Suzanne Reisler Litwin: The 2020 Spring Series — The More You Know

Welcome to The 2020 Spring Series – The More You Know. In this series you will read about people and situations which will broaden your horizons. We will enter into places and spaces which are not frequent paths. Certainly, what you will come to appreciate is the value of knowing more. This more might be the something which may change your life for the better. Enjoy the journey!

Part 2 – My Sobriety Journey

“Hello, I’m Barry A. I’m an alcoholic.” Hello Barry…

Barry A. is my new friend. I met him when I was invited to attend the Alcoholics Anonymous – West Island Nooners Dorval meeting. What can I say about Barry A.? He’s been sober for over 40 years! He’s also quite a character. If Barry A. can’t make you laugh and smile, no one can. As soon as we met, Barry A. welcomed me with a big smile and a joke. He’s seen them come and seen them go for many years.

I’ve had the amazing opportunity to interview Barry A. Whatever you might already be thinking, you have no idea how much you will learn.

I asked Barry A. quite a few questions about his life before joining AA and his life since. I think you will find his answers very interesting. It might even strike cords in you, in a self-reflective way. It did for me.

The first question I asked Barry A. was What was your life like before starting AA?

Barry A. said, “Before AA I was a daily drinker. I was a 29 year old welder. I was convinced drinking beer was good for my lungs. I drank 10 beers and usually more daily. My marriage was in trouble because I wouldn’t come home at a reasonable hour. I couldn’t stay home. I would go to Taverns, basically because it was the cheapest place to drink.

Nobody was able to convince me that I was an alcoholic. I was not able to get through three days in a row without drinking. I tried to control it, but I couldn’t. There was always a reason to start.”

I asked Barry A., What happened to you when you started to attend AA meetings?

“I felt good at the meetings. My marriage improved immediately. I was tremendously happy most of the time with periodical frustration because of the ease and comfort for a drink. I knew that if I’d start, I would not stop.”

I asked, What are the best things about AA?

Barry A. replied, “It’s the only way I know how not to drink for 41 years. I’ve read books and read studies. AA has never come off the list. Presently, I attend 4 meetings a week. I used to average 5-10 meetings a week for the first 30 years. I have a sense of responsibility to be an example. I know that I do fall short sometimes in some ways. I really do take that responsibility seriously. People look at me with respect. I like being respected.”

I’ve seen Barry interact with new AA members. This is what he tells them.

“The first thing is, talking to new members is good for me. I never want to give them the idea that I am special and I want them to know, they are just like me. I’m just further up the road from them.”

I asked Barry A, is AA successful?

With conviction he stated, “It’s the best in the world! The nature of the malady is 5% of the membership makes it clean and only 25% end up doing well, long term. The numbers are horrible, but we are the best in the world.”

I was wondering about the 12 Step AA Program. What are the 12 steps?

Barry A. said, “It’s a way of looking at the world and living. It's similar to the 10 commandments. They look goofy at first and then they are simple once you start working them. It’s a new way of life.”

I have been to a few AA meetings and I found beauty in the room. I asked Barry A.,

What is beautiful about AA?

Barry A. stated, “You get to watch others do well and you can victoriously enjoy all their successes. Although I have been an expert for 30 years, every once in a while I am reminded of something I have forgotten or I learn something I never knew. When I give advice, I’m locked into that advice and I have to follow it as a personal contract. If you give advice you should live by it. We learn by giving good advice.”

Barry A. was so willing to share some deeply personal perspective when I asked him,

What is the hardest part about being an alcoholic?

He said, “Not living one day at a time. One foot in yesterday and the other foot is in tomorrow; your butt is on the fence. We don’t enjoy the present moments, as we worry in advance. Also, we are dishonest with ourselves. Don’t lie to yourself! I have never been able to convince myself with impunity.”

Personally, I have learned so much about myself through attending AA meetings. So, I asked Barry A., What have you learned about yourself through your journey of sobriety?

Barry A. shared, “I can change. I enjoy competing with myself instead of it. I can become the person I want to be.”

We both agreed that even without an addiction, anyone and everyone would benefit from attending an AA meeting. Barry A. said, “Yes! We believe our way of life has advantages for all. So many Anonymous groups exist.”

I asked Barry A. if he wanted to add anything else to our discussion. He was very eager to share more.

“If someone needs to come into a room of strangers, they should take it seriously and be serious.

It is called alcoholism. If I started drinking again, I don’t think I would get through 5 sober days in a row. AA is central to my life. Most of my friends are in AA. I let everyone know I am in AA. I am a proud member. I do not believe there is a stigma to AA.

Since I’ve joined AA, I have had a successful life. Without it, I would have not lived this long. I have a relationship with my wife, my daughter and my grandchildren which means everything to me. This has made a huge difference in my life.

There are days that are longer than others. When I say there is only a 5 % success rate, it’s because it’s not easy. It’s the hardest thing I have ever done.

I’m proof of this success. If he can do it, so can I. Now, my life is to try to help others. And… it’s very good for my self-esteem!”

I thanked Barry A. at least a hundred times! He was so willing to share. His goal is to help others. His meeting spot is the Alcoholics Anonymous – West Island Nooners Dorval. I can promise you this, meeting Barry A. is worth the trip. He’s hilarious, warm, and welcoming. If Barry A. can’t make you smile, no one can!

If you feel you might need to visit an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting due to over use of alcohol or drugs, DO NOT HESITATE! GO!

For more information about Alcoholics Anonymous, go to: https://aa87.org/en/

— Suzanne Reisler Litwin

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