Downey resident Garry Sanders, who will turn 49 on May 10, became a victim of alcohol when he was 16, and in a natural progression two years later became addicted to drugs as well. He describes this period in his life as a descent into "the pit of hell."For 13 years, he languished in this state marked by a diabolical admixture of alcohol- and drug-induced pleasure and inexplicable pain. Then, attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous and following its "12- step" program would lead to sobriety-and a ray of hope-in 1990. He was 29. During this time, he had graduated from Don Bosco Tech high school in Rosemead and had started working for Toyota in 1980. He started as a mechanic and would later become assistant service manager. He would suffer a relapse in 2003. It was also the year he would retire from Toyota on a permanent disability. He says of his stay with Toyota: "I got fired twice by the same manager; he would rehire me three times." He got sober again in September, 2007 and, adhering faithfully to the AA preamble which says, "Your first duty is to stay sober; your second is to help another do the same," he has stayed sober since. Contributing to his continued sanity, he says, is, to begin with, his unconditional love for his 10-year-old daughter, Hannah, who is a straight-A fifth grader at a private school here in Downey, a student of tae-kwon-do ("It's teaching her discipline"), and attends catechism class. (He shares custody of the child with his estranged wife, with whom he's undergoing divorce proceedings.) Another deep and powerful source of strength has come from what he calls a Higher Authority whose nature and grace he meditates on upon waking in the morning. Yet another pillar of hoped-for serenity and guidance is the spontaneous sharing of experience with his fellows, regulars and newcomers, at the daily meetings he attends. He is neither a writer nor a poet, he says, but in March last year, obeying an impulse from his Higher Power, he wrote down a first 'story-poem' that just formed in his head, to be joined in the days that followed by others that all in all eventually totaled 24 poems. He would read (share) them at his meetings, and his support group urged him to have them published. Result: Sanders, describing himself as a 'recovering alcoholic and drug addict', is now the proud published author of a book of poems, titled "Poems from the Twelve Step Podium." Its dedication reads: "This book is dedicated to my ten year old daughter, Hannah, for never giving up on her daddy. The open-hearted love that she showed me, in spite of my alcoholism, helped to pave the way to my recovery. You are the miracle of my life, and I pray never to let you down again." Here are a few verses from his first poem, "My Alcoholism": "Covered by this thick blanket they call a disease Running from everything, I was never at ease Spiritually bankrupt, I never gave myself a chance Running to the devil daily, just to do his next dance Instead of fighting with everything and going to hell I must listen to the wind of God and adjust my sail He brought me back to the rooms where I feel content Yet another chance at the good life that I've been sent Getting rid of all this pain they call guilt and remorse God gives me the courage to stay this tough course For whatever it takes I'm blessed with a real deal From my daughter's heart never again will I steal" Sanders says he will donate one book to a charitable 12-step program for every 24 books sold from the AuthorHouse website: "I will do this to help those less fortunate in our disease and to pay homage to the twelve steps and twelve traditions of our program." He says that in Downey alone, there are about 200 people who come to the daily meetings (from Downey and surrounding areas)-held at different hours, days and evenings in various places, mostly at accommodating churches-who try to help themselves and others in their struggle to stay sober. ("There are no dues or requirements except a desire to be sober.") If one desires to do more than usual, that person may volunteer to sign on for a 'commitment,' either to serve as a secretary, say, or as treasurer, or as the coffee maker (a very popular option). The membership actually wants to downplay the association with AA; it wants to be known as the "group with the 12-step program." As can be expected, there are now hundreds of thousands of such groups all over the world. As far as he knows, he says, about ten percent of all recovering alcoholics achieve full recovery, about a third are in and out of rehab, and God help the rest. "Keeping sober is my number one priority," says Sanders. "This demands my full attention 24 hours a day. Attending the daily 12-step program, and this is a conscious choice on my part, and dispensing my responsibility to my daughter, as well as taking care of my health and doing the other essentials of living, is now my entire life."
********** Published: February 19, 2010 - Volume 8 - Issue 44