Michael’s Story


My name is J. Michael H., and I am an alcoholic. My sobriety date is April 22nd, 2010. I was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1967. Ever since I can remember, I wanted two things out of life: to make Rock and Roll music, and to feel as good as I possibly could. Long before I ever took a drink or a drug, I was a liar, a cheat and a thief. I always assumed that the world owed me everything that my selfish spirit felt entitled to, and when I didn’t get it, I vacillated between being resentful and being a victim, both of which fed my sense of entitlement.

I watched adults drinking and having a good time, and I couldn’t wait to join in the fun. My first drunk was at my mother’s 2nd wedding when I was nine years old. My first hangover was the next day, and I couldn’t wait to do it again. I smoked my first joint at 11, and did my first “hard drug” (speed) at 15. Around that time, I started pursuing my Rock-and-Roll dreams in earnest. Due to the progressive nature of alcoholism, I kept my drinking in somewhat of a semblance of control.

By the time I was in my mid twenties, getting loaded was more important than the art, the thing that had kept me going all of those years.

By the time I hit 30, I was homeless, friendless, and I thought that my problem was alcohol and drugs. If I could just regain some control over the substances, everything would be alright. I went into rehab, and was introduced to the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Unfortunately, I still believed that the substances were the problem, the world still owed me something, and I didn’t need to do any work to solve my problems. So I concluded that AA didn’t work, that I wasn’t as bad as I thought, and I proceeded, over the next 10 years, to slowly sink deeper into my disease.

Flash forward to 2010: I’m back in Cleveland, living off of my adult daughter, working temp jobs a few days a week, earning just enough to keep me in tobacco and booze. Not contributing anything to anyone but to my own downfall. I tried stopping a few times on my own, but I never made it longer than a few days, before I was drunk again. I found myself in a hospital (again), lying to the staff (and myself) that I didn’t have a problem.

I received a phone call from my daughter, saying that she couldn’t watch me do this to myself anymore, and that I couldn’t come home. Normally, I would have talked my way back in, but I had a moment of clarity: I was hurting those who loved me, and I didn’t want to do that anymore, but I didn’t know how to stop. I finally got honest with myself (everyone else knew), and I asked for help. April, 22nd, I went into detox, and seven days later, I was on the doorstep of The Ed Keating Center on W.117th ST.

I was scared, but hopeful and willing.

Most of my fear stemmed from my previous experience with AA. I was afraid that it wouldn’t work for an atheist. That somehow, everyone else’s conception of a power greater than oneself was a key component of this thing working. Very quickly, I was open and honest about that fear, and I was told by an old-timer, that all I needed to know about a higher power, was that it wasn’t me anymore. That gave me the freedom to start working the Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

The Keating Center gave me many things, but to me, the most important were: a safe place to truly get involved in AA, and a living example of how to live a sober life. Fourteen + years later, there are things that I do on a daily basis that I did those first days at The Rock. I pray twice a day (yes, I’m still an atheist, but it was an action I was told to take, and my personal feelings got me to where I was, and I like where I am a whole lot better).

I do my morning meditations, I make my bed, and I show up for whatever the day has in store for me. I try to be a good boy, do the next right thing, and be helpful to those around me. I’m an active member of AA, and I’ve been a member of the EKC Advisory Board ever since I moved out. (I stayed for 18 months, of the 9 month program. I still give time.) Gratitude is an action, and grateful drunks don’t drink. I’m not a miracle. I’m not special. I’m a garden variety drunk (who did a whole lot of drugs), that does the Work, on a daily basis, and receives the rewards of that Work (and more importantly: the people around me benefit from my Work). If this thing works for me, it can work for you, but you have to WORK IT.

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