A Devon man shares his experience

An AA Member's True Story of Recovery

As a teenager I had always considered myself to enjoy a drink. I enjoyed sport; socialising with friends, partying and it seemed alcohol gave me confidence. My drinking was mainly confined to weekends, holidays and special occasions, of course there were times when I drank too much and paid the penalty the next day!! I did not consider myself any different from my circle of friends or family.

Life continued and over the next few years I married, had children, was employed and bought a house. Occasionally my drinking would cause arguments and I would regularly awake with feelings of shame, guilt and remorse about the things I had said or done. It seemed that every time I took one drink of alcohol I wanted more! Alcohol was starting to destroy the things and people I loved. Broken promises, arguments and broken relationships followed but at no time did I ever consider myself having an alcohol problem, I guess that I regarded myself as a heavy drinker - but never an alcoholic. After all I had a good job, paid my bills, looked after my children and felt respected by my peers and employers. On the outside, my life looked good. Inside I felt pain and guilt.

I was unaware that alcoholism is a progressive disease, the ability to control my drinking was becoming less frequent and long drunken binges continued causing financial, personal, and health problems. Although able to function and work, I could not admit that my drinking and behaviour were getting worse I experienced regular blackouts, night sweats and the DT’s

In my mid-forties, the obsession for alcohol became so powerful that it was all I could think about. On the days that I did make it to work, I was focused only on my next drink. Work interfered with my drinking, so I took more days’ sick. Morning drinking, hiding bottles, stealing money, blackouts, drinking to oblivion, anger, self-neglect - these became the norm for me. I would make promises to myself and my partner that I would try to ‘control’ my drinking. Every attempt failed. I was unable to be honest; to accept my problem. My alcoholism continued its progression. It gets worse never better!

During 1993 I plummeted to the depths of loneliness and despair. I had lost the ability to control my drinking, and everything and everyone I cared about disappeared. My then partner had left, taking the children, my close family had given up all hope and my house was being sold. During every waking hour, I could find only enough energy to take the next drink. Suicide attempts and frequent admissions to psychiatric units followed. Countless vain attempts to stop drinking failed.

My health had deteriorated. My family, doctor and myself knew that alcohol would end up killing me or I would go insane, but I just couldn’t see a way out. At the end of May 2004 - homeless, lonely, on yet another discharge from a psychiatric unit, drunk and in despair - I phoned the Alcoholics Anonymous Helpline.

I knew very little of AA but had reached my rock bottom. I was still not convinced or ready to be labelled an Alcoholic and I could not imagine life without alcohol but I was desperate. The man on the end of the helpline was very sympathetic and kind, he explained he was an alcoholic and understood how I felt. He had been relieved of the obsession to drink alcohol had been sober for many years and was experiencing a wonderful new life, which I could also have.

I was offered and accepted the help of 2 members from Alcoholics Anonymous who would visit me the next day. They listened, told me in detail their life story and where drinking had taken them. They did not judge me and gave me hope. They offered me a solution and - most importantly - explained that I was not a bad person but a very sick one. They told me about AA, meetings and the 12 step programme of recovery. I did not understand it all but felt I had made a huge step in reaching out and asking for help, at last I did not feel so alone.

I was told that if I was willing and did as millions of other recovering alcoholics had done, I could be relieved from the obsession to drink alcohol, I would never be able to drink safely again but doing this just one day at a time, with the help of other recovering alcoholics, attending meetings I could also achieve sobriety – alcohol had started out as my best friend but had now become my worst enemy.

I attended my first meeting the very next day; there I was greeted by people from all walks of life, young, old some who had recently stopped drinking and others with long periods of sobriety. We all had one thing in common – once we started to drink we could not stop. Although it was a little daunting attending a meeting the people there were so warm, friendly and understanding, I felt safe. Someone shared their drinking experience, their strength gained from AA and their hope for the future. I only had to listen. No one was going to tell me I was an alcoholic or judge me, but by identifying with other personal stories I could decide for myself. I was worried that AA was a religious organisation but my fears were quickly put to rest. I didn’t have to believe in any chosen God or follow any religious beliefs. All that was required of me if I wanted what these people had was to be honest, open-minded and willing. At the end of the meeting I was given lots of phone numbers from members and told I could phone them anytime of the day or night if I needed to talk.

I did not stop drinking as a result of my first meeting and I experienced even more pain and despair over the following weeks. I kept in touch with other members and began to go to meetings every day. I finally conceded I was an Alcoholic and could not do this alone. On the 10th June 2004 I had my last drink.

I made a commitment to AA and the programme of recovery. It was not easy but I attended daily meetings sought help from other members and did not take that first drink just one day at a time! In AA, I was taught the exact nature of my illness and offered a solution.

I learnt that my sobriety is a lifelong commitment, I can never fully recover from alcoholism but with the help of AA, the 12 step programme and attending regular meetings I can face life without alcohol. Today I live a good and fulfilled life; my family are reunited and proud of my recovery. I have peace of mind, contentment and above all the freedom from alcohol.