Friday, May 2, 2014

AA Birthday: 20 Years and Counting

My one-year AA chip is on my keychain, a constant reminder.*
Slightly less than 43 years ago, I attended my first AA meeting. I was sent there by a Roanoke judge after my second (or third?) DUI conviction. It was my choice. I picked AA over jail, loss of job and family, etc.

I was not there voluntarily and, of course, nothing took, but I was introduced to the concept. The lingering memory of a definition of me as "alcoholic" (a word that, to this day, I have difficulty typing) would be permanent. Every time I picked up a beer or a glass of booze after that, I was reminded of what I was. My addiction kept me drinking, however, until it was time to stop.

That defining moment, so to speak, didn't make much difference for more than 22 years. I was in and out of the program, stretching as many as nine months of sobriety together at one point, but picking up white chips like Peppermint Patties. When the drawer filled, I went to another drawer.

In May of 1994, I'd had enough. I don't know exactly what day because it occurred to me at the time that I was going to have to change everything about my approach, including picking a sobriety date. In March of that year, I determined I'd quit, picked a date and received a white chip, then went back to drinking a month later. So, in May, it changed.

This month marks 20 years without booze and the past 20 years have been much, much richer than the previous 20 or 30. They've been the best of my 67 and each year gets better as I separate myself from my torment and understand it more and more deeply.

I am one of god's fortunate souls, first to have been a drunk and now to be sober. I am eternally grateful for both and to a program and its people who helped take the devil away from me and return my soul.

It is a good feeling. A damn good feeling.

(*The story among AA veterans is that the white chip is the most difficult to get. I disagree. I think it's the easiest, which is why I had a drawer full of them. It only requires remorse and the willingness to walk up front in a meeting and pick it up. The one-year chip, on the other hand, requires work, commitment, understanding and not an insubstantial amount of fortitude to earn. Getting sober is difficult. Picking up a white chip, though a valuable first step, is pretty easy stuff.)


  1. Dan, you are among a chose few (by ME, of course!) to whom I endowed the honor of "calling me on my shit" without my holding a whiff of a are with me, even across the years and miles. Well done, Friend. (of Bill's.)

  2. Bless your heart, Tracy, because you've always had a piece of mine.

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  4. Bad experiences really have the most valuable lessons in our life. And even it’s tough to be served a DUI offense, you still looked at the brighter side of it, and it helped you become a better person. And 20 years after you’re the man you expected it to be, a responsible man.

    Kim E. Hunter