My name is Pawlu and I am an alcoholic.

My first encounter with the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous was through a small one inch square advert on the sports page every Saturday in the Times of Malta. The sports page being the only page I read in the newspaper made me look more than once at the advert which read “Do you have a drink problem? We can help! Write to P.O.Box 33 Birkirkara”.

After continuous grumbling and threats by my immediate family I wrote to keep them happy and I am eternally grateful to the man who replied to my cry for help and with whom I had my first encounter at the Parlour of the St. Patrick’s School in Sliema. In that smokey room there were other six persons who seemed to be happy and greeted me with bear hugs and a mug of coffee.

The first thing I noticed were the two sheets that showed the 12 Steps and the 12 Traditions of AA. I read the steps and thought to myself – “easy.” One thing is reading them and another working them.

After the experimentation of my first eleven months without a drink which went unnoticed by my immediate family, I said to myself – What the hell nobody is appreciative of the sacrifice I am doing for them.  I tried controlled drinking for another nine years and these were the worst of my life. I still carried on going to the few weekly meetings we had sometimes sober  more often than not drunk or tipsy and I said that AA is not working. I noticed that I was still full of character defects and unhappy and still had lots of resentments.

When finally I had an incident sent to me by my Higher Power where I finally admitted that i really touched rock bottom I remembered what the older members had told me: “Be honest with yourself, go to meetings, WORK THE STEPS, read the Big Book, get a sponsor, start helping the still suffering alcoholic and all will fall in place.”

I read the Big Book from cover to cover. I get myself a sponsor with lots of experience. And above all I started working the steps – First I admitted that I was an alcoholic  - my life had become unmanageable. This was the hardest part of all – admitting that I was not in control of my life. I thought I had everything under control as I was young, with a wife, with two kids, a good job, a car etc. But truly I had to be honest with myself and I had to ask myself – was I a good husband? A good father? A good employee? Definately not. My drinking changed me completely.

Working the steps made me a better person all over. I had to find a Higher Power and let Him or It control my life. I was brought up as a catholic and in fear of God as it was a punishing God. Today I know that God speaks to me through the voices of the members of AA. I know that after every meeting I go I am enriched with a new concept or idea on which I can improve my character. I have complete trust in the Higher Power which today I call God. I have the feeling that God was with me all through my life. He saved me from very dangerous situations. I have complete faith that He will continue saving me and taking care of me. He is giving me today all that I need and not what I want.

In order to improve my character and live a better life I have to check what is good and bad in me. I made a moral inventory and picked out the flowers and eradicated the weeds in my character. I spoke to my sponsor about the faults I had and denuded myself so that I have no more secrets. What a liberation, what a sense of freedom!.

I had to start working on the defects of character and asked God to remove them and my shortcomings. I felt more responsable and no more pushing problems under the carpet but facing reality immediately. Prayer came into my life and I find great solace in prayer and listening to what God is trying to tell me.

Finding who I hurt during my drinking days (and after) made me think of my past. I listed all the persons I harmed – my parents, my wife, my children, my company – myself. After discussing with my sponsor I realised that in order to be at peace with myself and have no remorse of what I did, I became willilng to make amends to them. This I did as much as I could. I apologized to my parents, to my wife without expecting forgiveness. I made amends to my two kids to whom I was there when they had problems. I showed love to all. I also made amends to my company from whom I stole and inflated expense accounts and missed important meetings due to my drinking. I could not tell my shareholders as this would mean I had to resign and that would have been a disaster to my family. But I made amends otherwise by dedicating all my energy to my company.

I still had to keep a balance and have to make out a check list everyday to see how I am progressing. I have to admit my faults immediately as like that i ensure peace of mind and serenity. To keep my serenity  and peace of mind I have to keep in direct contact with my God through prayer and meditation. What is prayer? What is meditation? I was taught that prayer is “talking” with God – telling Him what is bothering you, your problems, your needs. And meditation is “Listening” to what God is telling you to do.  The sense that GOD is with me all the time has given me a sense of ‘Spiritual Awakening’ – a feeling that I am no longer alone and afraid of the future.

After this awakening I have to help other alcoholics and as Dr. Bob said I do this for four reasons: 1. Sense of duty. 2. It is a pleasure. 3. Because in so doing I am paying my debt to the man who took time to pass it on to me. 4. Because every time I do it I take out a little more insurance for myself against a possible slip.

I now pray God to keep me healthy and  give me the strength to help others find the serenity I got in Alcoholics Anonymous.

