I went to a meeting today because I started to feel a craving coming on. I stopped on the way at 7-11 to get candy, thinking it might help as a substitute for alcohol and fulfill my sugar craving. I’m learning that when I really want to get to a meeting, it means I really need one. A young guy led the meeting and told his story. Really tough to listen to. He said he joined the Army with his best friend when he was 18. They served in Iraq together and on two occasions, his best friend saved his life. On the second, he was killed while doing so. He continued to share about how he was wounded and hospitalized, and also how he suffered from PTSD. I hear so many horrible stories in meetings but this one really got to me. He had only 52 days of sobriety but had such a positive attitude and determination that I know that count will continue to go up.

People tell me that they can’t imagine how hard it is for me not to drink. They say they admire my courage in sharing my story so that it might help others. What I do is nothing compared to this man. That’s real courage. To go through and witness the horror he did and be determined to get himself healthy again. That’s bravery. To build up his strength to fight a disease that tempts him constantly by providing a temporary respite from the torturous images in his mind. Heroic. My guess is that his determination comes from knowing that his best friend didn’t save his life and lose his own so he could kill himself with alcohol. He killed many enemy combatants on his tour, but the toughest, strongest one he has to battle is inside himself.

I often think about whether or not I would be strong enough to maintain my sobriety if something traumatic happened. In an earlier piece I wrote, called Weak Enough, I talked about the need not to be strong enough, but to be weak enough to turn it over to God. Of course I hope nothing traumatic happens, but to show how twisted an alcoholic’s thinking can be, another man at the meeting said that sometimes he fantasizes about something tragic happening so he would have an excuse to drink. Think about that. Wanting something bad to happen to give you an “excuse” to reunite with your old friend the bottle. That’s why I go to meetings. Every meeting is like putting a deposit in the sobriety bank so that when the shit really hits the fan, I will have plenty in there to withdraw. Maybe this young, newly sober soldier sees meetings as ammo that he stores up for himself, and extracting from that cache when he needs to fight that vicious enemy inside. You have to do whatever it is that works for you to fight the battle with a disease that is cunning, baffling and powerful. For this young man, and for all like him who served our country, thank you for your service. And thank you for thinking enough of yourself, and your best friend, to make this life the best you can, one day at a time.

“Gold is good in its place, but living, brave, patriotic men are better than gold.” —Abraham Lincoln