This post is the eleventh in our series of local recovery stories. If you’d like to submit your recovery story for publishing please email email@example.com.
Thank You for the Journey
My name is Jean and I am an alcoholic. I have been saying that for fifteen years and even now I sometimes don’t believe it to be true. That’s when I run the video back in my head and it’s then I know I am an alcoholic – no ifs or buts. I know for sure. Here’s why.
I was born during the war and lived with my mother and grandparents while Daddy was in the army. Before he came back Mummy and I moved to a council house on the other (posh) side of town. Dad came home, and after a while my two sisters were born. From an early age I didn’t fit in; not at home, nor at school nor with my friends who lived in the posh houses. And I was painfully shy. I can still remember how I felt when I had to do a reading from the stage at assembly at the age of seven or eight. Went to grammar school – didn’t fit in and at this time I was really ashamed of my working class parents. Started work – didn’t fit in. And so it went on.
My first memories of alcohol were of my uncle giving me rum and blackcurrant at Christmas when I was in my early teens. I loved the warm glow it gave me and of feeling a little bit dizzy. At work I started going to the pub after work with the managers and reps. I found just one drink would help me to relax and be able to talk without feeling shy.
By this time I had a boyfriend and all our friends were getting married. If I got married, it would change things. It would be a way out of my unhappy home life. I did everything I could to make him marry me. It certainly wasn’t for love as I didn’t know what love was. I can see now I emotionally blackmailed him and, with hindsight, we were co-dependent on each other. Although I lived in a loveless marriage, I had three children. We were very hard up. So I worked from home to make extra money while the children were small. A bottle of Spanish wine costing 5/- (25p) was all we could afford on a Saturday night!
Then we started making our own wine. And I would have a couple of glasses in the afternoon in the garden. By now we had our own printing business and life was getting easier. More socialising so the drinking increased – proper wine and spirits now! I started back to work and by now it really had kicked off. Quarter bottles of wines that fitted into my handbag or the two or three double G&Ts during lunch with my colleague (and drinking partner). I would drive home (me – drink driving – don’t be stupid!) and before even taking my coat off I would have a glass of red wine in my hand. First a few glasses and later the bottle and later still the brandy. My husband didn’t even notice – he would come in from his social two pints in the pub, thinking I had fallen asleep. I’d go to bed when I came to in the early hours and the next day I would look in the office mirror and say “never again”.
By this time I wasn’t having fun with booze any more. I hated who I was. I hated what I did – most of which I couldn’t remember. I had to be told. My family were fed up with me. My husband asked me why I was always so miserable. I didn’t know. All I knew was I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.
One Sunday I was shouting and screaming and throwing pots of tea at my husband when I suddenly broke down in tears. I couldn’t cope, I couldn’t carry on; I needed help and I was going to phone AA. I knew nothing about AA but managed to ring the helpline. The woman on the other end told me there was a meeting on Monday at the local church. Disaster – I couldn’t park my car as there was a memorial service for a local priest and when I did eventually park, no one knew where the AA meeting was being held. I rang the helpline back and the same person (my lovely sponsor now for 15 years) said she would meet me at a meeting the following day.
I crept in hoping no one would notice me and saw someone I knew. Oh my God! She’d recognise me and know I had a drinking problem. It didn’t occur to me that she was there for the same reason!
At first I didn’t fit in at the meetings either and paid lip service to all that was going on. For the first year every time I shared I cried. I don’t know why. But I did what was suggested – I got myself a sponsor, I got to lots of meetings, I listened (to the similarities not the differences!) and I started on the steps. I think step one for me was when I threw the towel in and picked up the phone. I was a slow learner but I persevered. And through all my sobriety I have done and continue to do service. This has helped me as much others. I’ve made the best tea in the fellowship (that’s a defect I had to work on!), been a greeter, secretary, GSR, Southern National Convention committee secretary, done telephone service, sponsored and done school talks.
One of the things that was suggested when I came into AA was to ‘stay in the middle of the bed’ which is what I’ve tried to do. Life hasn’t been easy – my husband was very ill and died, one of my two sons wants nothing to do with any of the family and I have been unable to make amends to him. My daughter was very ill when her daughter, my beautiful granddaughter, was born and we thought we were going to lose her too when she was just a month old. And recently a very dear friend in the fellowship passed away. But my God – as I understand him – helps me through. I pray, I hand things over, I help others.
I am a loved and am a loving mother, grandmother and friend.
Last year I remarried – someone I had known for many years. And I now know what it is to love and to be truly loved. I was told, to wait for the miracles to happen.
Thank you AA for such an incredible journey and changing me into the person I have always wanted to be. I’m not the finished article yet but, one day at a time, and by putting in some effort ………
I carry a card around with me from my daughter. When she was 17 and had just passed her driving test she downed a tumbler of gin and took my car. The first we knew of it was the police ringing to say that she was well over the limit and had crashed into a tree. She hardly drank any alcohol under normal circumstances but she was fed up with my drinking and our arguments and it was obvious she wanted me to stop drinking. I had nearly killed my beautiful daughter. But still it didn’t stop me drinking. I carried on for a further 12 years. The card? ‘Mum’, it says, ‘I am so proud of you, you are so much nicer when you aren’t drinking’. And she gave that to me just four days after I came though the doors of Alcoholics Anonymous.
One day at a time, I hope to be a grateful member of AA for the rest of my life.
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