A Soldier’s Tale
In 1967 at the age of 17 I joined the army. As both my parents were dead the army became my “Surrogate family”. After basic training I was sent abroad to Germany. It was there that I came to realise that drinking in the army was a way of life. You are fed, clothed, given accommodation and money to spend, and most of my money was spent on drink. I was drinking almost every night, but weekends were the real drinking times.
Being drunk for much of the time was just a laugh, (or so I thought). At this time I was starting to get into trouble through drink. I would end up in the middle of a field, or occasionally be locked up for the night in the guardhouse for some drunken escapade. As time passed my drinking started to even out and I managed for the most part to stay out of trouble, but only for a while.
I was eventually promoted and given stripes, although never a week went by when I was not drunk. As my alcoholism progressed I started to get into more serious trouble. I was arrested by the German Police for drunk driving and this culminated in my entry into a detox unit. After treatment I went through a “dry” period and the army shipped me back to England for two years. During this time I decided to start a fitness regime and somehow managed some “controlled drinking”.
I arrived back in Germany and for a few years I continued to manage “controlled drinking”. I saved up all my “sweeties” for the weekend. I was then promoted and given a normal posting back to England. At this time the progression of my alcoholism was affecting me more and more. After a drunken argument I clocked an officer and was in trouble again. It was 1986, I knew I had a serious drink problem and it was then that I first made contact with Alcoholics Anonymous.
I went to a few AA meetings and managed to stay “dry” for six weeks. “Fear” was what stopped me from drinking. I was still blaming people, places and things however and inevitably lifted the “first drink”. Providence again seemed to be on my side and I was given a posting back home to Scotland before retiring from the army. I finished my last three years without any more serious trouble.
When I left the army it was with a great sense of relief. It was 1991 and my alcoholism began to accelerate. For the next three years I went through a cycle of “binge drinking” emerging from each bout demoralised and full of fear. During this time I tried to get back to AA and managed some “dry periods”, but all I was doing was “getting fit to drink again”. On 11th November 1994 I asked for help and finally took the First Step.
I knew I had to build up a “mental defence against the first drink” by using the 12 Step recovery programme. Being “atheist” at this time, the mention of God always put me off. The Third Step in particular seemed to be a major hurdle. It was explained to me however that I was only being asked to “make a decision” to turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understood Him. The actual turning over would take place as I” worked the next eight Steps”.
I began to understand that the alcohol was only a ”symptom” of deeper emotional problems. I then sat down and took a moral inventory of myself, writing down all my fears and resentments. After some serious thinking, I took my inventory to a priest in the Fellowship and unloaded all the “emotional garbage” I had been carrying around all my adult life. I told him things I thought I would take to my grave. What I had done was build myself a “platform” which would then allow me to move onto a new and sober life.
I continued on the recovery programme and made a list of all the people I had harmed. I made amends as best I could and put myself on the top of the list. By this time I was starting to become “God conscious” and I was also reading a lot of AA books. It was after I read Chapter 16 of “Pass it on” that I was guided to a church in Glasgow where I went through a “Spiritual Experience”. After that night the whole 12 Step recovery programme fell into place.
At the beginning this “atheist” was told that if I thoroughly applied myself to the 12 Steps as they are laid down, it would be “impossible” not to come to believe in a God of my own understanding. Today the first 9 Steps have been put into the dustbin of the past (I would only have to go back to them if I got drunk) and I use the last 3 Steps as my daily maintenance Steps.
I met my wife Mary in AA and we have both settled down to a happy and sober life. All thanks to AA and the grace of God as I understand Him.