Sometimes it takes a greater hero to refuse a destructive drink than to stand with a bayonet, eye to the enemy.”

I hesitate to agree with these words of St. John Paul the Great, since as I write I am celebrating with a cup of tea, having attained my twenty-eighth year as a non-drinking alcoholic. The sole reason I feel able to reproduce the quote approvingly without offending against modesty is that, looking back, I do not quite regard as myself the person who, with conscious forethought, had his last alcoholic drink on the afternoon of July 29, 1990.

This is contradictory: In some respects, I can look back all the way to my childhood and recognize myself at various stages; but, as my backward gaze scans the late months of 1990 and no short time beyond, I cannot now claim to know this person who experienced difficulty in not picking up an alcoholic drink, one day at a time, but one day awoke with the thought that all the drink in New York City would not be worth a single dollar.

There are things about the general experience that I remember: the disruption, ignominy, and terror that accompanied my last months of drinking; the ducking and diving; the running out of hope that I could ever again reclaim the buzz; the nausea of the mornings after; the embarrassment of half-recalled episodes of, shall we say, unselfconsciousness. But in other respects, the tracks of my recall run out of road. I cannot, for example, access the personality of someone to whom alcohol meant so much that he needed supernatural powers to assist him in avoiding it.

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