Editor’s note: the man’s name in the story has been changed to protect the anonymity tradition of being a member of Alcoholics Anonymous
His first year of sobriety was very tough, admits Norm, a now-retired labourer from the Prairies living in Vernon.
Norm started to get honest with himself without booze. He wasn’t a good father to his three kids. He was a poor husband to his wife. His life, Norm realized, was a mess.
So he took out a gun and put it to his head.
The only thing that stopped him was how his family would handle the mess he was going to leave them.
“I was seconds away from pulling the trigger,” said Norm, now in his 70s. “God wasn’t part of my lifestyle then but he gave me the thought of leaving behind my three kids.”
It was his three kids that had led Norm to seek sobriety.
He took his first drink as a teen on the Prairies, joining his friends in stealing liquor out of their dads’ drinking cabinets. Norm said if he stole the hard stuff over beer, he was crazier.
The local beer parlour became a home away from home after work for Norm, married at 21. He never thought he had a drinking issue. It became his lifestyle, he said.
He drank and drove. He was in three bad accidents. The motor vehicle branch asked him if he had a mental problem.
“I hurt people in those accidents and had my licence suspended for two years,” said Norm.
In the beer parlour one evening after work, Norm and friends were talking about drinking and driving, about the possibility of injuring some family’s children. That’s when Norm’s beer went flat.
“The thought came to me about drinking and running over one of my kids,” he said.
In 1976, now living in Vernon, Norm joined Alcoholics Anonymous, put in touch with the organization by the Salvation Army after Norm reached out to them.
He has no recollection of his first AA meeting, other than walking through the back of the church where the meeting was held and that a couple of gentlemen had spoken to him. What about, Norm said, he doesn’t remember.
“The next morning I found a couple of business cards in my shirt,” he said. “I went to a second meeting to make sure I’d been to the first meeting.”
Norm hasn’t had a drink since – 46 years of sobriety. He now dedicates his time in retirement to helping others with drinking problems, through AA.
“We’re liars, cheats, thieves, manipulators. We’re great con artists,” he said of those who battle the bottle. He credits AA and his wife with saving his life.
“We’ve been together more than 50 years, my wife and I, and it’s one of the best things that has happened in my life. We have an amazing relationship.”
In its own words, Alcoholics Anonymous is “a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.”
The only membership requirement is wanting to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees.
Its primary purpose is to help someone stay sober and help alcoholics achieve sobriety.
In Vernon, AA meetings are held daily, and more information on where and when meetings are held can be found at vernonaa.org/find-a-meeting. You can also call 250-545-4933 for help or information.
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