This post is the seventh in our series of local recovery stories. If you’d like to submit your recovery story for publishing please email email@example.com.
Me… the Serial Relapser
Today I am an alcoholic. Today I am happy, because today I know what is actually wrong with me and how to get and be better. Today, I know that I have an allergy to alcohol. It is an illness that affects my body, my mind and my soul. Today, I am 8 months and 22 days sober. This is how I discovered what was wrong with me, but more importantly, what the solution is.
In some ways I had become used to the daily sickness, the constant obsession with booze, the panic and fear. But it was definitely getting harder each day. I was very familiar with the prison of alcoholism. I mean, I had been drinking since fifteen and the first visits of alcoholism appeared at around eighteen. I am now forty-one. You just can’t question my level of commitment to booze and my attempts to drink like ‘normal’ people. I was fourteen when my mum died of alcoholism – she was twenty-nine. Since birth I had always been moving between London and Ireland, different relatives, different places, different schools and trying to merge into different established lives.
Just before my mum died, I ended up in care in East London due to my parents’ alcoholism and the fact that the neighbours would call the police and I would be removed for my safety. I was twenty-six when my dad died of alcoholism. He was forty-nine. This didn’t stop me drinking. I have two children aged fourteen and twelve and they are truly the most beautiful human beings I could ever know. I couldn’t stop drinking for them. Partners and lovers have come and gone, I couldn’t stop drinking for them. I had been in and out of AA for about six years. I’d completed the steps and thought, at different times that I was doing the programme, but I couldn’t stop drinking. I could tell you all the bad things that happened to me, but would not be as forthcoming about the things I had done to others.
Throughout my drinking career, I managed to have a sideline in the form of fairly well paid work and a lot of the time I managed to give the impression of an average Josephine Bloggs. At one point in my life, I even for worked for seven years as an alcohol and drug worker, so clearly I could never be an alcoholic! But, actually I was. And there is nothing worse than being alcoholic and sat in a room full of alcoholics – they can smell another alkie.
In 2010 I moved from London with my then partner. My alcoholism really thrived at this point. I hadn’t known my partner that long, so we were still getting to know each other, he was also what you might call a ‘functioning’ alcoholic. I loved London, it was warm, and friendly and it was the only place I had ever known as home. I moved to Aylesbury for my daughter as she had been a diagnosed with a tumour and it was thought that she may require some extreme surgery.
I hadn’t bargained on the loneliness, the isolation, or how hard it was to obtain work without being able to drive. I eventually managed to get a job for three days a week. This left four full days for my drinking and often seven, as I would lie and call in sick, or say my children were ill. I no longer had a relationship with my partner, we had ceased even trying to relate. He may have got sick and tired watching me be sick and tired. He would smirk at my hopelessness sometimes as I sat covered in my own vomit. And I would be relieved when he also suffered on one of his benders, at least I wasn’t suffering alone.
After about twelve months my partner left and returned to London – he didn’t tell me he was going, he just went. I responded as any alcoholic might and went on a two week bender, with no thought for my children except for how overwhelming the responsibility felt of having to try and look after them. During this period, my drinking didn’t ever stop.
My day started at about 4:30am, I would wake and drink, I would continue drinking until about 8:30am, when I would have to source some more. Most days the kids went to school, but they sorted out their own breakfast, and lunch. After 8:30 I would get more booze to see me through to lunch time. I would at some point drift into a sort of sleep, wake and get the afternoon booze. This would sustain me until after the kids came home and I would obtain the evening and nights supply.
During this period I would be plagued with fear about the school calling, and dread the kids coming home. I would love the part of the day when I could close the curtains and sit with my wine, watch Jeremy Kyle and soothe myself that there were worse people out there. The kids would go to bed at 9pm and I again would feel the comfort of night and my bottle. Obviously, I would not eat. At some point around midnight, I would drift off again until the early hours and repeat this all over again.
During this period, I started to have new thoughts. I thought that I can’t continue to like this. This just can not go on. I am frozen and can’t stop. And, I couldn’t stop because the shakes and the sickness were unbearable, I would always stop…tomorrow.
