This post is the second of our series of local recovery stories. If you’d like to submit your recovery story for publishing please email email@example.com.
Fear, Addiction and I
On the 26th March 2007 I didn’t think I had very long to live. Perhaps subconsciously I didn’t want to. For the previous couple of years before recovery I had been what I thought was just functioning and trying to be what everyone else wanted me to be.
This is the story of my journey of what happened before and on the journey of my recovery from alcohol. Today I am sober and have been for 6 years and 6 months. One day at a time, I have managed, through the help of my Higher Power, not to have a drink and just for today I want for little and I fear almost nothing. All I have is a daily reprieve from alcohol contingent on my spiritual well-being . I am writing this for myself but also for others who are or have suffered from alcoholism.
My journey started in 1966 in Mexborough, South Yorkshire. My parents were both born and raised in South Yorkshire, both left school at the age of fifteen and worked in a factory, which is where they met. After a very short courtship my Mum became pregnant with me, and so in April 1966 they were married.
For the first year of my life we lived with my grandparents on my Dad’s side. At the age of one my parents moved into their own home, my Dad continued to work at the factory albeit unhappily. So when I was two years old he joined the Royal Air Force. My only sibling, a brother, was born in 1970. During Mum’s pregnancy with him I was taken into hospital with a bowel complaint. I was kept in hospital for a total of six months. I was not allowed out at all, my Mum and Dad visited me daily, however I used to become very upset when they left which may be why I became so fearful of life and of being on my own.
I don’t really remember much else of my early years moving around, but as early as I can remember I was full of fear. Very early on in my childhood I felt there was something different about me. My earliest memories are of fear. A great hurting fear that made my heart beat so loud I thought that everyone could hear it, feeling dizzy and the feeling that my legs would turn to jelly. I was a very timid and shy child who didn’t really excel in anything and was always told that I was just average by all people in authority.
This was to continue through my teenage years until I was sixteen. I’d had a very happy, stable childhood with very loving parents a very loving family, so there was no reason for me to be full of fear and anxiety. Another memory that stands out in my mind is when I was about eleven years old my Mum and Dad would go to the local club that they ran. My Dad would go to open up the bar when my brother and I were asleep. Mum would join him later, always leaving the phone number by the phone. I was terrified of her leaving me and would stay awake deliberately or pretend to be asleep. I knew no harm would come to us as the club was only in the road behind our house.
Once my mum had gone I would lay awake full of fear feeling silly for worrying. Sometimes I would cry myself to sleep, other times I would ring my Mum and ask her to come home. She would be back in five minutes and ask why I had rung. I didn’t know why, I just said I had a funny tummy which I now believe was nerves and fear of being left due to childhood memories of the hospital.
When we moved home, which was about every two and a half years, I would be full of fear and anxiety. I would dread starting my new school and making new friends. It would take me a long time to settle in where as my brother never had any problems. I would think to myself ‘here we go again a new school new friends, new home and all the kids asking questions like, where have you come from? How long are you here for?’
Because I was shy I would get picked on by my peers, which was another reason why I hated moving schools. I would always be afraid of what the other kids would think of me so I never spoke out or answered questions asked by teachers for fear of getting things wrong. Back then different schools were at different levels, so unfamiliarity with school work, as well as falling behind in some subjects worried me.
First Real Drink
My first real memory of my first drunk was at the age of fifteen. I was at a woman’s house who was about twenty-five and liked to invite teenagers round her house for company. She would give us alcohol, so all the kids thought she was great. I had been at her house before, but one afternoon a few of us decided to go round together. We were all drinking sherry but after a couple the other two kids I was with went home. I stayed and ended up drinking two bottles of sherry between this woman and I. That happy and glowing feeling was fantastic, I was actually able to talk and felt very confident. I felt like a different person and it felt great. I couldn’t believe how good I felt and all because of a few drinks. I then went home around 5pm and was violently ill and was sent to bed. My first blackout happened that afternoon, not remembering much about what happened, especially after getting home, and the next morning feeling sick and woozy. That part I didn’t like at all.
As an extremely shy girl with little or no self esteem or confidence I thought alcohol was magic. It gave me everything I wanted and made me someone I wanted to be, not being full of fear. I envied my outgoing, bubbly, confident friends, all I wanted was to be like them and for a short while that afternoon I had felt like that! That was it, it was just the beginning, now I could start to really fit in! For as long as I could remember I had never fitted in or felt comfortable with people in any situation, I had always felt like I had to try hard to fit in. I felt unnoticed and invisible for most of my adolescent years – that was until I drank.
My social life really kicked off when I was eighteen. I was still living at home, I was at college and worked part-time so had the money to go out. Every weekend I would go out at about 7pm, go round a friend’s house and drink copious amounts of cider. Then we would go to a club and drink pints of snakebite. Invariably I would not remember getting home but somehow always managed it. I carried on like this, but one fateful I had been out but decided that I wanted to go home early. My friends wanted to stay, they begged me to stay, but I was having none of it and decided to walk home alone. On the way home I was raped, I was terrified and never told anyone as I was too ashamed, guilty and frightened. After that I never really went out that much. But I continued drinking, by now it was my escape and a way to forget.
