Tom started drinking at a very young age. “When my brother smoked, I would smoke a cigarette and when he drank, I wanted to drink,” he says. Tom was drunk for the first time at 16 years old. “I got drunk with a friend on a bottle of wine,” he remembers. “I had trouble with alcohol from the get-go.”
When he was in the 11th grade, he was drinking cherry vodka with his buddies and ended up going to jail. It would be his first of many brushes with the authorities. “They got drunk and were staggering around. I had only taken a few sips, but I still went to jail and had to be picked up by my parents,” he remembers. His first drunk driving experience happened when he was 17. His brother had a party and everyone was drinking. When they ran out of liquor at 2:30am, Tom went to the store to buy more … and totaled his car.
Despite all the trouble alcohol caused in his life, he couldn’t stop, “I liked what alcohol did to me. I liked the effect. It made me not shy.” One time, he was drinking at a bar, got into a fight and was beaten up. He left that bar and went to another one to try and clean himself up, but he was badly hurt. He ended up going to the hospital that night – but even that didn’t stop him from wanting more. For ten more years, he continued to drink and his problems continued to get worse.
Tom remembers when he got a job at the foundry. “I drank every day,” he says. He was charged with drunk driving three times and had numerous drunk and disorderly citations. “My life went steadily downhill,” he admits. “I quit my job at the foundry and was in and out of treatment centers, I can’t even remember how many times.”
“I had trouble with alcohol from the get-go.”
Then came a turning point in his life – Tom had hit rock bottom. “I was 27 years old and had nothing to show for it,” he remembers. “My family had disowned me, I had no friends, no car, no job and no girlfriend. I finally reached the point where I couldn’t stay sober but I couldn’t handle life drunk.” Out of sheer desperation, he walked down the street to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and has been attending them ever since. “They told me If I didn’t drink and went to meetings, my life would change beyond my wildest dreams. I told myself it would never happen,” he says, “but I didn’t want to drink. I just thought I would be sober and miserable for the rest of my life.”
A year had gone by and Tom continued to go to meetings, but he didn’t see a change. He told them, “My life hasn’t gotten any better, it still sucks.” So, they asked him: “How many fights have you been in? How many cars have you wrecked? Have you been in jail?” He suddenly realized that his life had changed for the better. “That’s when I really started to grow,” he says.
Tom started following the suggestions of the people at the AA meetings. He got a sponsor (someone who guides you through the program), went to 90 meetings in 90 days and started working the 12 Steps of the Alcoholics Anonymous program. The 12 Steps are a formula to follow to help maintain sobriety – how to get sober and stay sober, he explains.
Tom now has 38 years of sobriety. He got married and had a son, got a good job and has a good life. He reunited with his family members and has many, many good friends now. “My life changed – all because of AA,” he says. “My parents never gave up on me and I’m so happy they saw the good in me and that all of their efforts paid off.” And life did change beyond his wildest dreams. “I wouldn’t change my life for anything. I met my wife at AA. I had nothing and I owe a lot to her.”
But, Tom also remembers where he came from. “I’m still just one drink away from being a drunk. That’s why I still go to meetings. I owe my life to AA. I wouldn’t be here without it.”