Look for a low-cost community sailing program just to give you the basics. Lots of times you'll find them through adult education programs or by calling around and asking. You should be able to find a beginning class that will meet for 4 or 5 times and cost less than $100 (at least around where I live, there are plenty). Sometimes you'll even find someone who will do it for free -- they just love to sail (my husband has done this several times).
Then get a boat -- in general, the smaller the better to really learn how to sail, but obviously not one designed for kids (they're too small for an adult). Sail, sail and sail. Then you can move up.
My husband and I came from small boat backgrounds and it really helped when we began cruising -- we actually KNEW how to sail the boat because in previous boats we hadn't had a motor to get us out of trouble.
An old Sunfish or Laser is a great "learner" boat!
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