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.
My drinking really started to kick off when I was fifteen. I’d drunk and even got drunk before this, but it was on meeting a group of likeminded ‘outsiders’ that weekend drinking became habitual. I knew from the start that my drinking was different, not just recreational fun but a release from my unbearable existence. I would spend Friday afternoons in school dreaming about the weekend to come, not so much looking forward to seeing my friends but imagining how fabulously drunk I would get so that all the horrible meaninglessness of the world would evaporate from my consciousness.
I suffered severe physical side-effects to my drinking, vomiting every time I drank, and the most crippling, excruciating hangovers. It occurs to me now that someone else having this reaction to alcohol might have chosen to take it easy, but I just kept coming back again and again for more of the same. I accepted that this was what I had to pay for the honey-glazed world that awaited me each time I took that first drink, the first drink that inevitably led to sweet oblivion.
I soon found that I could encourage friends to join me for drinking sessions on Sunday afternoons or during the week and then it was just a case of filling in the days until I found myself getting drunk every night of the week. I’d also made the unfortunate discovery that drinking on my own was just as good, if not preferable, to drinking with other people.
I managed to fund my habit at that time by pleading with my parents to give me money, scrounging drinks off friends or simply by being ‘in the right place at the right time’ – although if I managed to take one drink I almost always got drunk, whatever it took. By the time I was 18 and legally old enough to buy alcohol, even I could see that I had a serious drinking problem, perhaps even an ‘alcoholic’ – which I thought was quite amusing, although the novelty factor would soon wear off, the real problem being yet to come.
It was when I was at university, with my own flat and my own money, that the true extent of my powerlessness over alcohol became apparent. I started to drink in the mornings, going to the pub every lunchtime and evening with my friends and making sure I had more alcohol at home in case I needed to finish the job. I found that I had no control whatsoever, no matter how much I tried to control the situation, and within six months I had stopped going to college altogether. I avoided all contact with people and felt a chill run down my spine every time I heard the phone or the doorbell, and only left the building to buy another bottle of cheap vodka or gin. I ended up back at home, confused and alarmed at what was happening to me although by no means ready to admit defeat.
I knew that if I were to have any life at all I would have to stop drinking altogether, which would be easy enough I thought, and besides, the thought of drinking ‘in moderation’ still fills me with horror today. From this point forward my life seemed to run in six-month cycles, starting with a firm resolve to put my life in order and ending with ever more disturbing blackouts and benders. Before long I’d proved myself incapable of getting an education, working, holding down a flat, holding down a relationship and all because I drank too much and, worst of all, I’d proven to myself that I couldn’t stop.
During the last two years of my drinking my life became bleaker and emptier than even I could ever have imagined. My self-hate was so severe that I had severed relations with my family and friends and thought about suicide every waking hour. The pain was so great and my options so few. I simply couldn’t carry on drinking, so it seemed as though the only option was to kill myself. The thought of living a life in which I didn’t drink was firstly incomprehensible and secondly impossible.
I didn’t believe AA would work for me. I was finally shown the door of AA by the Samaritans who I had been pestering for years with my many problems and who always suggested I contact AA. I never listened until eventually, at the age of 21, I was so lost and so beaten that finally something seemed to get through and I thought to myself, “well, I may as well give AA a run for its money, and if it doesn’t work I can always return to plan A and top myself”. That was the beginning of my recovery and I have never looked back and I am convinced to this day that joining AA was the best decision I ever made. If I hadn’t made the decision to come to AA and stay sober one day at a time I honestly believe I would be dead today – or even worse – drinking.
I have now found that I can live a life without alcohol and the life I have now is better than it ever was during or even before my drinking started. What’s more, I have a wealth of friends in the Fellowship and I am able to help others who are affected by alcoholism. Today I have a career and a house, the trust of my friends and relatives, and, most important of all, I have peace of mind.This is all thanks to Alcoholics Anonymous.
I can still remember my first drink, I was twelve and at a family party. It was the year alcopops had first come onto the market and they were still a novelty. My father bought a few bottles and told my brothers, my cousins and I that if we were really good, we could have one each.
I remember the warm glow I felt when I drank mine, it was like the missing link, the thing that made me feel OK, took away the fear and made me feel like what I thought everyone else felt like. Comfortable in my own skin for the first time. It wore off and the fear came back. I got really scared as the adults started to fight, so remember how good the drink had made me feel I snuck downstairs, found two remaining bottles and drank them to get that feeling again. That was pretty much the pattern of my drinking until I came to AA.
From then on if ever I was scared, panicky, angry, or upset I would steal alcohol from my parents, drinking their booze and topping up the bottles with water so it would still look full. I spent my teens seeing a number of professionals because of my anxiety and panic attacks but I didn’t cooperate with them. As far as I was concerned it was alcohol that solved my problem. I hated the taste but adored the effect it gave me, I reasoned with myself that alcohol was my medicine, the cure for all my insecurities, and that medicine didn’t always taste nice.
