Spiritually Homeless

In these financially trying times, have you ever considered how precariously close (or not) you might be to the financial precipice? Have you ever calculated how many paychecks away you are from living on the street?

A week ago, in my regular Tuesday night AA meeting, two people shared their stories. One was an elderly woman who confessed that she is incapable of hitting a 3-year sobriety mark. After a couple years, she inevitably gets complacent and ends up back at square one.

The second guy was, literally, homeless. He’d gotten sober with AA and was able to maintain his sobriety for 28 years, despite having stopped going to meetings. Then he started drinking again, convinced he could drink like a “normal person”. That lasted 3 months. Then he went on a 6-month binge that cost him his wife, his daughter, his job and his home. He now comes to meetings obviously in need of a shower.

This got me thinking… i live feeling secure in my sobriety, but if a guy with 28 years of sobriety can fall, i’m not so pretentious as to think i’m somehow immune. Like the illusion of financial security that evaporates under the harsh light of reality, how far away is a possible relapse? Is there a specific set of circumstances with the potential to create a cascade effect that, in a matter of hours, would have me drowning in booze and then washed up? How close am i really to moral bankruptcy and becoming spiritually homeless?

If the generous victims in the group are any measure, i am always close enough that i should never let down my guard.


About Al K Hall

Like a battered drinker or a punch drunk boxer, i am here for another round. For those of you who don’t know me, i’m a semi-professional writer on the rocks and a non-practicing alcoholic (if after 30 years of practicing, you still can't do something well, it's best to just give it up). For those of you who do know me, thanks for stopping by anyway and where’s the ten bucks you owe me? Welcome to my Bar None. A hole in the wall where we can hang out and trade the kind of stories you swap only when you’ve had one too many and either can’t find your way home or are afraid to. Hell, it’s cheaper than therapy and plus the pictures are prettier. Here we’ll crack open bottles and jokes and ‘last call’ are the only dirty words you’ll never hear. Pull up a stool and make yourselves at home.

Posted on February 10, 2012, in Alcoholics Anonymous, Alcoholism, Lessons in Recovery, Recovery, Toolbox and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 22 Comments.

  1. Oh Al. Please don’t let down your guard. Share your fears at meetings. Truly: Speak it brother. You have to tell people. I remember a saying for OA, “you’re only as sick as your secrets” and that rang VERY true for me. My tendency is to bottle up when i’m feeling needy. (Sorry about the bottle reference.)

    The fear you have is normal, and healthy for that matter. If you were lazying around, taking sobriety for granted and saying … “oh, another year: Piece-o-cake” Then i’d worry.

    God bless … keep working it. Don’t panic … you can get through the bumps … it’s all part of the “icky” part of recovering. Trust me, Melis

    • Hi Melis!

      Thanks for your concern but don’t worry, i’m not on the brink of a drink! Basically, i’m saying that if a guy who had been sober for 28 years can fall, then i’m always closer than i think i am to the next drink and should be on my guard!

      Nice to know you’re there for me!

      Keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

  2. No, never let down your guard. You must constantly be aware of your circumstances and your thoughts and mindful of the consequences of drinking. If you find yourself having urges, then you must identify what is causing them quickly. Putting a name to the trigger: boredom, social tension, exhaustion, stress, … is usually enough for me to quell an urge. If something is happening in my life that just identifying it isn’t enough, and I can’t work it out myself with some clear thinking or exercise then I would seek assistance in getting past the problem.

    • Hi Boat!

      Thanks for the tips! Things are OK for the moment, but i’m sure that’s what they guy who was sober for 28years said. Just keeping my eyes and ears open is all!

      Keep coming back, brother,

      Al K Hall

  3. All these things apply to myself in moderation as well. I have to be constantly on guard and count my drinks to make sure do not stray back to my old ways. I would say that moderation for many, including me, is as much work as sobriety, for some it is more work. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Hi there, brother!

      Yeah, i know for sure that moderation would require a hell of a lot more work and self control than abstinence. i could might do a moderation program but i’m just too lazy! Especially when total sobriety is working so well for me.

