My Promise

I don’t pick up medallions. For my years and stuff. Haven’t since my 4 year anniversary. Something changed after that. I’m not as impressed with years of sobriety as I am with something else.

As I look back I remember once when I wasn’t able to drive for a month or 2. I don’t remember if I wrecked my car or blew up the engine… It couldn’t have been just suspended license. I would have driven anyway. But I lived 4 miles from work and had to ride a bike there every day.

Now, I HATED riding that bike! Hated it! It was on old rusty 1 speed. Cars would go screaming past me, run me off the road… I’d get to work and my legs would be like rubber for the first hour. I’d walk like a zombie… Did I mention that I hated it?

Every night when I’d get off work I’d go across the street to the liquor store and buy a quart of rum and a 2-liter of coke. I’d put it in my little Toto basket and ride my happy ass home. Hated the bike on the way home, too.

One day I decided that I’d been drinking too much. Hell, I spent about 1/2 hour every morning throwing up before I could even have a cup of coffee. So I decided to skip the rum for a night. I wasn’t going to “quit drinking” — it would be many, many years before I was even ready to CONSIDER that — but I figured skipping a night would be good for me.

So I was pedaling my ass home, and it was like there was a rubber band connected to me. It was attached to that bottle of rum. The further I got from it, the slower I went, until I was about half way home, when I stopped, turned around and went back. Never mind that there were 2 or 3 stores ahead that sold beer. I needed liquor!

My stomach was a wreck, I hadn’t had a solid bowel movement in a year, and I still could not face one night without drinking. More, I rode that damn bike 8 miles home instead of 4 — an activity that I hated — just so I wouldn’t have to go one damn night without a drink.

I was 19 years old. It would be 20 years before I entered Alcoholics Anonymous and achieved any sobriety.

When I came into A.A. I was whipped. I was ready to be teachable. I was willing to go to any length to get and stay sober. One of the first assignments my sponsor gave me was to write down my wildest dreams; “…and over the next few years we’ll watch them ALL come true! Together!”

I told him: “Nah, man. That’s gay as shit. I’m not doing that crap!”

So as punishment we went through the whole damn book and we (he) wrote down all the Promises. There were well over 100. Then we went through each one, with him reading it, asking me if I thought it was possible that it would happen for me.

“Do you think you’ll know a new freedom and a new happiness?”


“Can you imagine that feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear?”


“Is it possible someday you’ll begin to sense the flow of His Spirit into you?”

“Hell, no.”

When we got to the end, and I’d discounted the last of the promises —  he’d drawn a line through each one — he set the pencil down and slowly crumpled up each of the papers with the promises.” I GET it!” he told me, “OK? You’re going to be miserable your entire sobriety! You’re never going to lose your fear of people… You’ll never find a host of new friends…None of the promises are going to come true for you! I GET it! But here’s one that’s not in the book! Here’s one just for you! We’ll call this one “Toler’s Promise”: “If you don’t drink, you won’t DIE DRUNK!“. That’s the only damn one YOU get!”

Then he asked me to find someone else to work with.

Looking back, even if I’d done his gay-ass little exercise with the dreams, I wouldn’t have written down “Die sober”. I might have written down “Be a world famous Rock Star” or “Sleep with a Super Model”, because there was a tiny chance — a small believability — that that could happen. What he was suggesting was way beyond my wildest dreams. Sober a couple of months, and I could still not imagine that I might not die drunk.

So I sit here tonight and I think about what’s important. What’s impressive to me. The fact that I have nearly 13 years of Sobriety isn’t one of them. I hold my hands out, looking at them — as if I were cupping 2 physical gifts — and I’m absolutely overwhelmed. Here’s what impresses me:

The sun has gone down, and I haven’t had a drink today… and I might not die drunk!


How in the world did this ever happen? I didn’t do anything to deserve this. These are gifts beyond my wildest dreams!

Why don’t I pick up medallions? Because my hands are full. So is my heart. I could not possibly accept one more gift from A.A. I wouldn’t have room for it. I’ve already been given more than I can earn in one lifetime.

I have been sober ALL DAMN DAY!

Thank you ALL for my Sobriety.

“Some day he will be unable to imagine life either with alcohol or without it. Then he will know loneliness such as few do. He will be at the jumping-off place. He will wish for the end.”

A Vision for You

This entry was posted in Big Book, Early Sobriety, Sponsorship, Steps, War Stories. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to My Promise

  1. I just love this writing so much….how dare you climb inside my head and see things the way I do a lot of the time??….I don’t get it! I do know that I tried to quit drinking massive amounts of Bourbon and Whiskey by myself, and never could go more than two days. Until the day , drunk of course, I called and talked to Martin and he directed me to Sobrenity…..I have not had a drop of alcohol since then , have not done one thing any of my ‘sponsors’ have suggested I do, and I think that there is no God, of any understanding. And I love my life, and would not go back to how it was over a year ago for anything, so there is something to AA, Sobrenity, your blogs, my new friends and family that I owe so much to….BUT…..the real difference here……I treasure each chip I have picked up, and some people have given me their medallions for certain reasons, and I cherish those I pick up….and I double treasure the ones I have been gifted from others….Maybe my hands and heart are just half full….:-). Thanks for writing Jim Toler!!!! Please keep on writing more…JR

  2. I really think you should consider free lance writing and submit some articles to local papers.

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