymore, and I want that, I really want that.”

“I’m going to start listening to what they say and I’m going to ask them for help and I’m going to ask and find out how I can have what they’ve got.”

That’s where it started to work for me. The first big breakthrough I had. I came to a meeting and I don’t think I went to a meeting for several days when I had the obsession because my mind said that Tuesdays and Thursdays were meeting days, and after several days of the obsession of lying to myself and saying, “I’ll drink tomorrow, I’ll drink tomorrow.”

Finally, I got tired of it and said, “It’s not tomorrow now, it is now, tomorrow. It’s been tomorrow, today, and yesterday was tomorrow and yesterday was tomorrow. It’s time to drink today.”

They asked in a meeting, “Is anybody having trouble staying sober today?” so I raised my hand and I said, “Yes. I barely made it here without drinking and I’m going to drink tomorrow. I just thought I should let all you know beforehand,” which was an amazing amount of honesty for me because I’d consistently just went out and drank or made the decision to drink before letting anybody know.

I don’t remember them talking to me, but I remember feeling better after that meeting. I remember feeling hope and I remember feeling prayers. I remember going into the parking lot and just crying and feeling like my father who had passed away was close to me, and that I could feel everybody was praying for me and that felt really good.

That felt so good that I could see that getting that feeling might be even more of a joy than going after the drink feeling, and if I could just figure out how to feel grateful and loved like that, then that might be a sustainable sobriety.

I started praying to God to stay sober in the midst of the insanity. I ended up resorting to praying to my dad because God felt far away unless I was in huge amounts of pain. God felt far away like I’m not sure if God can hear me through all the other prayers.

Jesus felt too busy like everybody else is praying to Jesus. I don’t know if Jesus has time for me specifically, but my dad who had passed away, I felt he doesn’t have anything better to do than to listen to my sick ass, pray to stay sober all day.

There’s nothing better he could be doing with his time right now.

So Dad, here they go, here come my prayers and one day I had gone to personal training, I had negotiated all day what I was going to do, and I got to my personal training appointment and I said I have to go to the liquor store right now it’s time, I’m thirsty.

I prayed to my dad, I said, “Dad, please just drive the car home cause I know you wouldn’t take me to the liquor store.”

I felt like I slid out of the driver’s seat and let my dad drive home. I got home and read the big book, Alcoholics Anonymous and I started taking a lot more suggestions from people.

I had consistently thought and said, “I know.”

Oh, you need to read the book.

“I know”

You need a sponsor.

“I know”

You need phone numbers.

“I know.”

Clearly, if I wanted to drink all day, I didn’t know.

I went home, read the book.

There was a story that really hit me then and the first 164 did almost nothing for me at all. The stories in the back really got me and identified with one where the author said they realized, “I don’t have to drink anymore,” and I knew I didn’t want to drink anymore, but I thought I had to drink.

Once I realized I don’t have to drink anymore and I don’t want to drink anymore, there is no problem anymore, is there?

AA Speaker Meeting — My First 6 Years Staying Sober in Alcoholics Anonymous!

There’s nothing left for me with alcohol.

The place where the spiritual awakening, the spiritual experience happened, I was still going crazy despite all these good things happening.

I heard a lady in a meeting say one day, “Oh, I just get a massage. It’s so nice to just lay there and relax and all my problems go away” and at the time I thought that’s stupid.

“How much does that cost? I don’t know where to get a massage. What kind of weird stuff did they do to you getting a massage?”

That was my normal contempt prior to investigation, anything that came up, I thought, “Nope, definitely not for me.”

One day I finally got so crazy I realized, “Okay, I’m really stressed out. I need to relax. God, please help me to stay sober.”

Then I thought of that lady at the meeting saying, “I just get a massage.”

I’m like, “Oh, I need something to do today because half my mind is trying to go to the liquor store. I need something to do. I’ll go, I’ll try that. I’ll go get a massage today.”

Only where I did that, it’s because the liquor store is right next to the massage place. I figured that parking lots where it’s at.

When I pulled into that parking lot, I had an epiphany.

I realized I was terrified to go into that liquor store and I knew why I was terrified to go in that liquor store. When I looked over at massage Envy, I realized I was also terrified to go into massage Envy.

I thought, “Well, that’s stupid. Why would I be afraid to go get a massage as much as I’m afraid to get a drink?”

My personality then kind of unified, I could see that fear is my only God, that every part of me agrees on fear and I’m just going to do the next right thing regardless of fear.

I went and got a massage.

I felt like the voice of God at the time told me three things:

“You’re going to read that book, you’re going to go to five meetings a week and you’re going to get this specific person to be your sponsor.”

I walked out of there a new person.

I didn’t notice, but my wife did.

As soon as I showed up to dinner that night, she said, “Wow, you are really relaxed” and as soon as I figured out what had happened, “Oh man.”

Then I got to be AA and God and everyone’s face. My wife, she needed to go to Al-Anon, I sent my mother the big book Alcoholics Anonymous, even though she doesn’t drink and is not an alcoholic.

I went crazy with this program after that and my life has been really good since that has happened.

I’ll tell you about the experience that made a huge difference in my life.

I’ll finish it with my first step experience.

To me, this is where you get better.

My First 6 Years Staying Sober in Alcoholics Anonymous!

I was listening at a meeting one day and my grand sponsor shared some really inappropriate joke that I was the only one that laughed at it, and I laughed really loud at it, and then I felt ashamed.

I got some memories come back that I hadn’t thought about since childhood, and I thought, “Oh my God, this is what people are talking about. These are the things people are trying to get to in a fourth step.”

I had done my fourth step and this hadn’t come up.

I thought, “Oh my God, I’m either gonna drink or I’m going to do something about this right now.”

I went up and talked to my grand sponsor. He was dying of cancer at the time. He was having a rough day and I said, “Hey, I want to talk to you.”

He thought I was just trying to generically cheer him up.

He said, “Oh no, I’m fine. I’m fine.”

I’m like, “I want to do a first step right now.”

He said, “Okay, let’s go.”

He went and talked to me outside and I unloaded all these things that I had buried so deep that I didn’t think of them consciously. All the things that I felt were proof that I was a horrible person.

I’ve narrated a book that’s 12 hours with all that stuff if you want the long version. But the short version is it’s just fairly normal stuff, sex things, criminal activities and things like that, that most of us do something that we feel bad about and judge ourselves harshly for and don’t tell anybody about.

We bury it deep, and then this is our proof for reason we hate ourselves. When I talked to him, he shared his experience back with me and I thought, “Wow, I didn’t even know that was possible.”

His first step was horrible.

It took me two days just to see the world right after hearing his first step, I thought, “My God, this is a horrible world that that happens,” and I felt better about myself.

I felt, “You know what? I’m a good person and there’s a chance for me to have a very happy sober life,” and that’s what I’ve experienced.

Every day now is peaceful for me. Every day is joyous. I come to a meeting every day because what if nobody had been at that first meeting I went to?

It was the people that really helped me, who had been coming to AA for 30 years before I showed up.

My vision is that somebody who’s just being born today, who is it?

Or maybe they haven’t even been born yet, that I’ll be there for them when they show up to their first AA meeting.

I’m grateful to have the chance to share my experience with you.

Thank you for listening to this.

I love you.

You’re awesome.

I appreciate the chance to serve you today and I will see you again soon.

Love,
Jerry Banfield

Edits from video transcript by Michel Gerard.