Things got really bad when I turned seventeen. I got a Saturday job, and suddenly I didn’t need to steal what little I could from my parents, I had money and looked eighteen. I could buy my own and drink as much as I wanted. I got my first pay check one Saturday and turned up for work drunk the next. I went from drinking to get sleep and homework done to drinking 24/7. I could sense that there was something wrong with what I was doing, I kept getting into trouble and my friends started to say things, so I went to an AA meeting one day to shut them up I walked out halfway through. I reasoned that it was impossible to be an alcoholic at seventeen, I was under the legal drinking age for God’s sake!! Plus drinking hadn’t cost me a driving license, a marriage, a job…
I carried on drinking for another two years, and what I couldn’t see at the same time was that the reason my drinking hadn’t made me lose any of these things was that it stopped me from gaining them in the first place (in fact the only thing I gained through my drinking was a metal pin in my leg from falling over drunk and breaking my ankle). Whilst all my friends learned to drive, went to university, got engaged etc, I just drank to function normally. I had to drink to go to college, go out socially, do the housework, to get out of bed in the end. I still refused to believe alcohol was the problem, I thought life and other people were. If only life wasn’t so unfair to me! If only the people in my life were more reasonable! If you had my life and my problems, you would drink too!
Then one day something clicked. My brother took a bad fall, hitting his head hard. When he woke up the next day he complained of a headache and his left eye was filled with blood. It looked like the fall had caused a brain haemorrhage. I couldn’t deal with that was happened so while we were waiting for someone to come and take him to A&E, I ran to the local off-license for a bottle of vodka. When the call came through to tell me my brother was going to be OK, I just couldn’t lie to myself anymore. I wasn’t drinking to deal with the exceptionally bad terrible life I had, I was drinking because of something within me. Everybody has to face the difficulty of seeing someone they love hospitalised at some point, but other people wouldn’t need a drink to cope with it. I drank for no other reason than I had an addictive personality. The problem didn’t stem from other people or situations, it stemmed from me. I decided to give AA another try.
I got to a meeting the next day and this time I listened to the stories of the other people there. I was amazed! They described the things I felt, the things I did too (talking whilst holding my breath, buying bottles from different places each day so the staff wouldn’t know how much I really drank, and the lengths I went to to dispose of the empties without my parents finding out…), they were describing me! Unlike the doctors and therapists I’d seen, these people really did know how I felt inside because they had felt it too, and got through it using the AA programme. The man in the chair at my first meeting was eight years sober but had once drunk himself to the point of death and had to undergo a liver transplant. I thought to myself that although my drinking hadn’t got that bad (yet) I couldn’t stop drinking on my own, and that if AA could pull this man back from death’s door, then they could help me too.
That was two and a half years ago. I’m 22 now and I’ve never looked back. I am slowly becoming the person I tried to become by drinking. I’m finding in AA what I was looking for in alcohol. I feel happy and content within myself (most of the time!) and I can face life head-on instead of running away from it. I have many more close friends now than I ever had in the past and my social life is busier than ever. I don’t wake up feeling like I can’t go on anymore, my suicidal feelings have vanished. I thought my life was over when I joined AA but getting sober was just the beginning of a much better life, one I never thought possible.
AA will never diagnose anyone as an alcoholic – it’s up to you to decide, but if you are concerned about your drinking, try watching this video or answering the questions below as honestly as you can.
Have you ever decided to stop drinking for a week or so, but only lasted for a couple of days?
Most of us in AA made all kinds of promises to ourselves and our families. We could not keep them. Then we came to AA, and AA said: ‘Just try not to drink today.’. (If you do not drink today, you cannot get drunk today.)
Do you wish people would mind their own business about your drinking – stop telling you what to do?
In AA we do not tell anyone to do anything. We just talk about our own drinking, the trouble we got into, and how we stopped. We will be glad to help you, if you want us to.
Have you ever switched from one kind of drink to another in the hope that this would keep you from getting drunk?
We tried all kinds of ways. We made our drinks weak. Or just drank beer. Or we did not drink cocktails. Or only drank on weekends. You name it, we tried it. But if we drank anything with alcohol in it, we usually got drunk eventually.
Have you had a drink in the morning in the past year?
Do you need a drink to get started, or to stop shaking? This is a pretty sure sign that you are not drinking ‘socially’.
Do you envy people who can drink without getting into trouble?
At one time or another, most of us have wondered why we were not like most people, who really can take it or leave it.
Have you had problems connected with drinking during the past year?
Be honest! Doctors say that if you have a problem with alcohol and keep on drinking, it will get worse – never better. Eventually, you will die, or end up in an institution for the rest of your life. The only hope is to stop drinking.
Has your drinking caused trouble at home?
Before we came into AA, most of us said that it was the people or problems at home that made us drink. We could not see that our drinking just made everything worse. It never solved problems anywhere.
Do you ever try to get ‘extra’ drinks at a party because you do not get enough?
Most of us used to have a ‘few’ before we started out if we thought it was going to be ‘that’ kind of part. And if drinks were not served fast enough, we would go someplace else to get more.
Do you tell yourself you can stop drinking any time you want to, even though you keep getting drunk when you don’t mean to?
Many of us kidded ourselves into thinking that we drank because we wanted to. After we came to AA we found out that once we started to drink, we couldn’t stop.
Have you missed days of work or school because of drinking?
Many of us now admit that we ‘called in sick’ lots of times when the truth was that we were hungover or on a drunk.
Do you have ‘blackouts’?
A blackout is when there are drinking hours or days we cannot remember. When we came into AA we found that this is a pretty sure sign of alcoholic drinking.
Have you ever felt that your life would be better if you did not drink?
Many of us started to drink because drinking made life seem better, at least for a while. By the time we go into AA we felt trapped. We were drinking to live and living to drink. We were sick and tired of being sick and tired.
These are just some of the things that thousands of recovering alcoholics have experienced at one time or another while they were drinking. If you answered ‘yes’ to over three of these questions
The answers are nobody’s business but your own. If you can answer yes to four or more of these questions, then you may be in deep trouble with your drinking and, maybe, it’s time you took a serious look at what your drinking might be doing to you.