Alcoholics Anonymous And The Lies I Told Myself

by Nancy Bercaw
Multiple rows of gray metal chairs in a room with a gray floor and blue background prepared for an A...
Stefano Carnevali / Shutterstock

Another landmark day here. Although I didn’t head out to climb Everest, and there was no apocalypse, one earth-shattering occurrence did take place in Burlington, Vermont.

I went to my first AA meeting.

For the six months that I’ve been sober, I’ve resisted going to a meeting for all kinds of reasons. That’s not me. I won’t like them. Those alcoholics. I’m just a person who quit drinking. I’m tough enough to handle this myself.

Blah blah blah de blah blah.

I am reminded of some of the lies that kept me drinking. My favorite? Life would be too damn easy without hangovers. Yup, really. I said that to myself often. The list of justifications, excuses, bargains and falsehoods was as long as the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. No, sorry, that’s not long enough—let’s go with the circumference of the equator, 24,902 miles.

This morning I met people who have overcome their own long lists to live more honestly. In real defense of my reluctance to attend this particular meeting—which was highly recommended by a pal—is the fact that it starts at 8 a.m. Usually I’m still sipping coffee in my pajamas at that time because my energy is so low from Hashimoto’s disease. Somehow, today, I forced myself out of bed at 7 a.m.

Then, inexplicably, I decided to clean the toilets (really) while my coffee was brewing. And then off I went. I was so groggy that I couldn’t even second guess myself , or make up a lie about why I should turn around and go back home, or better yet, use my thyroid as a legit excuse to get back into bed.

As authenticity flowed among members throughout the hour-long meeting—in which I felt welcomed but not suffocated—I thought about how drinking breeds dishonesty. I can finally admit now that I used writing as an excuse to drink and drinking as an excuse to write, think: I think I’ll start writing early tonight!

Six months into recovery, I like the process of writing much more, and I like the product much better. Oh, let me put this lie to rest too: Life is not too easy without a hangover. It’s tough as hell, but it turns out that I can face the difficulty with my eyes and heart wide open—stare down the abyss, as it were.

During the meeting, I even said the words that I silently and secretly swore to never, ever utter. You know, that big truth: “Hello, my name is Nancy, and I’m an alcoholic.” And guess what? It was a lot tougher to hold those words back than to let them roll right off my tongue.

I was fascinated by the hardships and laughter shared by people in the group. The phrase “a comedy of terrors” played in my head. I listened hard, realizing with every word spoken that I am, indeed, one of them.

I walked away at 9 a.m. with a blue chip for my six months of sobriety. Previously, I swore to never covet one of those “stupid” chips. But I held that precious thing in my hand all the way home, as if it were the Holy Grail.

This afternoon, I decided to tell my 11-year-old son about going to my first AA meeting. He was curious and glad. Then he delivered the painful truth of how it felt when wine seemed to be more important to me than he did. I hated hearing it, and I hate writing it. But because I love him as wide and long as all the equators in the universe, I’ll face it.