Taking Control: How AA and Therapy Turned My Life Around

flying a kite on the beachThe moment I sought counseling was the moment I stopped pointing fingers and blaming the world for my troubles and the poor decisions I was making in my life. Counseling has helped me in many ways over the past year and a half, and it wasn’t until then that I realized I had personal issues in my daily life I had been coping with for so long. I had been dealing with things that were holding back not only me, but in fact, the very ones that I love. I have dealt with personal issues on a day-to-day basis for several years, and I could not get myself to discuss or even admit to what I had kept deep within me.

I discovered I lacked the ability to communicate and express myself, as well as the strength to stand up for myself and physically show the ones I love that I do in fact love them very much. I was raised in a large, old-fashioned, and very strict Catholic family household. My mother and father were very much in love with each other, but there were a few important factors missing from our childhood that would affect us in our future adult lives and relationships. These are the very fundamentals learned at a young age that would impact the way we communicate, express, and react to various situations in our future careers, work ethics, social activities, and most importantly, the relationships with our very own spouses and children.

January 2015: the Brink of Change

In January 2015, I was at a point in my life when change was inevitable. I had decided I could not continue to function on a daily basis with quietly kept struggles that affected my career and relationships with my beautiful bride, family, and friends. I had hit an all-time low, and it wasn’t going to change until I was able to admit I had a problem.

I was afraid to open up to my wife, I was binge drinking, I was putting on weight, I was becoming lazy, and most of all, I had lost my relationship with my family—the very heart and soul of my existence. I was not present for my family and didn’t show interest in my wife’s or children’s goals and interests. I was going to work daily performing at an average or below-average level. I had no aspirations or goals, no intention of continuing any further education in my life. To top it off, I felt alone and pointless. I didn’t know what I wanted to be, where I wanted to go, or if I even wanted help.

February 2015: a Breakthrough

This was it! This was my breakthrough month and year, an eye-opening start for me. I knew my time had come and it was time for me to shine. I located and contacted a therapist in my area and arranged an initial consultation, which would be immediately followed up with a scheduled appointment.

I had admitted the first step to becoming a new father and husband was to tackle the issue of binge drinking. I was behaving in this manner for a reason, but what was it? What was I trying to hide or cover up? What was I running from or afraid of? I wasn’t sure, but I was going to reveal the reason for this pattern of behavior. I started explaining myself and my past to my counselor in the hope that it would help us identify the core of my binge drinking and the reasons for it.

At the same time, I took it upon myself to attend an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting located close to me at a nearby local church. I sat through the entire meeting, watching, listening to, and feeling the pain coming from the mouths and faces of about 24 attendees. The stories and admissions I witnessed summed up exactly how I was feeling and what I was about to lose. It took everything I had to compose myself for the duration. After the meeting had ended, I went to my vehicle and couldn’t get myself to drive. I sat in my car pondering what I had just heard and witnessed in that church basement, knowing this would put to rest what I thought was an incurable habit that was destroying my very life.

I believe everyone has an epiphany at some point in their life. Whether late or early, it comes to us all when we least expect it. This was definitely my moment.

As I sat in the car crying, realizing what was happening to me and to those around me whom I loved so very much, I promised myself I would never put myself in a position to allow anything or anyone to control how I feel, what I feel, or how to deal with these feelings. It was up to me to learn to control communicating and expressing my thoughts and feelings without resorting to alternate means or delays. This was my moment. I believe everyone has an epiphany at some point in their life. Whether late or early, it comes to us all when we least expect it. This was definitely my moment.

In the process of therapy sessions, I realized I have had many hurtful experiences and, one by one, I wasn’t able to deal with them. Life can hand us a multitude of dilemmas: some people are equipped to handle them at the time, and some of us handle them as we go. I discussed my AA experience with my counselor and we continued to dig and come to a resolution about this life-changing habit and what it was I was using it to hide from. My therapist helped me realize my personality, temperament, strengths, and weaknesses. We sought what scares me, what makes me happy, what makes me smile, and what makes me frown.

Before going through counselling, I didn’t pay much attention to people or their ways, but ever since, I have started to intentionally improve listening skills by paying undivided attention to people. I have learned we all speak the same language—some of us just have a different dialect in the way we relay our thoughts, feelings, and emotions. As I continue ongoing treatment with my therapist, I find I am able to build my confidence with much more ease. My self-esteem has increased immensely with the use of confidence and communication.

