A gal we’ll call Reece had her first run-in with a 12-step program at age 18. She had numerous clashes with authority associated with her drinking and was finally removed by the police from a school dance, charged with drunk and disorderly, and ordered to get a drug and alcohol evaluation and to follow through with recommendations.
Recommendations included an outpatient program, AA meetings and drug testing. Reece was way less than serious, and complied her way through the program. She never stopped drinking entirely, but attended just enough AA meetings to understand how to lie to her probation officer and counselor.
Reece did just enough to get her necessary letters of completion, and after a year, she was on her way. Fast-forward seven years of hard drinking and drug use, add an angry and hopeless family, three ex-boyfriends and a baby and we’ve arrived at Reece’s next plateau.
She decided, primarily because it was November and she had burned all her bridges – could no longer stay at her Mom’s, had no boyfriend-of-convenience and was nearly out of drinking money – that she should try rehab. She marched off to a state-funded facility, letting everyone know how great a sacrifice she was making. She said she was “doing it for me,” but it sure felt like she was just getting people off her back and solving a short-term housing problem.
She stayed two out of the three weeks in rehab. Once she detoxed and felt better, the rest was just “eats and sheets” and, besides, she thought, “I feel better and I think a couple beers won’t hurt.” Within a week of her “against medical advice” release, she was drunk on her Mom’s kitchen floor, unable to care for her 3-year-old son. Reece began to think that maybe she had a drinking problem. She started to try to control her drinking and found that she was unable, after starting, to stop before she was loaded – even though she swore she wouldn’t get drunk this time.
After a year of vain attempts at control, losing custody of her son and hating herself and her life, Reece decided to give AA another try. This time she listened. She discovered that they were saying the same things they had been saying when she was 18, almost 15 years ago. The only difference was her. Reece attended regularly, found several women whom she learned to trust, and one whom she asked to be her sponsor. She stayed sober and made her way slowly back to a better way of life.
It’s now almost 15 years since Reece walked through the doors of AA. She runs a successful retail business, has a comfortable home and a sober husband of 10 years. They have two girls together, and Reece’s son, with whom she reunited, has just finished his first year of college.
For Reece, it took reaching more than one plateau. Her success was set up by her early introduction to AA. Even though it might have seemed to her family and those around her that AA and treatment didn’t work, in the long run, it did.
• Rick Atwater is a licensed clinical professional counselor. He hosts the weekly radio show “Straight Stuff on Addictions” at recoveryinternetradio.com. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.