Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sober in Thailand

AA Medallion Given to Me by My Daughter on my Tenth AA Birthday

For those of you that didn't know I am a sober alcoholic. I got sober in the what we call the Fellowship. To the outside world it is known as Alcoholics Anonymous or AA. Today I celebrated my 19th year of sobriety. In AA we call that our AA birthday as opposed to our "bellybutton birthday". I am not a big one on celebrations and such but today I gave a call to one of my friends in the Fellowship who lives in Mukdahan and said I wanted to brag, that it was my 19th birthday today. After getting the normal "congratulations" 1 was asked the question "How did you do it?". Now normally when you are in a AA meeting and you celebrate a length of sobriety. Someone will always ask "Why did you do it?" and "How did you do it?". This is an invitation to share and tell your story. Specifically, how I stayed sober in Thailand for 8 years with very few meetings. Here it is.

When I moved to Thailand almost 8 years ago I had been sober for 11 years. I was your typical garden variety drunk. I love drinking and getting fucked up. Specially the second part. I had been drinking since my early teens and from the first time I got loaded I knew this was for me! It made me feel great. Drinking gave me that warm good feeling that I could not get in any other way. So I wanted to repeat that feeling again and again as often as possible. At the time most of my friends were experimenting with alcohol and found many ways to get it. We had people buy it for us, stole it sneaked it from our parents' stash. There was always a way. By the time  I turned 16 or so we found underage places that would serve us and places that would sell us booze without an I.D. or with some laughable fake. It was great. We used to ride around drinking having a great time.

By the time I was 21 or 22 I got my first DUI but I subsequently moved to Los Angeles to get away from the consequences and also because I was wearing out my welcome in Atlanta. (Them damned consequences, don't you just hate 'em?) People were getting tired of my bullshit. I was also tiring of Atlanta to be honest. Those of us in the Program call this doing a geographic. Anyhow I continued on right where I left off there but even to a greater degree. Living on my own I had no one to answer to and could indulge to my hearts content. I was more or less a non violent drunk but I still had my  moments of rage that were devastating to those around me. Somehow I got married and had three lovely daughters, who grew up with a drunk for a father. Nice. By the time I reached the age of 39 my first wife was long gone. Surprise, surprise. She was in the Program to (at my insistence) so I had been introduced to AA but thought most of the people there were a bunch of wankers. A few years after my first wife left me, my daughters remained in my care, I got my third DUI (Driving Under the Influence) on the night before Thanksgiving. That was when I had my last drink. Miraculously, I kept my job as a truck driver and was sentenced a drunk class and a series of AA meetings along with a hefty fine. The court gives you a card to have signed when you go to the meetings to prove that you attended, hence the term court card. So, I went to my first AA meetings with a "nudge from the judge", like many many others.

I attended meetings at the same place my wife did, the Temple City Alano Club, though she no longer went there anymore. However, I changed the name I was going my and cut my hair and shaved my beard, so I was kind of incognito I guess or so I thought. I was pissed off like a motherfucker. I could barely speak out of guilt and shame and anger. You know what am I doing here in a room with all these drunks? That wasn't on my "to do list" as I was growing up. My true intention was to attend my 10 meetings, tell them all what a bunch of assholes they were and give them the finger as I walked out of the place. I hoped I could control my drinking for the sake of my children but I didn't know if I could or not. Needless to say that is not how it turned out. At my first meeting I was asked if I wanted to share and I told them " I didn't know if I was an alcoholic" but I was willing to listen. But the stories I heard from the people there were right from me. The had done all the stuff I had done and then some. They were young old and of all walks of life. But they spoke straight to my heart. It was honest shit. They pulled me aside and befriended me for no other reason but that I was a drunk like them. The next time I spoke I could still barely speak but told them I might be an alcoholic but that I loved alcohol so much I didn't know if I could stop. I could see the heads nodding around me and people giving their approval of what I said because they had all been in that place. Well it turned out that these people came to be my good friends and I am convinced that it was the Fellowship that got me sober and saved my ass.

I am not a Big Book fanatic (The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous) some people are. That is up to them. Not everyone gets sober in the same way. I began to follow what was in that book as suggested for a plan of living sober. I didn't have somebody beat me over the head with it. I never had a "sponsor". But I had a hell of a lot of good friends who I could talk to and share my troubles and triumphs with. A lot of people get sober and then don't know what to do next. Its about learning to live a life that you never wanted to live. There are a lot of adjustments, because we alcoholics are not the same as other people (normies) and it is really and at some points for me essential to find someone that you can speak to honestly on issues that trouble you, as an alcoholic and as  person. The Fellowship did that for me. So the short answer to How did I do it? Go to a lot of  meetings and don't drink between meetings. But there is one part of the 12 Traditions of AA that tells me how I did it:
"Tradition # 2 —For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority—a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern." 
The key part for me is "a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience".
This tells me that a meeting of Alcoholics can manifest God in their meeting, and I truly believe it is so. So everytime you have a meeting you are manifesting God among you. No matter how small the group.

Ok so fast forward to Thailand 19 years later still sober. I live in a small city in Thailand called Mukdahan, it is the capitol of one of the newest provinces and is a long way from Bangkok and other tourist areas that are frequented by foreigners. We are in the northeast right on the border with Laos. There is a lot of alcohol related problems here with the locals but they don't have any idea of AA or any 12 Step programs. This is not the case in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Samui or other cities with a good sized foreign population. You can find many AA meetings in Bangkok or other cities. But here it is just not the case. Guys like me that are out there are termed "loners" by the AA community. We stay in contact with others. I met my fellow AA cohort when I called emailed the AA Thailand website, to get some literature for a friend that asked me to help him get sober. Some members of the Koh Samui group kindly sent me what I asked for and then one day gave me a call and said that they had a member that was going back and forth splitting time between Samui and Mukdahan and was having a hard time staying sober up here. Could they contact me later? Sure enough before long I had my original friend and our Samui - Muik friend and I got my name listed in the AA Thailand directory for meetings. My original friend went back to England about 4 years ago and is still sober. So is my Samui friend who I called today to "brag" about my birthday.,

How did  I do it here in Thailand? I don't rightly know. A day at a time mostly. I got a good foundation from my home group in Temple City, Ca. USA. I help others even if it is not to get sober somebody is always needing some help.  I also found a few good friends that I have been able to confide in here that are not alcoholics but are good enough friends to let me talk about shit I need to. I still get calls here and there out of the blue from people that are traveling through Mukdahan looking for a meeting. Often it is just a cup of coffee or a dinner together as we discuss our experience, strength and hope with each other as we let God express himself as we commune. It all seems rather miraculous that we can stay sober on our own out here. But as far as I am concerned me staying sober 19 years anywhere on this planet qualifies as one hell of a miracle no matter how you cut it.

Edit: I think I should also mention that I have an incredibly understanding wife (Dtom) who while she might not  understand alcoholism, she understands that sometimes I need to do what I need to do to stay sober. She has also taught me a lot about how to control my temper and has helped me to grow to be a better person. Without her I know I could not have done as well as I have.  - Khun Rut

P.S. If anyone is interested I would be willing to make a Blog dedicated to Sober Life in Thailand. AA Thailand is more about where and how to find meetings and good information. But if there is any interest I will start a temporary blog on Wordpress and if it takes of migrate it over to self hosted blog. Either email or write me some comments. All the best. R


Unknown said...

Thanks for the blog. I am an alcoholic and love to visit Thailand but have already nearly drank myself to death in Bangkok and Pattaya as well as mainila. I'm going to return this winter and stay sober. See how it goes there. I think I will still have lots of fun

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