My friend thought she was getting Alzheimers because she could never remember what happened the night before. Her son thought she had it too, he wanted her to get tested. She was afraid to go because she was in her mid-60’s and there was Alzheimer’s in her family. Who needs to know they have that kind of death sentence, she thought!? But it finally got so bad, she went to her doctor who gave her an Alzheimer’s test. She answered all of the questions with flying colors. Then her doc asked if she drank alcohol? Yes. How much? Usually a bottle a night…sometimes a little more. How much more? Two bottles a night. My friend weighs 120 pounds. Her doc chuckled kindly, “You don’t have Alzheimer’s,” she said. “The reason you can’t remember any thing is you’re drinking to a blackout. That’s what a blackout is, you can’t remember things.”
My friend was certain the doctor was wrong. She functioned just fine except for this little, occasional, memory problem. And her son had moved all the way across the country for work, so her drinking wasn’t a problem for him. She went on drinking for another three years. At yearly check-ups, her good doctor would ask about her drinking and urge her to think about going to AA (Alcoholics Anonymous). She would think about it.
Believe it or not, she had to think hard about this choice. She was facing old age, her son lived across the country! How could she take on these things without a little alcohol to ease her way? She was certain AA was going to be a glum crowd of miserable people white knuckling it, kind of like traffic school for the rest of her life. But jail was a pretty bleak choice also.
AA turned out to include all kinds of folks.
They laughed and enjoyed each other’s company…
They told great stories…
Some of them were her age and trying to get sober for the first time. There was even a story in the Big Book of AA about a woman who got sober at 70. These AA’s ran the gamut from rich to homeless. They stuck together because they were all trying to do the same hard thing, which was just not take a drink today, and then tomorrow, etc. They called each other when they were having a hard time, they helped each other out.
They had a program of steps where you looked at your life and took measures to do better. For instance they encouraged people to look back at their past to see where their behavior had hurt others. They urged people to speak to the people they had hurt and make changes in their behavior so they wouldn’t keep doing the same damned thing. This was particularly hard when it came to my friend’s son and his wife. The things she could remember were really awful, so she knew that, having been so often in a blackout, there was probably a lot of appalling stuff she didn’t know about. The AAs said she had to clean this up or she would probably drink again. ” We have to look at the past,” they said, ” but we don’t STARE at it,” She didn’t really understand what that meant, but it bucked up her courage. When she brought up her drinking with her son and his wife, they didn’t want to stare at it either. They were just happy that she had gotten sober; all they wanted was for her to stay sober. And so my friend was stuck because the only way to make up for all the awfulness was to stop drinking for good, and there was a problem with that.
Here was the problem: parts of the AA program had to do with God and such bad stuff had happened in my friend’s childhood, she didn’t believe in God. If it turned out there was one, she said, she didn’t want anything to do with him. Some of her AA friends (they were friends by now) said they had come in feeling the exact same way. They suggested that she hang in, and she did. When the God issue bothered her she had people to call. And she called them when there weren’t things bothering her. The AAs went to movies and music together, threw dinner parties, took classes, went hiking. She wasn’t a joiner, but she joined this community wholeheartedly.
As my friend learned more about herself she changed. She got happier and more involved in life. She took up pottery making (with a wheel) and started volunteering as a “baby holder” in the neonatal unit of the local hospital. It was while holding one of these tiny babies that she started to think about God in a completely new way. She became closer to her new sober friends, and to some old friends even though they still drank. It didn’t seem to bother her. As she stayed sober, she got closer to her son and his growing family. When a job opened up in her town, they moved back so their kids could get to know their grandmother.
My friend wants me to tell you that it’s not like things never get hard. She has had some terrible setbacks and losses since stopping drinking. But she has people to help her now. She’s more resiliant and is proud of the things she has weathered without going back to booze.
This is an example of how we need to be very, very careful about what we believe about ourselves. Very Careful! Because my friend was old, people believed her memory loss was Alzheimer’s. Most importantly, she believed this herself.
But all she needed was to get out of her cups.
Originally posted 2017-03-07 00:54:15.