My 12 Steps

What is AA? is it a Roadside Assistance or what! That is what I use to think of AA before the inevitable occurred.
Let me start from the beginning. From a very young age I use to drink Aperol from my parents Drinks Cabinet. I was thrilled by its effect. The warm feeling it gave me was amazing, and little did I know how damaging it would end up.
At a later stage in life around eighteen I started dating girls and going out with my friends.  We all drank silly and it gave me confidence. With the girls I thought it made me more attractive! I drank and drank and kept on drinking and I thought that it was ok to do so.  As time went by no one thought that an alcoholic was a normal person going by his everyday chores, working etc, I kept on drinking till I dropped. This continued for a long time with weekends ending in drinking competitions with loads of laughter and black outs which I thought was normal. Throughout these years I always thought I was able to control my drinking. I later learned that this is the essence of all addicts.  We convince ourselves that all is ok and that we are in control of our alcohol consumption, only in weekends, weddings, social occasions and all other excuses.  The truth is that I drank constantly and could not live without it, so drinking daily was my normality. At this point I was married to a beautiful woman who gave me 3 beautiful children and my drinking was effecting their life “I was there but I was not there’, I use to say yes to them for everything just to avoid confrontation as I would be intoxicated.
At this point I knew I had a problem and I asked for help. This is when I went to see a psychiatrist. He tried to help me in weekly meetings which to be honest he did not help me at all. Till this time and now nearly half a century nobody had mentioned AA to me.
Suddenly all without notice my drinking accelerated beyond my control. I drank from early afternoon till late at night and before I black out I could not stop. I still thought I could control it and I tried many times to stop with little to no success. I would stop for a max of two weeks to only start again with more vengeance. This continued for a couple of months till one day I got a pre heart attack which saw me straight to emergency.  There a professional doctor in alcohol abuse stated plain and simple that I am an alcoholic and that I needed to STOP DRINKING permanently or else I will suffer the consequences of DEATH. I was admitted to spend one week to detox from the alcohol effect, which I did without much hassle from my part but the thought of drinking still lingered in my head, and that is when the doctor hit the nail on the head, as after one week of detox he told me your veins are alcohol free but not in your HEAD. Do you want to clear your thoughts completely, you are an alcoholic, do you want TO LIVE A SOBER LIFE? Till than I had not yet accepted that I am an alcoholic I still thought I was a social heavy drinker, another excuse! I said YES and immediately flew over to a rehab abroad where I got the proper treatment that I needed.
When I arrived at the rehab clinic I was very fragile and terrified.  The first night was horrible and I wanted to go home. Who where all these people, what do they want from me, am I not cured, no way. That is when I attended the first AA meeting.
The very next day I went to my first AA meeting, I remember everyone was so friendly and I sat there listening to a speaker who was relating her life story. OMG that is exactly what I went through! Speaker after another I could relate to most of their experiences. After attending some meetings I plucked the up the courage to speak about my experience and to my surprise they all clapped and supported me in my recovery. This was my first AA experience.
Two years later and I still attend AA meetings which give me the courage to eliminate any negative thoughts and help me lead a balanced and sober life.
In short AA gave me a new meaning to life. For now I leave it as is and wish you all the happiness that I am feeling. Thank you from the bottom of my heart AA.

What is AA?
I loved alcohol when it worked. It freed me from doubt and worry. I could be who I wanted to be, talk how I wanted to talk, work how I wanted to work. That voice in the back of my head that told me "I couldn't" was gone. I was whole and alive. That's how it made me feel before I got pickled. And from my first buzz, that's how I wanted to feel for the rest of my life.

That's not how alcohol made me feel when I came into AA though, years later. Quite the opposite. I am the foolish man who built his house upon the sand. My drinking succinctly washed away all that it brought and much of the foundation that I'd  previously built well before I came to renovate my life through alcoholism.

I was empty and desperate when I entered the rooms of AA. I spent my first meeting literally bunched up and hunched over under a table rocking back and forth.

One of my early sponsors subscribed to the notion that we, as alcoholics, are deeply spiritual people. He believed this because, according to him, we have a void we're incessantly trying to fill. We find people and things and substances to make us whole but they inevitably cease to do the trick. Eventually, nothing sates the need to satisfy our craving to be  complete and we devour all about us in an often blind attempt to plug the vacuum in our souls. The only truly healing balm for the pit within is a relationship with a Higher Power.

That was his take, more or less. It's been my experience too.

Now that I'm not drinking, how do I feel ok? How do I live sober and want to live sober? That's the crux of the matter isn't it?

Now pickled, I'm doomed to relapse if left to my own devices. I have a disease. Just as an unchanged person does the same things, an untreated sick person remains sick. My self-medicating coping mechanisms will lead me back to the bottle.

Through my drinking, I placed myself outside self-help and outside the help of human hands. Nothing can save me from the phenomenon of the first drink but a Power Greater Than Myself. Ironically, the powerlessness I came to terms with in order to make and maintain a sincere plea for help is the portal through which God's grace fills the void I sought to fill through my addictions.

My initial admission of powerlessness brought me to AA. It posited the "key of willingness" before me. I eagerly grabbed it. Then there were the 12 Steps. My own admission of powerlessness and a willingness to be malleable, to follow the recipe the 12 steps provide regardless of how miniscule my faith might be in the resulting cake, that's what I bring to the table. Deity does the rest.

Through letting go of the narrative and trying to align my character with the ideals that my Higher Power would have me pursue, I find that I have peace. I find that I can face my fears. I find that I have what I need. I find that I can see so much for which I can be grateful.

The Big Book says "we are God's people". The power I find in my own personal powerlessness is His power. The Power that relieved me from the bondage of the first drink can also relieve me from the bondage of self, if only I but want His help and, thank God, today I want it.

The Power of Powerlessness