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To Be, Or Not To Be

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ACTING used to be my second profession until I joined AA. My day job was in journalism - a heavy drinking culture in itself. I wanted to be a legend in my own lunchtime. Being considered an alcoholic might almost be a fast track to promotion. It was certainly not a label to be ashamed of. I thought, as I later found Bill W wrote, “…that men of genius conceived their best projects when drunk; that the most majestic constructions of philosophic thought were so derived.” (BB p.2) Alongside my reporting, writing and drinking, there was acting. I was always putting on an act so that you liked me, laughed at my jokes or did precisely what I wanted you to do. To be, or not to be? To be drunk, or not to be drunk? That was the question. I was acting because I didn't know who I was. I wanted to be anyone other than me - because I didn't like myself. 

In the pub one lunchtime, a friend said I hid my intelligence under a lot of noise. I didn't know whether to laugh or be angry. I was pleased he thought I was intelligent, but offended he thought I was noisy. I worked hard to be the workplace joker, just as I'd been the classroom clown. One of the acts I tried to perform was 'The Loving Husband'. That worked, until I had an affair. Another theatrical run cut short was 'The Good Worker'. I was extremely fortunate to keep my career. My employers had more faith in me than I did. 

When eventually I arrived in AA, someone said to me, "Just be.” My reply was, "Be what?" I simply didn't know. Putting down the drink and working through the Steps with an experienced sponsor showed me who and what I was - good person who couldn't drink safely. I was frightened and drink took away that fear. It gave me the confidence I lacked. I never felt good enough. The only line I needed to learn was, “Don't pick up the first drink and you can't get drunk.”

When I read the Big Book, this passage leapt out at me, “More than most people, the alcoholic leads a double life. He is very much the actor. To the outer world he presents his stage character. This is the one he likes his fellows to see. He wants to enjoy a certain reputation, but knows in his heart he doesn’t deserve it.” (BB p.73). Today, I don't have to act. I simply try my best to be a good husband, father, grandfather, friend, and helper for the newcomer.