Acceptance Is Easy When You Don't Have a Choice
(Blinded in a car
accident, he learned the hard way).
I grew up in an alcoholic
environment, the youngest of five boys, with two younger sisters. My
self-esteem was zero when I was growing up, I always felt different. I always
felt less than my friends and classmates. At an age barely tall enough to look
over the kitchen table, I saw my family playing cards, drinking, and laughing,
and I decided I wanted to be just like that. Everybody seemed to be having a good
I watched all of my brothers go
into the service, one at a time, and I watched them all come home, except for
the one closest to me. He came home in a coffin, not because of the war, but
because of an accident in his barracks with a friend's M- 16. This happened on
his nineteenth birthday; he died two days later.
A sad story - but what an excuse it was for drinking! My next
oldest brother and I were off and running.
He became my drinking buddy, teacher, pool-hustling partner, and a major
part of my story. My brother's drinking was so bad that I finally had to detach
from him. But looking at him, I could always justify my drinking, saying to
myself, I'm not that bad.
The day after high school I got a job at a major corporation.
Shortly after that, I did the right thing by marrying my pregnant girlfriend. I
was eighteen years old and she was sixteen. I didn't know what to do with all
these grown-up responsibilities. But I
had an answer for every problem and that was to drink. I was becoming a very
definite alcoholic. I went through two quick marriages.
Alcoholism became my way of life. My drinking controlled my communications with anybody I dealt
with, it determined the places I went, and it made me do things that I never intended
to do. This wasn't the real me.
After years of watching my brother be charged many times with
driving while intoxicated, I had my first major vehicular accident while
driving a motorcycle. I was going ninety miles an hour, racing a friend through
a radar trap, and had a head-on collision with a station wagon. I'm lucky to be
alive. There was an ambulance nearby which had been at a school football game
waiting in case anybody got hurt. I don't think I
would have made it if I hadn't
gotten immediate medical attention.
The police didn't think I was going to live through the
night, so they
didn't issue me a DWI. So I got
away with it. I have a different view of DWI's today, and wonder if they're not
a blessing in disguise.
Acceptance has opened many, many doors in my life. After the accident, I was in a body cast
for a year. I promised my family that I wouldn't drink anymore, but as soon as
I was offered a beer – with everyone watching me - I took it. My family accepted
this and I was off and running again,
I'd been back at work for a short time when, in March
1979, I had a phone call that my father had passed away in his sleep. This was
devastating news, because my dad was my best friend and confidant, the only
person I could come close to sharing my feelings with. I loved him very
I did a lot of drinking as I grieved over his death. One day my brothers
and I were reminiscing over family matters - and drinking, of course. We
decided to go to the cemetery and pour beer over Dad's grave. This was about
eleven o'clock at night. My oldest
brother was driving. We took a curve - and didn't make it. We hit a telephone
pole on my side of the car and the car flipped over several times the car
battery came through the dash and broke. I was trapped inside. The battery acid
dripped onto my face and burned it, and fell into my eyes It took over an hour
for the emergency team to free me; meanwhile, the acid was doing its damage.
It was a longer recovery this time, I spent two months in the
hospital, Both my legs were broken and in traction, and I couldn't see. I was
truly powerless. I lay there, wishing I could be doing some of the things I
used to complain about. I wasn't in too much
physical pain because I was
heavily medicated, but the mental and emotional
Pains were overwhelming.
I came home from the hospital blind, and in a wheelchair. The loneliness truly started at this
point. I didn't want to admit that alcohol had done this to me. My world was
falling apart, and I didn't want to look at it. I went back to drinking and
could justify it by saying I wasn't driving now after all. I figured the only
thing I had left for support was my beer. But everyone wanted me to quit, even
my brothers, who were now in AA, It was getting difficult to maintain my
supply, when the people I depended on didn't want to buy alcohol for me any
more. I was full of self-pity, remorse,
and loneliness. I drank to escape, went to bed to escape, and woke up in the
morning with the horror that I was blind.
My oldest brother was trying to get me to go to an AA meeting
and all I
would say is no. Finally I went
just to shut him up. I sat at my first AA meeting and couldn't believe the
honesty that these people had. I was shocked. But I felt a small spark of hope.
This brought me back to my second meeting. I kept coming back - and I fell in
love with AA.
I had a number of operations on my eyes and each ended
unsuccessfully. There was just too much damage. But I always had hope that
eventually I'd be able to see again. Then one day I had some problems with my
eyes - pain from high pressure and since my own doctor was on vacation, I
consulted another doctor. During his
examination, he told me bluntly that I was never going to see again - that I
was going to be blind for the rest of my life. This hit me like a ton of
bricks. I didn't expect it and I didn't know what to do with it.
I went home and called my sponsor and he picked me up for a
meeting. I was feeling many things. I remembered back to a time when I was
fully sighted, watching a blind man and thinking to myself that I could never
live like that. But on the way to the meeting a phrase came to me: “acceptance
is easy when you don't have a choice.”
At the meeting, my sponsor suggested I bring up a topic. I
chose acceptance. After talking, I got lots of love and support from my
friends. My life changed that day. I have found that some of my problems have
come from the choices I've made. My
thinking is alcoholic and I need guidance from my Higher Power.
I've been in AA ten years now, and even though my physical
sight has been taken away, I've gained spiritual eyes that I never had before.
I feel so much better about myself now than when I was drinking. I am back to
work in a blind workshop, I've been successful at what I do, and I've learned
so much about myself. I've learned how to live.
I know I'm lucky to be blind in this day and age. I've
recently acquired a computer with a screen reader, a scanner to read printed
mail, and a word processor. This is how I'm writing this article. This in
itself is a miracle. In fact, I think I read and write more now than I did when
I was sighted.
From what I've learned in AA, my recovery has been in three
phases: surrender, acceptance, and gratitude. I have had more than one kind of
blindness in my life, but the blindfold of denial was taken off so I could have
the ability to surrender. Acceptance, in turn, has opened many, many doors in
my life. And I'm so grateful for where I am today.
All this was only possible with
the grace of God. What He brought me through and blessed me with is not my
doing. In fact, I was resistant a lot of the way. But I know I have choices and
I'm going in the right direction.
Daniel M., Palmyra, N.Y.
Grapevine, March 1994