Fred D. now 67 years old and 43 years clean and sober, takes us through his horrific 8 year story of excessive alcohol and drug abuse. Join us now as Fred takes us through his cross country road trip of drug addiction and his journey into recovery up until today,you don’t want to miss this episode.
SHAIR – Sharing Helps Addicts in Recovery
Here are Fred’s SHAIR Podcast interview highlights and suggestions for the Newcomer:
Clean Date: March 23, 1972
Tell us about how your life is today. Your hobbies, what you do for a living. Take us into your normal daily routine, including recovery.
Fred: Okay, sounds good. Normally I go to bed early and I get up around 5. I really like where I live. It’s a very quiet apartment and I have gotten in the habit since last November of really expanding my quiet time, my prayer and meditation in the morning and it’s how I start my day. I get up and there several books I read, they’re spiritual inspiration. I get about 20-25 minutes of meditation, then I get on my knees and I pray for about 5 minutes. I pray for people who are having struggles in their recovery and that sets me on the right track for the day. That really, really helps me to put my ego in the back pocket and I do a very sincere third step prayer. I love the third step prayer. I think that’s one of the great gifts of Alcoholic’s Anonymous for me.
As I’ll mention in my story, I’ve been sober a long time and for me, rather than being involved in different things that can prove to be worthwhile, for me the most worthwhile thing I can do is be an active member of Alcoholic’s Anonymous. I’ve made a lot of friends in the group and I sponsor a number of people. To me it’s very fascinating to watch people come into the program, work through the beginnings of it, that aren’t comfortable a lot of times, so that they can live a clean and sober life and then to strive to be happy. It’s fascinating to watch people do that. It’s a very purposeful, worthwhile life.
After that, I might be meeting with one of the people I sponsor. I might come home and relax and just take it easy. I haven’t worked in a while, but I’m going to be working in the next month or so and I’m looking forward to having something to do, but by and large, it’s a comfortable, easy does it type lifestyle and it’s important for me to maintain my sobriety and balance and that’s what makes life happy, joyous and free for me.
How old were you the first time you drank or used drugs and more importantly, how did that make you feel?
Fred: The first time I drank I was 15, almost 16 years old. Back then I had some issues with authority and I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin. It was in September of 1963 and I went to a dance at the high school I was in and somebody brought a fifth of Scotch. My friend Scott passed the fifth of Scotch back and forth and it was gone in less than 30 minutes. I can remember, just for a short period of time, I wasn’t self-conscious, I wasn’t uncomfortable. It’s that “I don’t care feeling”. You have the right to be yourself. That’s the magic of alcohol and I experienced that for a short time. I went from a gray out to a black out to an alcoholic coma the first time I drank. Scott brought me home that night and I was legless. Very fortunately my parents both got sober through Alcoholic’s Anonymous, so in the morning when I got up they told me “you’re supposed to figure this out for yourself, but we’re going to give you a break. We’re going to tell you that you’re an alcoholic”. There was no social drinking in my home and I immediately I went over the top and made the decision I was going to chase this elusive pint of alcohol. I was going to chase that come hell or high water. It took me nine years to get into the program.
What was keeping you from getting clean or staying clean when you first got introduced to recovery?
Fred: I had a tight group of friends that were party animals. They were a lot of fun. They were very funny and I couldn’t break that lifestyle. For me, giving up drinking meant that I had to give up my friends and I wasn’t willing to do that until I was really desperate.
At what point did you have a spiritual awakening, that ‘aha’ moment in recovery when you accepted that you were powerless over drugs and alcohol, but for the first time had developed the hope that you could recover?
Fred: Well as I was going to meetings and as I got active in group, I think when I was 30-45 days into it I realized “you know what? I haven’t even considered drinking. I haven’t considered drinking or using” and I was such a daily lush. I used to think it was funny being drunk every day and all of a sudden, I’m not thinking and I’m not considering drinking. I’m not considering going back to the old crowd. I realized it was something beyond me. Something helping me. You say HP. It was something helping me that I didn’t quite understand, but I appreciated the help. I had gratitude for that help. It’s the same help that I get right now, I have a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of my spiritual condition. That was going on at 30-45 days and it’s going on at 43 years.
Do you have a favorite book you would recommend to a new comer that you read in early recovery?
Fred: That’s a good one. Today what I recommend if a newcomer comes in, they need to get into a group reading. Believe it or not, I was too scrambled to read the big book. I love to read today. I’ve read maybe a thousand books since I’ve been sober, but when I came in I couldn’t read the big book by myself. I had to go to a group. I remember going to this men’s meeting. It was a men’s stag meeting on Sunday morning and they would read the big book paragraph by paragraph. I remember getting to page 53 and that paragraph that said “there will come a point in time in every alcoholic’s life where they’ll come to realize that either God is everything or God is nothing”. All of a sudden my street smarts said “that’s important. Make a mental note of that”. It’s very important. When I sit down with someone who is new in the program, I say “let’s read this paragraph out of page 53 and see what you think”. That’s what I believe today. God is either everything or God is nothing. Today for me, God is everything.
What are you reading currently?
Fred: We’ve got a men’s group right now that meets on Wednesday night. One of the guys I sponsor gave me this book called “Being Sober and Becoming Happy” by Dr. John A. McDougall who was the director of spiritual guidance at Hazelton up in Minnesota and it’s a great book. We use this book for our men’s stag meet and read chapter by chapter. I get a lot out of it. We have to remember that when AA started, it was a hope and a prayer, it wasn’t a guarantee. If you develop a conscious contact with the higher power, develop an attitude of gratitude, go to meetings, get a sponsor, go through the steps, join a group and become an active member of that group, if you do that, 80 years of this have proven it will work and it’s not about getting sober just for a while. It’s about getting sober. I came in at 24. I didn’t want to be bounding in and out of this thing for 30-40 years. I knew if I did it right, I didn’t have to do that and the guys I sponsor I tell them the same thing. You’re getting sober so you can stay sober one day at a time for as long as you live. This book here has been a real bonus.
What is the best suggestion you have ever received?
Fred: My sponsor, Jimmy Roche, one time told me “you know Fred, you’ve got a lot of anger. People are afraid of you. You need to deal with that. If you need some help you let me know” and that suggestion made me think about it. I tried to really determine where the anger came from and I realized that I was angry with my parents and their alcoholism because I still had some victim in me and I wanted to blame somebody for the condition that I was in and after I got past that, I wanted to blame the disease. It’s such a vicious, lousy disease. It really is, but I realized what I can do about that is I can stay sober for the rest of my life one day at a time and that will take care of that. Then finally I arrived at the conclusion I was really angry with God. Deep down, I was angry with God. It’s hard to develop a friendship or relationship if you’ve got an anger and resentment towards somebody. I had to deal with that and I had to really come to terms with that. As crazy as it sounds, forgive God for what I had experienced up to that point and realize that God had given me a second chance at life and it was up to me to make good on it.
If you could give a new comer only one suggestion, what would that be?
Suggestion’s for the Newcomer!
“ Find a strong group you really like and get a strong sponsor”
Fred: One suggestion, part A and part B. The newcomer, whether you go through treatment or don’t go through treatment, find a strong group you really like and get a strong sponsor. Those two things can make all the difference in the world.
Of all the meetings you have attended anywhere in the world, which group is your favorite and where is that group located?
Thanks again for your SHAIR Fred!
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Disclaimer – The opinions shared on this show reflect those of the individual speaker and not of any 12 step fellowship as a whole and though we discuss 12 step recovery and the impact it has had in our lives we do not promote or endorse any 12 step anonymous program.