Young in AA? – Read this blog

The sense of belonging seems to be an important factor nowadays for a lot of people, especially for a younger individual. Given the vast array of groups, it is quite hard to know where one fits in. Should one base it on geographical location, sexual orientation, ethnicity, spirituality, religion, political views, or something as simple as liking the same pop culture references? All of the above maybe, or none of them at all? So, it may be quite bizarre to ask to relate to someone with the same kind of addiction. However, to be fair everyone is an addict in one way or another, we just happen to know our poison of choice.

Not drinking for a young person (anyone in their 30s and lower) may very much seem like an extremely boring way to want to spend their youth. “I only drink socially!” “But what else am I to do in festivals?” “How can I visit my friends at the pub and not drink?” “Um, what are we supposed to do during dates then?” “Clearly you’ve never been on nights out or to house parties.” There are people who can control their drinking in the aforementioned scenarios, but we know, deep inside, we are not those people. We end up being the friend who has one too many and gets rowdy, who needs looking after during social settings as they’re unable to move, who blacks out and causes ‘drama’, who makes people uncomfortable, who gets kicked out of pubs/clubs for throwing up or passing out, who ends up hitting on people they shouldn’t be, or ends up in bed with someone they don’t even know. It’s a gift and a curse to not actually remember all this, but to have to listen to others tell you how you ruined their night by all your depraved activities is never pleasant. “It wasn’t actually me! / They started it! / Next time I’ll pace my drinking better. / I was in a very bad place mentally. / I swear it won’t happen again!” Just like that, we go through the five stages of grief without realising. Only for this toxic cycle to occur again, and again, and again, until one day, we go too far.

Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship to help anyone who wants to control this mode of self-harm. Yes, for us Alcoholics, consuming alcohol is self-harm. I use the word control because it is not possible to completely stop drinking all at once. There are those who can, then there are those who cannot, but everyone goes at their own tempo. We are here to guide you at your own pace. One should only compare their progress with their own self. Who they are today should be better than who they were yesterday. If not better, at least not worse. If worse, then we start again, one day at a time. 

This fellowship has come about to help people not only give up the consumption of alcohol, but anything and everything that is detrimental to their health. AA made me realise I’ve not just got a drinking problem, but also a thinking problem. It makes us look into ourselves and, for once, actually be brutally honest with who we really are. I always took pride in being honest with everyone else, but I never was honest with myself. I was too scared and ashamed to see all my flaws. This program helped me see that and helped me work on it step by step. It gave me something I never realised I needed so badly: self-awareness. Once I was aware of how I am, I could work on being who I am. I’ve learned more about myself in the past 20 months of sobriety than I have in the 20 odd years of my life on this 4 billion-year-old piece of rock hurtling through space. Puts things into perspective doesn’t it?

Sobriety taught me to appreciate my colleagues, my friends, my family. To learn how to accept and give compliments. To be emotionally stable. To have hard conversations while standing up for what’s right. To let things be and not let it ruin my day. To learn to enjoy the little things in life. To take better care of my mental and physical health. To eat three times a day. To take a day for myself. To get a plant, then a pet, then start dating a person. To have sex sober and without guilt. To do nice things for others without any personal agenda. To stay away from people and things that don’t add to my Life in a positive way. To go to festivals/parties/events and not need to be drunk to have a good time. To learn to be vulnerable and listen. To be who I really want to be. AA has taught me all of that.

AA may be met with scrutiny for its religious undertones and Christian background. Yet a lot of members are agnostics and self-proclaimed atheists, and nobody needs to be a certain kind, religious or otherwise to join (this coming from an LGBTQ+ person-of-colour). One common belief that we all do share is we believe in a Higher Power to Guide us through all this. I personally believe the Universe is my Higher Power, I’ve even met someone who prays to an empty chair as their Higher Power and it works for them. End of the day, nobody will ever hold what you believe or don’t believe against you. But we do ask that you put some faith into this Fellowship and its Steps to guide you through your sobriety. The heart of the suggested program of personal recovery is contained in Twelve Steps describing the experience of the earliest members of the Society:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of *God as we understood Him/Her/Them.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to *God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have *God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him/Her/Them to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with *God as we understood Him/Her/Them, praying only for knowledge of His/Her/Their will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

*God = open to one’s own interpretation of the term

I’m not here to tell you it will be easy either. Honestly, it’ll be hard seeing all your flaws laid bare. Your ego will fight back in every way possible, telling you how dare someone else question your God-like abilities? How dare someone judge you, for all the things you’ve suffered? How dare someone blame you when others have done much worse to you for so long? But this is not about others. This is about finding peace within yourself. Finding a Sponsor to guide you through this turmoil. But as someone once told me “these are growing pains. It shows that you’re on the right track.” It’s not about hitting a landmark number of sober days either, 100 or 1000. It’s all about that 1 day. Let’s just get through that 1 day and it will all stack up. In the words of a certain Fresh Prince of Bel Air, “You don’t set out to build a wall. You don’t say ‘I’m going to build the biggest, baddest, greatest wall that’s ever been built.’ You don’t start there. You say, ‘I’m going to lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid.’ You do that every single day. And soon you have a wall.” 

