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.