      Thanks for stopping by, Moderation, and Keep Coming Back,

      Al K Hall

  4. I just remembered a great quote from my AA days. A guy had been sober 30 years, relapsed and went on a long bender and died. One of his AA friends asked him before he died what had happened. His response was “I started counting the years and forgot about counting days”.

  5. Let’s say you cross the street and get hit by a car when you’re a kid. You’ve learned to look both ways now and be more careful. Can you still get struck by a car?

    • For me the image is more like, i slowly spent all of the money i had and had to live under the bridge. Now i’ve won the lottery, but am more aware of the danger of splurging than i was the first time around, so i’m making sure i keep my money in the bank, where it’s safe.

      Keep coming back!

  6. I would never say never… god knows how close. One should contemplate your very good questions, but it frightens me and I feel that maintaining my sobriety becomes more important than ever. As you say, to never (for the rest of our lifes) letting our guards down.

    Your post had me remember, a week ago I was approached by a homeless alcoholic, while standing outside in the freezing cold and snowy Stockholm. I don’t remember what she said precisely, but we started chatting and she ended up giving me her full name. I am not sure why, and her name is now stamped to my brain.

    She, Eva, told me she was on her way to a certain shelter or hostel and this had me thinking. I know absolutely nothing about harborage for the homeless, never even seen one and maybe I will go to visit this shelter that she mentioned. I would like to learn more about the world of the homeless alkies. Perhaps I would meet Eva again, I’d like to speak some more with her.

    When I looked into the eyes of this 50 something years old woman, I felt as if I was looking into the eyes of an alternative future me.

    • Hi River!

      Into the eyes of a potential you that you avoided! It’s like Dicken’s Ghost of Christmas Future; you saw what you could have become had you not quit. Now you’ve been blessed with a vision of what could be if you let your guard down. Here in Yeaman, we’re experiencing a cold front and the subway stations are kept open for the homeless, as are public gymnasiums. Even so, i’m glad i’m at home, warm and dry, with good friends to talk to on the internet!

      Keep coming back, babe,

      Al K Hall

  7. THIS is what I love about meetings: the reminders and the inspiration. It is SO easy to think “I got his thing licked”

    maybe not so much. That one night leading to a 3 month bender… leading to…

    I love this post. this is really important.

    I volunteer at a soup kitchen and the guys on the line help me remember what alcoholism and drug addiction have done to a few family members and friends. I love helping the guys and we serve drunk or not. I love going to meetings too. I hear the stories and am humbly reminded… It ain’t over till it is over.

    Great reminder Al. Thank you,


    • Hi Jen!

      The meetings are truly what it’s all about. A place where we can let it all hang out because everyone there is just like us…

      Good for you to volunteer! That feels like something i should be looking into…

      Keep coming back, my friend,

      Al K Hall

  8. Hi I took a strong.debit to my account and.need to start over. Went on a binge and.need to assess what happened. I think bc it.was first real stop, I succumbed to denial. feel the kindling affect and all the Yuck that goes with it. Anxiety is the worst. Am hoping try 2 takes me beyond 28 years. Thanks for the wisdom.

    • Hi Working!

      A strong debit, perhaps, but a strong credit for your strength in coming back and admitting it. They talk about that kind of honesty in AA, so that’s a good sign. As for assessing it…how long had you stopped before? How long was the binge? That you recognized you’re a victim to denial is also a good sign that you’re ready for recovery.

      i don’t know if you’re in a program IRL (in real life) but talking sharing with a community of people like me has been a key factor in my recovery. There are a list of resources in my sidebar that you might want to check out.

      Also, i was wondering if you would do me the honor of writing a guest post? Just a little story of your struggles. You can be as specific or vague as you like, as long winded or as brief. The reason i ask is that 1) whenever i share my thoughts about drinking, i feel lighter and (2) i’d like you to feel the support the other readers give me so you can have a taste of what it’s like in a meeting!

      If you’re interested, drop me an email at Either way, hang in there. The fact you’re here means you’re on the right track!

      Keep coming back,

      AL K Hall

  9. Today I hit a new milestone. As I was walking back from the cafe, where I spent the evening reading after a long work day, it occurred to me that I had not once thought about alcohol since getting up this morning. No regrets of my past drinking. No weird cravings. No gratitude that I quit drinking. Just a busy fulfilled day. I don’t think that has happened in a long time.