Will this all actually work? It all depends on how much work you’re willing to put in to change. Change does take time, but time is all it takes.

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Melissa’s Story

My name is Melissa and I am an alcoholic.

I started drinking when I was twelve years old, I would drink as much as I could and as often as I could, alcohol seemed to be the answer to all my problems. I loved what it could do for me.

I was brought up with alcoholism, my father is an alcoholic and I was drinking to escape the mayhem at home. When my mother and father’s marriage broke down and finally ended my answer was to drink more to take the pain away. I felt so lonely and scared and I felt I had no one to talk to: my sister and brother had their own problems – I know now that they were also suffering from the ‘family illness’.

As well as drinking I started deliberately self-harming (DSH). That was like a release for me and I could then block out the pain I felt on the inside. This behaviour carried on until I got to Alcoholics Anonymous.

I had a Social Worker who arranged some respite care; she thought that a break from my family was what I needed. I wanted to stay there for good because I settled down and felt safe in this new environment. At the age of fifteen, I wasn’t drinking because I wanted to, I was drinking because I needed to. I didn’t know about the phenomenon of craving that was beyond my control.

My school work was badly affected; I hardly ever went to school. I was too busy drinking or getting suspended. On the days without alcohol, I was very shaky and sweated a lot, if I went to school after drinking alcohol the school would phone my Social Worker who would collect me and take me to her department.

My Dad worked all day and when my drinking got out of control I began to suffer blackouts (when you have no memory from periods of time you were drunk). I have since learned that these things can happen to people who drink too much. Days would go by and I didn’t know what was happening. I was also in and out of the hospital with stomach and liver problems. I started taking overdoses because I couldn’t live like this any longer and I felt I had nothing to live for. I was only existing and stealing for my next drink. I had so much time off school that eventually I got expelled with no qualifications.

My Dad had, by now, had enough of my stealing from him for a drink.

I had been seeing a child psychologist and went up in front of a Children’s Panel because of my behaviour. When I reached the age of 16 I ended up in hostels. The following year I ended up in a psychiatric hospital for five weeks, I felt safe and secure there. I didn’t want to come out.

Not long after that, I got to Alcoholics Anonymous. I only went because I had nowhere else to go and I was hungry. I knew I had a drink problem but thought I was too young to be an alcoholic. I had just turned eighteen and it was suggested by members of AA to just keep coming to the meetings and if I came long enough I could find out if I was an alcoholic. This would be left up to me to decide so I went to many meetings. This was good because I was getting plenty of identification but at the same time, I didn’t think I could stop drinking. I was told that I could stop “one day at a time” and to start by not taking the first drink. I was now no longer alone.

Through time I joined a group, got telephone numbers, stayed out of pubs and clubs, got sober company, found a sponsor and learned to trust people again. This was great for me. If I had a problem I only needed to make a phone call to her and talk over my problem.

I felt for the first time somebody was there for me. I learned that I couldn’t do this by myself. I needed Alcoholics Anonymous and a Higher Power in my life.

I was also told if I didn’t believe what I heard to believe what I saw. I found the people helpful and encouraging. I felt good about this and I started to get some hope. I was told that I could get better and that I need never to drink again. I decided to do as suggested and throw myself into AA. My sponsor took me through the programme of recovery and I started to find out about myself and why I had taken alcohol in the first place.

Through working hard on myself and with the help of good sponsorship and my Higher Power, my attitudes and my life slowly began to change. I had to live ‘one day at a time’.

I have not had a drink for six years and this truly is beyond my wildest dreams. In my six years of sobriety, I have tried to involve myself in service, I have been to prison with the prison sponsors, schools, universities, hospitals and had a turn at telephone helpline and finally settled in Public Information. This has been so good for me and helped me in my recovery.

Thanks to the Fellowship and my Higher Power, I got a place at university and now have a degree and that has opened new doors for me. I have a flat of my own and a car to take me to work and to my meetings.

I am trying hard to remain responsible. I have many nice new friends for which I am grateful and with the help of God, I hope to stay in Alcoholics Anonymous and try to be a good example.

What next?

Read more stories here, or, get help now.

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