Sometimes I find myself desperately seeking and searching for answers to quench my thirst to know. My greatest drive seems to be answer a never-ending quest for why. Why did I become an alcoholic? Why do I so often feel like an imposter inhabiting my life? Why do I never feel like I’m enough? Why this and why that?

As a research scientist, I avoid why questions because of their tenacious intractability. I learned to ask ‘better’ questions that could be answered with data from observations. Yet, as a human trying to be, I find myself asking why over and over and over. I wanted to know why I drank alcohol the ways that I drank alcohol so that I could continue to drink alcohol. For me it seems often that posing why, creates an illusion of control. Sometimes, it is way for me to blame others and absolve myself of responsibility. Last week, I let myself feel the unease of not knowing, of uncertainty, but posed questions of possibility – of ‘what if’ rather than ‘why’.


What if there were
No good No bad
Only Now


What if I saw
Where there
Once was none


What if there was no plan
No grand design
Just a road ahead
With twists and turns


What if I loved
And then I
Loved some more


What if today
Were really
Just yesterday
All over again


What if this step
Changed everything
Would I take it
Would I stand still


What if I truly let go
No longer trying
To be what I thought
That I should be

About the Author

Robert B is sober alcoholic in Madison, WI participating in AA and AlAnon at Fitchburg Serenity Club. He has been sober since April 21, 2007. He also began writing and sharing poetry on Facebook during his first year sober as part of his recovery from alcohol dependency, acute anxiety and chronic depression. He has found that creativity expressed primarily through writing poetry and playing various stringed instruments helped him heal and thrive.

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  1. Robert Bohanan January 27, 2019 at 5:27 pm - Reply

    Reid and John


    Thank you for your encouragement and also your willingness to share your experiences. Thanks also for the talks and book recommendations. Keon Griffin’s, One Breath at a Time, created a path in recovery that allowed me to find my way in Traditional AA before we started some secular AA meetings in Madison. I so enjoyed being part of a 12 step Buddhist retreat he led. He invited us to do a positive 4th and 5th step that was quite illuminating and empowering.

  2. Reid B. January 27, 2019 at 10:56 am - Reply

    Robert B., I share your personal characteristic of curiosity: why is this, why is that, why did I become an alcoholic?

    I got a lot of gobbledygook in early AA about that last question. I now know that such ambiguity masked a darker state: the people I asked simply didn’t know the answer and were too insecure to say, “I don’t know.”

    But ideas promulgated by Gabor Maté in his book, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, and in the book, The Body Keeps the Score, and in the book, The Deepest Well, by Nadine Burke Harris, are the closest thing I can get to an answer.

    On my 16th birthday, I was not obsessed with alcohol or other drugs. In fact, at about age 13 years, 10 months I had had a sip of a drink containing gin, but didn’t have any idea that alcohol was wonderful or any kind of solution to how I felt.

    But one month after my 16th birthday, being repeatedly molested by a Protestant minister and deacon, who also plied me with beer and cigarettes, I was only a few months short of my first blackout drunk and an addiction to nicotine that invaded my body-mind and lasted for 22 years.

    All three of the above mentioned books cite the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Study. I read that stuff in those books and online at

    I have a strongly held opinion based on the foregoing that alcoholic addicts, “regular” addicts, and those of us with process addictions are predisposed to addiction by our adverse childhood experiences, by the epigenetics that result, and by the dopamine and hormonal cycles that virtually guarantee the repetitive craving that leads to addiction (credit the book, Refuge Recovery by Noah Levine in the Preface for that verbiage).

    Nadine Burke Harris has a fantastic TED Talk on YouTube of her experience with children and the implications of the ACE study.

    All of these authors, and many others, too, say that mindfulness meditation is a powerful counter to the unhealthy mental states around our addictions. I would concur and would recommend Kevin Griffen’s book, One Breath at a Time, Buddhism and the 12 Steps. This book opened up for me the possibility of re-interpreting the 12 Steps with humanistic lenses, something I do now every time I go to a 12 Step meeting of any description.

    Thanks for your beautiful writing!

  3. John L. January 27, 2019 at 7:14 am - Reply

    I like your poem.  What we as alcoholics need to know is that we can’t drink — at all.  A day at a time, for the rest of our life, we need to stay away from the first drink.  As to why we became alcoholics, I recommend the books by James R. Milam, especially his first one, Under The Influence.

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