Helena's Nick Nichols, formerly of Camden, has been sober for 29 years now but with the New Year drawing near, he cant help but recall the drunken haze that hindered him from functioning without turning to the bottle. Nichols recalls blacking out to avoid reality and facing difficult decisions. He decided to sober up.
Nichols realized that through his journey of alcohol addiction others were suffering the same problem. He found encouragement in sharing his story as therapy to conquer the addiction head on.
Nichols began drinking at 16 and experienced black outs while drinking in his early stages of his addiction.
“I remember getting hit by a car and being be told that my nose had to be sewed back on, a piece of glass was sticking out of crown of my head and my leg had been pinned in two places after slamming my head into the windshield of my vehicle,” Nichols confessed.
He woke up with his legs in traction and didn't recall a thing.
“I still can not recollect what happened,” commented Nichols.
Drinking was Nichols' lifestyle. He carried out his day-to-day functions while heavily intoxicated and not remembering how or what had happened that day.
“I remember when I was in an airport in Hong Kong because my daddy had gotten into an accident after drinking and I was sent home on medical leave. I don't remember how I got to the airport or how I landed at the Little Rock airport,” said Nichols.
According to Nichols, he could still function during his black outs but like many alcoholics impaired judgment and lack of recollection followed the massive hangovers.
“Alcoholism is a habit the runs in my family,” added Nichols
Nichols recalls his first DWI offense in 1976 that cost him $200. In his drunken stupor, he struck one of the officers with a pair of brass knuckles, which added even more charges to his record and his fines that now exceeded $10,000.
“I had wrecked my mom's cars when I was just under the legal drinking age while home on leave, drinking and having a good time,” recalled Nichols.
Nichols knew that his addiction was growing stronger but didn't know how to deal with it, or even if he wanted to stop.
“I was scared to death at first to tell anyone my situation but I later found it therapeutic to talk to others about their similar situations, stories and then I understood that I could relate and that I wasn't alone,” continues to Nichols.
Nichols recalled when his landlord in Hawaii introduced him to his first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.
“He had lost his arm to the sharks off the coast while surfing and told me that he didn't know what my trouble was but that liquor bottle ain't going to solve it because it didn't grow his arm back,” stated Nichols.
Page 2 of 3 - Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experiences and strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others recover from alcoholism.
AA is nonprofessional – it doesn't have clinics, doctors, counselors or psychologists. All members are themselves recovering from alcoholism. There is no central authority controlling how AA groups operate. It is up to the members of each group to decide what they do. However, the AA program of recovery has proved to be so successful that almost every group follows it in very similar ways.
AA is not a religious organization nor is it affiliated with any religious body. You don't have to sign up or achieve anything to be a member. You're a member of a group if you choose to be. You can come and go as you please. No one is "in charge" of a group.
AA members tell their stories of what it was like for them, what happened and where they are now. The AA program, known as The 12 Steps, provides a framework for self-examination and a road to recovery, free of alcohol.
Nichols learned that most people don't get sober the first time and sometimes it takes multiple tries before sobriety begins.
“It's the nature of the beast, it's an addiction. Whether you're a junkie or a drunk, it's still an addiction,” explained Nichols
“The relative success of the A.A. program seems to be due to the fact that an alcoholic who no longer drinks has an exceptional faculty for 'reaching' and helping an uncontrolled drinker,” explained Nichols. “In simplest form, the A.A. program operates successfully when a recovered alcoholic passes along the story of his or her own problem drinking, describes the sobriety he or she has found in A.A., and invites the newcomer to join the informal Fellowship.”
Nichols said that the heart of the suggested program of personal recovery is contained in 12 Steps describing the experience of the earliest members of the Society.
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that only a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
Page 3 of 3 - 9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Newcomers are not asked to accept or follow these 12 Steps in their entirety if they feel unwilling or unable to do so.
“They will usually be asked to keep an open mind, to attend meetings at which recovered alcoholics describe their personal experiences in achieving sobriety, and to read A.A. literature describing and interpreting the A.A. program,” stated Nichols.
Nichols stressed that alcoholism was not forced on him and he accepts full responsibility. But, while lost in his drunken haze, he wouldn't admit that he had a problem.
“There is always going to be some excuse or reason you tell your self not to get help and until you realize that you have to put your soberness first in your life, you will continue to fall off that ladder,” explained Nichols.
Putting soberness first was quite difficult for Nichols.
“I can't just eat one Snickers, and as long as no one sees me eat more than one, I'm okay,” confessed Nichols.
As New Year's draws closer, Nichols felt the need to express his story and hopefully reach out to others that have found themselves headed down the same dark, damaging and discouraging road.
“I can't promise anyone that their life will become all well and wonderful, that they will win the lottery or that their problems will go away,” stated Nichols. “If a person decides to give AA or NA or some other 12-step program, give it a sincere honest effort because you will learn to deal with things head on without turning to the bottle, a joint, or whatever you feel you need to do that hinders you from the reality of confronting things head on.”