I rang AA. And whilst I would like to write that this was the end of my pain, it wasn’t. I spoke to a woman who told me about a meeting. The thought of this helped me not drink that day. I prayed a lot that day. Because I had stopped eating, I couldn’t even hold down sips of water. When I entered that meeting I was full of dread, I wanted to run away. There was a small group of women and they were laughing and looked beautiful. I thought to myself, “they’re not like me, this lot were the ones that had two glasses of wine at night instead of the one glass they planned, but they were certainly not like me”.
Everyone was so friendly. So, I sat, with my bloodshot eyes, my puffy face, my shaky hands and my totally disgust and I listened. I embarked on another journey in AA. Things did improve, and slowly I stayed stopped, I started eating, I talked to people and I had managed about three weeks, when my partner came back from London after four months. Shortly after we were both back drinking and that drama started and continued.
This period was incredibly painful. After some months of this, we both returned to AA and managed to have seven months of sobriety, we both did the programme – I thought. I however, was not doing the programme, I withheld stuff, important stuff, I was dishonest and I didn’t do the programme daily, I did it whenever I felt like it. And guess what? We were both back out in the wilderness of alcohol, pubs, police and violence. I knew that I had to get back into AA but I would have preferred to swallow crushed glass than return, but I just didn’t have any other option.
I took my last drink on the 2nd February 2014 and returned to AA. This is where my story really begins. My partner was adamant that he was not going back and on the 8th March 2014, he informed me by text that he was moving out. I had been sober just over a month. I had no desire to drink. The next three months were simply hell on earth and all the external chaos of money and emotion caught up with me and I faced losing my home due to rent arrears. I sought all the right channels, but the fact was I had repeatedly broken agreements, I had been stealing money from work just to get to work and feed us, and each month I was paying this back. I knew that if I lost my home, I would lose my kids. The strange thing about the idea of losing my kids wasn’t actually about me not having my children, it was about them not having me, because, throughout my alcoholism, I still managed to tell them every night and day that I loved them, I still managed to say the prayer; “Now, I lay me down to sleep, I pray the lord our souls to keep, guard me and keep me through the night and wake me with the morning night, Amen”. I still managed to reassure them to some false extent. As they have no father, or grandparents, I knew they would be in care, just like me. This thought destroyed the last piece of me.
I would drive to work full of fear of being found out, I would think of deliberately having an accident, I would think of overdosing. The only reason I didn’t take any action was because I wanted to devour every moment I had with my kids until the final eventuality. So here I was, sober, not drinking and no desire to drink, but thoughts of suicide. I actually wanted to die. The debts were piling up, my partner had gone and the people I asked couldn’t or wouldn’t help me. I had not shared the level of my fear or the darkness of my thoughts with anyone.
One day, I was in the garden of another AA member. She was one of the beautiful group members I mentioned earlier. Everything poured out…everything…the darkness of my thoughts and the tears just left me. I told her every bad thing I had done and thought. She didn’t speak, nor did her face contort with disgust. She just listened and she helped me. She actually helped me. She helped me in practical ways and more so in emotional ways. This woman, who didn’t really know me, helped me. The events that followed that day in the garden will never ever leave me. It really was extraordinary.
Having had this level of honesty with this woman, I continued to tell her my truth everyday in my inventory. I try to work the AA programme to the best of my ability and I am by no means perfect, but I am definitely willing to grow along spiritual lines and to try and help others.
Today, I am not frightened. Today I have my beautiful children still living with me in our little house that I did not lose and I believe that they are happy. We sometimes say the Just for Today prayer and sometimes we meditate together. Today, I have peace. Today, I have friends and today I have hope. Today, I have a job that I adore and I life I did not know was possible. And, yes, I have challenging days like everyone else, but I still don’t have a desire to drink and every day I laugh. I will see or hear something every day that makes me laugh. Today I am part of life, I am not sitting outside of life watching other people live it. I watched my alcoholism progress, I saw the losses of people and opportunities and I was powerless. My alcoholism was insatiable – it never had enough – it really did want me dead.
I went to AA, finally a broken woman, and through those meetings, I saw people like me and they showed me a simple programme and a way of living that brings me and my children real joy and peace everyday. I wish to pass that on to others whenever possible, because I know it is possible. It’s a much easier way of living compared to the life I existed in before.
Today, I stand with some of those women I had judged and I have learned the enormous pain they too have overcome, and sometimes I too am stood with them and laughing. Just another miracle of the programme of Alcoholics Anonymous.
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