Before undergoing counselling, I was very poor in interpersonal communication, but now I begin to closely observe people and I’m able to accept people with different personalities and temperaments. I am finding it easier to associate and build relationships with them. It is amazing what we can accomplish when we simply learn to listen. Learning to listen involves focusing and paying attention to their words, not thinking out your defenses or what you want to scream in rebuttal. My therapist and I continue to work together biweekly on issues pertaining to my family relationships, my post-school career, and the interaction/leadership qualities and communication needed in my industry.

June 2016: a Journey of Milestones

Throughout the past year and a half, my life has changed significantly. I have tackled my weight issue (down 50 pounds); I have an amazing relationship with my children that includes interaction, presence, showing interest, and supporting them; I enrolled in a Bachelor of Science program for higher education and have recently been inducted into the National Technical Honor Society for maintaining a 4.0 GPA; I have not had a drop of alcohol since February 2015; my relationships with extended family members and friends have improved; I have improved performance at my full-time job; I have returned to the church for moral support; and I have taken on internship positions.

My therapist made me realize that I, and only I, am responsible for everything in my life and what I allow. My therapist explained to me the difference between mistakes and choices.

I have been blessed with so many friends and family members that have lovingly supported my life mission to become the person I was meant to be, all without prejudice or judgement. But there is one in particular that I thank every Saturday morning after our visit: my therapist. Not many people will ever know this, but my therapist has saved my life. My therapist has been tough on me, yet effective. My therapist does not allow me to blame, point fingers, or drag another individ­­­­­ual into my problems. My therapist made me realize that I, and only I, am responsible for everything in my life and what I allow. My therapist explained to me the difference between mistakes and choices. My therapist and my children are my rock at the moment, and I will never be able to thank them enough for the continued support, guidance, and lessons that they make me realize and figure out on my own.

Current Day 2016: Still Making Progress

My wife is not here; she has left me. The children and I are pulling together and forming a team now. We are working very hard, and we all continue to push forward the best we can. This is where my therapist is needed the most. It is very difficult to function alone, to be ignored, and to have a sense of solitude from time to time. I can only wonder if this is the way my lovely bride must have felt at times. Of course I wouldn’t know, because I never took the time to listen and find out. I miss my wife more than anything, and as much as my therapist tries to assist me through this, it will be his ultimate challenge to guide me through these life changes.

Thank you, Sir (therapist), for all that you have done. You will always be a hero in my book.

“Your choices, your words, and every move you make are permanent. Life is lived in indelible ink, boy. Wake up. You’re making little bitty brushstrokes every minute you walk around on this earth. And with those tiny brushstrokes, you are creating the painting that your life will ultimately become—a masterpiece or a disaster.” – Andy Andrews, The Noticer Returns: Sometimes You Find Perspective, and Sometimes Perspective Finds You

© Copyright 2016 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 4 comments
  • Leave a Comment
  • James

    James

    September 3rd, 2016 at 8:56 AM

    This is an awesome tale of stopping the looking for someone else to blame and the start of taking responsibility for our own choices and actions. This is not always going to be an easy thing to do especially if you have been blaming others for your troubles for many many years. But the truth is once you own up and start taking the responsibility that is rightly yours, it is a whole lot easier to begin repairing what the issues are. It gives you control over something that you may not have ever felt before. In the end, that can feel pretty good.

  • Timothy

    Timothy

    September 7th, 2016 at 10:21 AM

    Some people will find redemption in the 12 steps and for some this will be a big turnoff. The point is that there is still something out there for anyone and everyone of getting clean and sober is what you aspire to do.

    I know that for me AA is a real life changer but then there are others who could never stomach it. That’s ok, you do what works best for you. As long as we both meet on the other side with sobriety intact then that’s all that matters to me.

  • kev

    kev

    September 9th, 2016 at 10:38 AM

    achieving sobriety is tough, so I applaud anyone who can do it no matter the method

  • Bayne

    Bayne

    September 10th, 2016 at 8:07 AM

    My mom never really could fully commit to the AA lifestyle. She would do it for a while but it would never stick for her. She died a few years ago still an addict so I wonder what more I could have done to try to get help for her.

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of GoodTherapy.org's Terms and Conditions of Use.

* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.