When I was twenty I met my husband and had two beautiful children. However, my drinking continued, albeit when the children were in bed. This continued for many years but I first became aware that I had a drink problem when I was about thirty-three. Up until then I only drank in the evenings but not every night. It soon became a daily necessity which gradually increased over time. By the age of thirty-seven I used to challenge myself to see if I could go a day without a drink. However I found this virtually impossible to achieve which really concerned me, but not enough to stop drinking or even cut down. I sometimes managed to go two days but then the craving and obsession would be so strong I would pick up a drink. I’ll never forget the disappointment on my husband’s or childrens’ faces when I started to drink again. I just couldn’t help myself. This was to become a regular occurrence for many months, maybe years. They became so used to me saying that I would stop that they soon started ignoring my promises.
I hid a lot of my drinking by drinking at home and not going out. I didn’t drink spirits as alcoholics drank spirits daily and I definitely wasn’t an alcoholic, so I drank mostly wine and some strong cider. However I needed to drink these in large quantities to get the effect I wanted.
My life was totally unmanageable and became chaotic when I was drinking. I soon couldn’t deny the fact, even to myself, that I was an alcoholic and started asking my GP for help. In a last ditch effort to stop drinking I went into a treatment center. I promised my family I would stop drinking. I was mentally, physically and spiritually bankrupt. I had previously had weekly counseling, hospital admissions for detox and home detoxes, all to no avail. I hadn’t reached my rock bottom. As soon as I had finished the detox or had been discharged from hospital the fear and anxiety returned, and I couldn’t cope with life. The only way to cope with it was to have a drink. Of course once I had had that drink, it set off a physical craving and if I didn’t have that first drink I had a mental obsession where I was always thinking about a drink. I managed to hide my compulsions, or so I thought, very well and satisfied them when I could, but oh, the mental pressure and physical exhaustion was enormous.
So there I was, frightened and terrified in a treatment center one hundred and fifty miles from my home, my husband and my children. I listened to the counselors and health professionals and learned about the disease of alcoholism and about Alcoholics Anonymous and the steps, however I now know that I only heard what I wanted to hear. When I left treatment I thought I was cured, I returned home throwing myself into my family and work but in actual fact nothing had changed – more importantly, I hadn’t changed.
In the treatment center I’d learnt a lot about myself. Prior to that I had been unable to see a way out of ‘me, myself and I’. Alcohol has a way of blinding anyone from seeing what is real. I blamed the weather, my home, my husband, my family, my boss, my doctor – and I drank. My actions, I felt, were always justified by the words “If you had my problems, you would drink too”. Alcoholism is a disease of denial and I was taken over by fear, self pity, guilt, shame and depression.
The day I managed to stop drinking was a miracle. As usual I had fallen asleep in the chair and my husband had been unable to wake me to go to bed. I woke at around 5am and went to the fridge for that first drink to enable me to function. But that morning I believe I reached my rock bottom. I believe my Higher Power intervened in my life and made me stop before I took that first drink of the morning. I can’t really explain it, I had the drink in front of me and was terrified to drink and terrified not to. So I phoned one of the few numbers I had of a lady who went to AA meetings. It was 5:30am, I explained to her that I was terrified and she asked if I could get over to her flat. I asked my husband to take me and she just sat me down at her table and fed me coffee and talked about her journey before and now in AA. She ‘twelve stepped’ me. She took me to a lunchtime meeting and I stayed with her until my husband finished work and picked me up. That night my husband took me to another meeting and then home. I laid my head on my pillow and fell into a fitful sleep, however, I had managed to not drink for that day. I haven’t had a drink since, one day at a time.
My life in AA
During AA meetings I heard peoples’ stories but I still didn’t identify with them, at least as far as their drinking was concerned. But when I saw the first step, I had a great revelation. I can’t say I was glad to be an alcoholic, but for the first time in my life, I knew what was wrong with me. It explained why I had been doing the things I had. I had always wanted to be a decent person but when I took that first drink I couldn’t guarantee my behaviour.
When I heard the members saying that the twelve steps were a way of life, I decided they couldn’t all be making this up so I asked someone to be my sponsor. That was terrifying in itself as I thought no-one would want to sponsor me, but she said yes and I started to learn about the steps and, with hers and God’s help, I tried to apply them in my life each day, in all my affairs. This didn’t happen overnight and I was only able to do this a little at a time. With the help of my sponsor I started to grow spiritually and emotionally and began to see life and the steps in a clearer light.
I believe I was powerless and my life had become unmanageable. I learnt that I had been insane and that this insanity was continually telling me that it would be okay to have a few drinks despite all the evidence to the contrary in my past. I also know that my thinking was distorted even before I picked up a drink, but that it got worse when I was drinking. My sponsor taught me that when I made a decision to turn my will and my life over to God (as I understood Him) things started to happen the way He wanted them to and not the way I wanted them to. Doing the first three steps gave me the courage to look at myself and see a very emotionally immature person with some good points and some not so good.
I continued with the program and today am not just sober but happy too.
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