    Of course, thinking that thought blew the streak but it is only an hour before midnight. I’m wondering if I will see the time when having thoughts about alcohol is unusual, and I can just go about my life. And if so does that put me in danger of a relapse?

    • ITSB!

      [Do you mind if i post this comment as a guest post? i think it can encourage the other readers; kind of give them an idea f what they can look forward to. It seems wasted being buried here at the bottom of a comments section and i’d like to let it shine!]

      Congrats, brother! That’s huge. i guess time really does heal all wounds. What a great feeling it must be to know that what used to be a huge, insurmountable mountain in your life has been reduced to a tiny pebble you no longer even really notice. Here’s to hoping it one day becomes a dust mote that just gets blown away…

      Keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

      • Feel free to post any of my comments, Al.

        I don’t know if all my advice is good but if it helps, great . There are things I did in my first year or so that I used to recommend that I don’t do now. For example, I’m done with the N/A beer. My friend said “If you could make that stuff in bulk like koolaid, you’d never drink it.” And I said “you’re right.” So I don’t waste money on that pacifier. And I don’t go to bars to just hangout (without drinking.) Bars just depress me now whereas before I thought there was some comfort in them beyond alcohol. I’m glad I could drink N/A beer or visit a bar without a relapse. But I don’t see the point in the old ways. The main draw of the green bottles or the barstool was the alcohol and little more. I guess it’s called “moving on.”

        • Yeah, my sponsor told me non alcoholic beer was for non alcoholics so i stay away from it. i never drank beer for the taste, anyway. Look for you comment posted as a post tomorrow!

          Thanks for the wisdom, brother,
          Al K Hall

  10. What a great set of comments. I read this post in my email, but did not take the time yet to comment. Sometimes it’s nice to let a post sit for a while and see what others have to write before coming on myself to share my two cents.

    I really like what Boat wrote here: “Putting a name to the trigger: boredom, social tension, exhaustion, stress, … is usually enough for me to quell an urge.” I find that is true for me with regard to smoking and eating. Just acknowledging and naming, bringing into consciousness that which is unconscious, goes a long way in swimming and not sinking (see comment on next post).

    The collective wisdom of so many people, so many survivors, reminds me a little of stories like “The Odyssey” or “Pilgrim’s Progress” — probably like the Lord of the Rings series, too, although I have never been able to read all of them. Only seen the movies… In any case, it is like the people of AA are explorers and adventurers of the underground places, and they are all saying, “Oh yeah, I went over to this place and there be dangers there!! Beware!! DON’T GO THERE!”

    A person can choose if they want to try the Dire Straits (not the band, more like the Drinking Place), but many will say, “I got by with just my life, and it was totally unpleasant.” Even just to know there is a fellow who went into complacency after 28 (!!!) years is remarkable. Thank god/dess he survived to tell the tale and share with others, “BEWARE! There be dangers ahead.”

    I like the “money in the bank” metaphor. Trying to keep that account in a healthy balance, not spending without regard to the cost. That’s a good metaphor, too.

    Yeah, got stories on the brain today. Must be the good book I am reading…

  11. I actually like NA beer. I don’t drink it as a replacement any more, I drink it because I like it. I am at a point now where I almost never drink alcohol during the week. Yet, one or 2 nights a week both my wife and I have a NA beer with dinner. I will admit, it is expensive though. On that thought, however, it is no more expensive then regular beer.

    • I drink N/A beer like a social drinker drinks beer now. If I’m socializing with friends at a bar, I’ll have an N/A beer or two with some sliders. I may even conceal it in a regular glass if I don’t feel like answering questions from people who hardly know me about it.

      What I meant was my previous use pattern was a waste: every day I’d pick up a 6 pack of N/A beer and polish it off. So effectively, I was drinking it like I used to drink beer. My SMART counselor called it a “behavioral relapse.” But I don’t see anything “wrong” with that other than empty calories and money spent. I’d have my binge and not be sick the next day. I just don’t feel the need to do that anymore. I’m just trying to eliminate alcohol from my mind as well as my body.

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